Maine-ly Apples

346 Moosehead Trail (Route #7), Dixmont, ME 04932 | (207) 234-2043

Tools | Identification | Techniques | Videos

Pruning at Maine-ly Apples

Apple trees need to be pruned every year. Pruning helps the trees to yield higher quality fruit and keeps the trees healthy.

One should prune the trees to keep the branches growing slightly above horizontal. All branches that grow straight up or down should be removed. One should know the difference between non-bearing sucker growth and fruit bud bearing branches, as these two growths are pruned very differently. Finally, apples need sunlight to ripen; trees should be open and airy for good fruit and to minimize disease.

Tools

One of the keys to successful pruning is using the proper tools. Inexpensive pruners will not cut properly and may damage the trees. Good quality tools can be purchased at www.benmeadows.com, www.gemplers.com or locally at R.D. Faulkner in Brewer and if you look carefully also at Lowes etc. We prefer bypass pruners as they cut close to the branch and make the neatest cut.

a variety of pruners

Bypass hand pruners are made by various manufacturers [photograph courtesy Herb Crosby]

three lopper pruners hanging in a tree

Larger, lopper pruners are better for bigger branches [HC]

a handsaw

Japanese made handsaws cut only on the backstroke [HC]

a poleclip

A pole clip is also helpful for cutting higher branches

Identification

Here are some things to look for when pruning apple trees.

suckers on apple tree

Suckers or watersprouts should be the first to be removed

suckers on apple tree

Suckers can grow straight up from a branch or from the trunk as shown here

root suckers

Suckers can also grow from the roots of the tree

apple branch with buds

Fruit buds can be seen on the left, leaf buds on the right [HC]

Techniques

Suckers/watersprouts are last years growth and can be quite tall. They don't have fruit buds and are more red or maroon in color. When cutting suckers it is important to cut them down close to the branch and not leave a stub which will only grow more suckers. Branches will heal over naturally if cut properly (see photo #3). After the suckers are removed look for branches that are crossing each other growing back towards the trunk or are dead. Then look to keep the size of the tree to a point where you want to maintain the size. You can do this by cutting down the top and bringing in the lateral branches. Remove any branches that are near the ground or will be on the ground when the apples are present. Cutting branches to a bud that is on the bottom will encourage lateral growth. If rehabilitating old trees make the cutting a three or four year process. Don't remove too much the first year.

badly pruned branch

Improperly cut branches will grow suckers [HC]

properly cut branch

A properly cut branch is cut to the base and will not regrow suckers [HC]

healed pruned branch

Properly pruned branches heal themselves and require no maintenance

crossed apple branches

When branches cross, one of them should always be removed [HC]

pruned apple branch

The last bud on a cut branch determines the direction of future growth [HC]

bias cut branch

A bias cut above a leaf bud helps to determine future growth

man using pole clip

A pole clip at work [HC]

man using pole saw

A polesaw makes it easier to prune within a tree [HC]

Videos

Below are three YouTube videos from the New England Apple Association. The first two are on pruning and the third is on grafting apple trees. These videos are quite interesting and very well done.