How to Prune an Apple Tree with Pots & Trowels

Whilst it might feel a little cold to be outside in the garden, it’s the perfect time to prune your apple trees. So, wrap up warm, get your apple tree in tiptop shape and then have a brew ready for when you’ve completed the task!

In a recent Pots & Trowels video, Martin Fish shared some expert advice to help guide you on how to prune an apple tree for the growing season, and hopefully reap the rewards of some delicious fruit. Keep reading as this article will show you how, or watch the video below for Martin’s top tips.


How to Prune an Apple Tree

The middle of winter is a good time to prune fruit trees, although not all fruit trees need a trim at this time. Wait for the summer to trim cherry, plum or damson trees. But in the dormant winter season, apple and pear trees are ready to be tackled.

Depending on the health and age of your apple tree, it could be time for a hard prune, or a simple thinning and rejuvenating trim may suffice. Hopefully, your apple tree will have been pruned on a regular basis to keep its shape and ensure it stays compact within your garden. In that case, a general tidy up is probably best. Follow the stages outlined below and it will help you to prepare your tree for pruning.

It’s worth noting that spur pruning is a common problem with smaller trees. Spur pruning is when the new growth is cut back year on year. This can lead to twiggy branches and congested growth. Even worse, this can lead to your fruit being underdeveloped – not receiving enough light or air, meaning it can become more prone to diseases. Make a note of your tree and consider its condition and history before you start with the secateurs.


What You Need to Prune an Apple Tree

To complete any job in the garden you’ll need tools, but to complete the job as safely and as quickly as possible, you’ll need the right tool. Here’s a list of the items you’ll need for pruning your apple tree.

  • Secateurs – We’d recommend the Darlac Expert Titanium Bypass Pruners. With a high-quality blade and shock absorber handles to reduce impact, you’ll be able to last all day in the garden with these.
  • A secateur holster – Keep your secateurs handy while you’re in the middle of a prune. This nifty Darlac too holster will keep your secateurs close at hand and safely secured to your belt.
  • Adjustable loppers – Whilst non-adjustable loppers work, it may mean bringing out the step ladder to reach those top branches. But with the Darlac Telescopic Lopper you don’t need a helping hand to reach the top branches as the handles extend to 76cm!
  • A folding saw – The Darlac Sabre Tooth Folding Saw works on the downwards pull, so it’s easier when working with a congested tree to cut away branches tucked in the middle of the tree.
  • Gloves
  • A wheelbarrow or garden waste bin


Where Should I Start When Pruning an Apple Tree?

1. Stand back and look at your tree

Try to assess the overall shape, size and growth pattern. Try to visualise what your tree will look like if a third of the branches were removed. This will help you to see where branches need to be thinned out.

2. Look for dead or diseased wood and remove it from the tree

Some growth may have cankers – a scabby like substance that can grow on your branches – so prune these off your tree. It’s also a good time to look for ‘water shoots’. These occur after branches have been pruned. They are thin vertical shoots that have grown from where a branch had been in the past. Quite often, these grow straight up through the tree and take up valuable space. They will grow back, so it’s a task you’ll need to keep on top of each year.

3. Thin out the tree

You’ll need your Darlac loppers for this one. The aim here is to thin out the apple tree and remove some branches so you can allow daylight to reach the centre of the tree. It could be awkward to start with as you feel like you’re battling to get to the right branch, but persevere and work your way around your fruit tree. Aim to take out any vertical branches or random sideways growth to create a flat, open top.

4. Continue to thin out the tree using secateurs

A pair of secateurs will help you thin out smaller branches, and you’ll be able to tackle the areas your loppers couldn’t reach.

5. Check for congested growth in the centre of the tree

Your tree should be shaped like a wine goblet – open at the top with a clear ‘V’ shape. Often, problems with tree shape are due to overgrowth in the centre of the tree. Use a sharp hand saw to take out some of these branches in the centre of your tree. Do be careful here though, think little and often. This means take a little off your tree and step back to check it often!

6. Prune back spurs

Finally, walk around your tree and pruner small ‘spur’ branches with your secateurs. This will further help thin your tree and will aid growth next year. Don’t forget to takeaway all your branch cut-offs, you can save them for the fire!

This process will ensure you’ve got healthy, open fruits trees that will give you the best chance of a delicious harvest. Just be sure to not cut back too hard, especially when you can see buds on your branches. You can always carry out more pruning next year.


Where to Buy Darlac Tools for Fruit Tree Pruning

Safety is important when working in the garden, so ensuring you’ve got the right tool for the job will help make your job as easy as possible. If you’ve got a huge fruit tree, or even an entire orchard, we can provide you with every tool you need. You can find our products in store from your local garden centre – find your local Darlac stockist here.

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