When to Prune Apple Trees
In order to properly prune an apple tree, Bushmasters, Inc suggests mid to late winter although it’s possible to prune a tree during any time of year without causing very much damage. The reason we suggest late winter is because the worst of the frigid period is behind us so the tree will not be at the mercy deep icing while you’ll still be able to impact the tree’s growth come spring time.
There are quite a few goals to accomplish while pruning a tree according to Jamie Parsons, a landscaping expert in Michigan:
- Limiting the tree’s height, so that most of the apples do not end up out or reach, causing a lot of headache come spring time;
- Forcing superb limb architecture for vitality, fruit generation, and the general strength of the tree;
- Encouraging a great amount of fresh limbs, that will start to give fruit during their second season; and
- Removing damaged or diseased limbs and growth from the tree.
When to prune apple trees in Michigan
Of course, the general size of a tree is dependent on the tree’s own roots and vigor as well as its exposure to direct sunlight and shade. Most Michigan apple trees are formed into dwarf or semi-dwarf roots. This is to be carried out when you plant the new apple tree. Be sure to not bury the graft, where the fruiting meets the rootstock. This allows so that the fruiting stock will start to create its own roots and the tree will not be kept in dwarf or semi-dwarf sizes.
That said, You will need to monitor the dimensions of your Michigan apple tree to be sure it doesn’t grow larger than the spot you’ve planted it in. When to prune apple trees? You’ll want to prune the tallest main upright branch back to a central limb once it is to the desired height. Then every year you’ll want to monitor the height of the tree to ensure that it is to your liking.
“A new tree will not start growing apples in Michigan until the 4th or 5th year,” said Parsons. “In the short term you’ll want to focus on forming a tree that has a great bond with the ground and a strong root system and so forth rather than one that supplies fruit right away. This will cause you to have plenty of fruit in the long term.”
Be sure you avoid branches that form at a sharp angle. These branches are not desired on apple trees in Michigan. The reason is because splinting can happen as the bark tries to grow and gets pinched in between the acute angle of the two branches. Weaker branches tend to be the ones that grow at too large of an angle.
As a good rule of thumb you want branches to grow outward and as opposed to branches that grow toward the center or upward. This allows for greater airflow through the tree and allows it to breathe much easier, causing much healthier apples.
“Not all trees are alike,” said Parsons. “Some trees are tip-bearing and some are spur bearing. As a tree owner you need to know this type of information because you do not want to prune it where it naturally fruits. If you know the type of tree that you’ve planted you can call a local nursery or look it up on the Internet and they’ll be able to assist you.”
When to prune apple trees? Once your tree is mature enough to start growing fruit, expect the best branches to taper off after three to five years of growth. After that, it s best to prune these branches in order to help newer branches to grow more and more for years to come. This will allow you to have a steady flow of Michigan apples for years to come.
In regards to removing the older branches, summer is when to prune apple trees, according to Parsons, because it is obvious which branches are thriving and which need to get lost. The second benefit to summer pruning is that one can see damages that they simply cannot in the Winter.
Other than these simple pointers there are many details to consider when pruning a Michigan apple tree. Of course, these are all for a different place and time. As always, we’d like to thank you for reading our blog and if you like what you see, don’t forget to call Bushmasters, Inc when you need bush removal, tree trimming, or stump grinding in Oakland County or all of South-Eastern Michigan.