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Apple tree pruning


I bought a house almost two years ago that came with an apple tree in the garden. It managed to grow a few (tasty!) apples this year.

I'm not sure what I should be doing to prune it. I've read that:

Winter is a good time to prune apple trees. (So round about now is good?)

The branch forking off low down on the tree is undesirable. Should I remove it (and the similar but smaller one)?

I'm not sure if the branches sticking up are watershoots or not. I think mostly not? I'm not sure what do do with them. Maybe leave the ones that are more horizontal, and remove (to a collar as low down as possible?) the ones that are straight up.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
Here are a couple of photos:




Last edited: 22 December 2017 14:22:06


  • You can prune any time now the tree is dormant as long as no frost is forecast. The usual advice is to do the least possible in keeping with your ultimate aim for the tree. With the one you have a pyramid shape or an open goblet shape to the main canopy will be best. I think you probably could remove both those lower branches as you describe. Use a good clean sharp saw when removing anything thicker than about 2 fingers width.  Remove any Dead diseased or damaged wood (this is known as the 3 D's). Even if this is all you do this year it will look much better. You could think about shortening some of the longer whippy growths but I would advise against doing too much in one year as this will simply promote a lot of soft vegetative growth, (the water shoots you mention). In late summer (July August) you can shorten some of the longer non fruiting growth to promote fruiting spurs for the following years.

    AB Still learning

  • Thanks for the recommendations, sounds like a good plan.

  • I totally agree with Iain, his advice is sound and makes sense.  We have just pruned 2 well established apple trees exactly as Iain has described.  We have had one of the best crops of apples this year - we normally get a good year and then a mediocre year of apples. 

    I would suggest that you take the grass away from the base of the tree trunk, to give the tree air, and to allow all the rain or watering to promote the tree growth and not the surrounding grass and inevitably some weeds.

    We have given all our trees a good helping of manure this morning.  We do this each year to promote good growth.  We have used either horse or cow manure in the past and spread it liberally around the base of the tree at this time of year.  You may have a farm or stables nearby, they are often pleased to get rid of a few sacks full of the stuff!

  • Thanks GD2 - Tim I have just seen on the GW website there is a good guide to winter pruning an apple tree if you want some more guidance. 

    AB Still learning

  • tim123tim123 Posts: 3
    Iain R says:

    Thanks GD2 - Tim I have just seen on the GW website there is a good guide to winter pruning an apple tree if you want some more guidance. 

    See original post

    Thanks Iain and Guernsey Donkey2. I removed the two lower branches and left the rest of it for now (couldn't see any diseased/damaged branches). Happy taking a patient approach!

    No stables nearby (in south-west London, a century ago there'd be no shortage of horse manure) but I'll be getting some of the pre-rotted stuff.

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