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Pruning Apple Trees

Pruning apple trees can be a daunting prospect to many gardeners, but it really needn’t be. Take your time and you can’t go far wrong. And remember that doing something is better than leaving the tree to grow out of control. It is best to prune apple trees while they are bare, I try and cut in spring just before the trees begin to regrow.

Where to start?

The easiest place to start is any dead, damaged or diseased wood. Taking this out will help promote healthy growth and its a really good way to ease yourself into pruning the tree. You should be able to pick out the dead and damaged wood fairly easily be sight, look for brittle branches that are often slightly darker than the rest of the tree.

Remove touching branches

The next thing I like to attend to is removing touching branches. Look for areas where the tree rubs against itself. These can be really harmful to the tree, they will rub against each other creating open sores over time. These sores have the same effect an open wound would have on your skin, they are the perfect entry point for disease and infection. Remove these branches as soon as you find them.

Water sprouts

You may not have heard the term water sprout before but you will recognise this growth. These thin, quick-growing shoots are often a response to pruning in older trees. They are very unlikely to bear fruit and can create a dense canopy which is not conducive to healthy fruit growth. Remove all water sprouts at their base.

Clearing the canopy

Now here come the bigger, more serious cuts. We want our apple tree to have an open and airy canopy, this encourages strong fruit growth and also lowers the chance of disease. To achieve this we may need to make some big cuts, any vertical growth that is competing with the main trunk of the tree should be removed. These will be growths off the main trunk of the tree that then grown straight up, competing with the main trunk. These may be large, thick branches so you will have to be brave here!



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Di Woodford

Friday 4th of February 2022

Having just been quoted £300 to trim our 50 year old Bramley tree, we are wondering if we would damage the tree by NOT pruning it. We do not need it for the apples and our garden is big enough for it not to look out of place if we keep it at the present size. We enjoy how it looks when in flower and leaf and have a Paul's Himalayan Musk rose growing through it, however, if by NOT pruning it we will damage the tree we will have to think again. We are now unable to do it ourselves.

Thank for your time and expertise, it is appreciated.


Saturday 5th of February 2022

Not pruning the tree will not damage it on its own, a lot of pruning is done to promote new growth and increase harvest sizes.

However, if there are any branches that are rubbing against each other then these should be pruned regardless. When the branches rub against each other they can create open sores which allow disease in.

So as long as the tree looks healthy, and the centre of it isn't too crowded and there are no obvious problems like branches rubbing against each other then it does not need to be pruned in your situation.

Hope this helps, Daniel