How do you go about pruning a neglected spur-bearing apple tree?
As a basic rule of thumb the first pruning activity should be the ‘3Ds’, this is to prune out the diseased, dead or damaged branches, and you should look to shape the tree into a bowl structure. This will let light and air through into the canopy and give healthy, productive growth.
You will need
- Pruning saw/bow saw
- Long-handled loppers
- No action in this step, just observation. Take a good long look at the tree structure, try to visualise a bowl-like shape. It’s also always good to take a step back and observe throughout the process.
- Using a pruning saw, remove all dead or diseased wood, cutting back to the main branch or trunk.
- Look for any crossing branches. They will usually show rubbing on the bark as this one does (above). Remove them; they will cause a wound for disease in the long-run.
- Prune out any whips growing on the main trunks. These will be unproductive and reduce the light and air in the tree if left to grow.
- Using a bow saw or pruning saw, remove any central trunks that may sprout whips and interfere with the bowl structure you’re looking for.
- Cut two out of every three of the remaining new growth whips. Long-handled loppers make this job quicker than ladders.
- Prune the remaining new growth down to three buds from the main branch, cutting about an inch beyond the terminal bud.
- Apply a good mulch of well-rotted compost to keep the weeds down and give the tree a boost after its ‘surgery’.
- Stand back, have a cup of tea, and survey the shape. Identify if there’s any remaining pruning required in order to achieve that desired bowl shape.