Pruning Apple & Pear Trees the 2nd Year And On

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This article will teach you how to prune an Apple and Pear Tree.
by Brett · Zone 5A · -20° to -15° F to Zone 8B · 15° to 20° F · Pruning · 0 Comments · August 29, 2010 · 34,553 views

Two Years Old

Before pruning the second late winter, keep in mind that "this year’s growth will carry next year’s fruit." So, when you’re pruning apple or pear trees, don’t cut off all the new growth because the fruit blossoms will form on the new budding twigs.

  1. Start by removing any suckers: the shoots that might have grown up from around the base of the tree.
  2. Then cut out all the dead branches. If you have a struggling apple tree, you’ll want to prune it when the leaves start growing. This is because it’s easier to see which limbs are dead and which ones are alive. You can and should prune dead or diseased limbs out of the tree at any time during the year.
  3. Then prune out any of the shoots that grew vertically from your main scaffold branches. These branches don’t produce fruit, don’t support the shape of the tree, and use nutrients that could be used for fruit production.
  4. Then prune out branches that are growing toward the ground. They’re going the wrong direction.
  5. Then remove crossing branches. When you have two branches that are crossing over each other, keep the one that best supports the shape of the tree.
  6. Then reduce the length of the new shoot growth you will keep to 1/4 it's length.

During the second year, you can use limb spreaders to improve the shape of the tree, develop strong crotch angles, and improve fruit color. Short pieces of wood with sharpened nails driven into each end or metal rods with their end sharpened will work (as shown in the diagram to right). Always spread the tree before pruning, which consists of entirely removing undesirable upright limbs (as described in the steps above) and reducing the length of new shoot growth by one-quarter. Limbs should not be spread below a 60-degree angle from the main trunk. Limbs spread wider tend to produce vigorous suckers along the top of the branch and might have reduced terminal growth. The spreaders should remain in place for 1 to 2 years until the branch "stiffens up." Then they can be removed.

Again, the main objective is to have 4 to 6 main scaffold branches spaced around the tree and then a second set of branches above these. Always make sure that the ends of the scaffold branches are below the end of the central leader after they have been pruned back.

At maturity the overall appearance of the tree should be a pyramid with the largest and longest branches in the lowest and first set of scaffolds followed by 2 to 3 additional sets that are progressively smaller in diameter and shorter in length.

Third and Fourth Years

In late winter, continue to cut off one-quarter the length of newest limbs that grew the previous season, and remove any upright-growing limbs. Any broken or diseased limbs also should be removed. Always maintain the central leader as the highest point on the tree. The ends of the primary and secondary sets of branches should be kept below the top of the tree. Keep the leader dominant by shortening competing branches. Remove branches that form narrow crotch angles and remove weak, twiggy growth.

Fifth Year and Therafter

During the fifth year, when the tree should begin to bear fruit, discontinue cutting back the newest limbs. At this point, pruning for the rest of the life of the tree will be done to maintain the conical shape. Prune the trees every year in late winter. When pruning, continue to remove upright or downward-growing shoots as they emerge. Try to retain only shoots that are horizontal. Periodically thin out the branching structure to allow adequate light to penetrate the interior and lower portions of the tree.

Keep in mind to always maintain the central leader as the highest point on the tree. The ends of the primary and secondary sets of branches should be kept below the top of the tree.

Continue to next page for instruction for rejuvenation pruning of old apple nor pear trees...


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