How and when to prune the apple tree

The apple tree is one of the most widespread and chosen fruit trees in the design of small and large orchards, many varieties are grown, from the most common to the most unusual and original in different territories. Apples are fruits appreciated by almost everyone, they are healthy and keep longer than others, so it is really worth managing the plants well so that they offer a good production both in quantity and quality. .

The cultivation of apple trees using organic farming techniques is the most recommended for amateur orchards, but also for professionals, who wish to combine production with respect for the environment and healthy crops.

Among the aspects of culture to which importance must be attached is of course the size , which, depending on how it is carried out, can have a positive or negative effect on the production of the plant. The apple tree is an alternate species, that is, it tends to bear abundant fruit in alternate years (loading), while in other years the production is low (unloading). Proper pruning is able to mitigate this natural tendency of the plant, leading to more balanced and consistent fruit production.

Contents [Ocultar]

  • apple tree pruning

    • low vase

    • Fusetto

    • Long size

  • Apple production size

  • When to prune the apple tree

  • The trick and the criteria to respect


apple tree pruning

The breeding or training pruning is the one that aims to shape the plant, it is carried out in the first years of the life of the plant, at the time of transplantation. The reproduction phase lasts the first 3 or 4 years after the apple trees are planted, and it is a rather delicate period, during which the plant is made to grow in a certain way. The most suitable forms for apple cultivation are the low pot, now obsolete in professional cultivation but still suitable for amateurs, and the spindle, the typical form chosen in apple cultivation for income. The choice of apple tree shape also affects the type of rootstock used and the space available.

Let us consider in more detail the characteristics of the various forms of cultivation used for apple trees.

low vase

It is a voluminous form in which the plant appears without a central axis (the stem remains very low, about 50 cm from the ground) and provided with 3-4 primary branches which are in turn equipped with several sub-branches. The apple tree grown with this system is generally grafted on medium vigor rootstocks such as M111 and M7 and the plantation foresees sixths wide of about 4×5 meters. Due to its voluminous shape, the potted apple tree is also pleasing to the eye and for this reason it is suitable for the garden or a small mixed orchard adjacent to the house.


Spindle is the classic mode of cultivation chosen for very dense plants, in which the plants are grafted onto a dwarf rootstock such as M9. In mixed orchards, especially if grown organically, we do not recommend planting sixths too densely, and even if this form of formation is chosen, it is advisable to maintain at least 4.5 x 2 meters of sixths. We also remember that with dwarf rootstocks the plants usually need to be watered even after the rearing phase, because the root system remains rather contained.

To obtain the spindle apple tree, after planting the seedling, if the stem has branches, remove those that are too low and choose those that will form the first layer of branches, which will then bend downwards. The following year, the upright suckers are removed and the top of the stem notched so that the new top becomes a slightly lateral but less vigorous branch. The following year more saps and vigorous branches are eliminated and the crown is marked again, diverting it this time towards a competing branch but in the opposite direction to that chosen the previous year. At this point, the first cuts will also start on the main branches, which from the following year can also affect the upper branches.

Long size

It is a freer form of reproduction, which supports the natural growth of the plant. In this case, the central axis, as well as the branches inserted into it, can develop. It will be the weight of the fruits, borne in the upper part of the twigs themselves, which, bending them, will eliminate the apical dominance, and also favor the development of the shoots located in the center of the twigs. An apple tree grown in a long tail takes on a wilder, freer appearance and requires fewer cuts, for example to remove low and too internal gills, or those that are too weak.

Apple production size

Production size is not the same for all apple trees, as varieties differ from each other due to the prevalence of productive branches. On the basis of this criterion, it is possible to divide the varietal groups into the following macrocategories:

  • Varieties that prefer to fruit on lumber carried by twigs of 3 years and more , with a basitone carrier plant, that is, it tends to fill up with vegetation at the bottom. This is the frequent situation of old varieties, widely cultivated in organic arboriculture. These plants indeed have a high number of webs for each branch and by nature they are varieties very prone to alternation. They benefit from long pruning, which leaves long branches, but sometimes the wood has to be renewed by thinning the branches and sprouting others. Avoid drastic cuts because they promote the emission of suckers and delay the production of young plants. It is very important in varieties of this type to thin the fruits at the right time, precisely to limit the alternation of production.
  • Varieties that bear fruit mainly in staves carried by branches and gills , with little toast formation and very vigorous plants. This is the case, for example, of the Warbler, which benefits from long pruning but also from back cuts and fruit thinning at the right time. Also in this case, it is necessary to avoid excessive cuts so as not to find a too vigorous vegetative response.
  • Varieties producing lamb, twig and mixed branches . Varieties in this category, including the well-known Golden Delicious, come into production early and have limited rotation. They adapt to various forms of breeding and pruning strategies, which must above all aim at maintaining the form and renewing the production structures.
  • Varieties that bear fruit on toast and mixed branches with little ability to cover , so it is best to prune long, thin and lumber fruits. Aged Lamburde, in fact, has few leaves and the resulting fruits are poorly nourished in sugar.

To properly prune the apple tree, you need to know it, learn how it forms branches and where it bears fruit.

When to prune the apple tree

Pruning can take place throughout the dormant phase, which takes place during the winter period , because fortunately the apple tree is only rarely damaged by frost, even after pruning. In winter, with bare plants, the branches can be better observed and an assessment of their shoot load can be made.

Green pruning in summer , it is useful in vigorous plants to which it gives good illumination of the foliage, reducing the phenomenon of self-shading. Another intervention that will be carried out during the summer season is weight loss. berries , with the aim, as already explained, of reducing the phenomenon of alternation. The practice takes place when they are the size of a walnut and leave 1 or 2 per group.

Specifications and criteria to be respected

When pruning the apple tree, certain precautions should be taken into account, regardless of the variety.

  • Avoid short stories. In the apple tree, the shortening of the branches is not recommended because it involves a vegetative risk. It is best to opt for thinning and back cuts.
  • Always cut on the bias . The cut should always slope in the direction of the gems, and be above one of them, leaving some wood. The purpose of the slope is to allow the runoff of rainwater which, in a horizontal cut, would stagnate with negative effects.
  • Choose the right tool . The cutting tools must be well maintained and chosen according to the circumference of the branches to be cut: if the secateurs are suitable for cutting small branches, for large branches it is better to opt for a hacksaw.
  • disinfection tools . In some cases, the blades of scissors and hacksaws must be disinfected: for example after pruning a diseased plant, especially if it has been pruned by viruses.
  • Remove the damaged parts of the plant. Pruning also serves to eliminate branches that are naturally dry or showing symptoms of disease, and in the latter case the broom must be removed from the orchard to eliminate sources of inoculation for the following year.

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