How to prune an apple tree

Pruning an apple tree is easier than you might think.

Watch our video guide to learn how to do it:

 

Please enable JavaScript to access this content.

Video transcript

Apple pruning can seem like a bit of of a mystery. So we've got [xx] garden expert David Riddell to show us how it's done. Apple trees are best pruned in the winter when there are no leaves in the trees. This avoids a bumper crop of poor quality fruit The main function of pruning is to keep the center of the tree open.

This gives good air circulation which reduces the chances powdery mildew.] In this tree, these two branches are growing towards the center of the tree and making it very congested and therefore, need to be removed. Next we need to remove deadwood to stop diseases spreading back into the trees such as this dead piece here.

Also take this as an opportunity to remove disease material such as this canker here. Damage growths such as broken branch should removed back to good strong branch. I've now opened up the center of the tree by removing any crossing and congested wood, also removing the dead and diseased material.

By opening up the middle of the tree allows light into the center, which helps ripen the fruit. Remember, pruning an apple tree is not about making it smaller. Too much pruning will result in vigorous growth and very little fruit. Pruning is not essential and anything that you've missed this year can always be corrected next year.

So, hopefully that's giving you the confidence you need to prune your apple trees. For more gardening advice, visit which.co.uk/gardening

When do we prune apple trees?

Apple trees are best pruned in the winter when there are no leaves on the trees.

Why do we prune apple trees?

The main function of pruning is to keep the centre of the tree open. This gives good air circulation, which reduces the chances of powdery mildew. It also allows light into the centre, which helps to ripen the fruit.

Remember, pruning an apple tree is not about making it smaller. Too much pruning will result in vigorous growth and very little fruit.

Pruning is not essential and anything that you've missed this year can always be corrected next year.

What tools should you use?

A good pair of secateurs is essential for pruning. You can choose between bypass models, which cut like secateurs, and anvil ones, which have a sharp blade that cuts onto a blunt one. It’s a matter of personal preference which you choose.

For cutting wood that is thicker than a pencil, you can use loppers. These are like secateurs with long handles that give them extra force when cutting.

For branches, a pruning saw is the best choice. The easiest ones to use in the garden fold up and pop in your pocket.

What bits do you prune?

Begin by thinning out stems in the centre of the tree to help keep it open. When cutting, always go back to a good, strong branch.

Then remove deadwood to stop diseases spreading back into the trees.

Finally, take out any diseased material such as canker and remove any damaged growths, such as a broken branch.

More on this...