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Young Apple Tree Pruning


I purchased and planted a 3 yr old "James Grieve" apple tree in 2016. The branches were a little curved over in one direction but not hugely, so thought they might straightened themselves out (naive, yes!).

However, over the 2 years the branches have bent over much more and the tree looks pretty awful. I didn't prune it last year but I definitely need to do something to it this winter. Here it is:


I have looked at several pages on pruning young trees but they all seem to be based on trees that already have a pretty good shape. This one presumably needs more significant surgery, so could anyone give me some tips on what to do please?




  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Central Norfolk UKPosts: 82,255

    Hmm ... first we need to work out why it's doing that ... if it's down to a strong prevailing wind no amount of pruning will prevent new growth doing just the same thing ... 

    “I am not lost, for I know where I am. But however, where I am may be lost.” Winnie the Pooh

  • I don't think our garden was especially exposed or windy. To the left of the tree, as you look at it in the picture, it is open across a couple of neighbouring gardens but then there is an old railway embankment with big mature trees growing up the side and on top of it.

    Last edited: 07 February 2018 12:39:09

  • purplerallimpurplerallim LincolnshirePosts: 4,633

    If the stems are still moveable you could train them using wood/canes bending the other way. If too old then drastically cutting half the length off and then  training the new growth in the right direction.  Sorry but apple are slow to train, it's taken my two year old tree another three years to get to train three levels in a cordon . Hope this is helpful best of luck.

  • Allotment BoyAllotment Boy North London Posts: 5,838

    Yes if you could put up a framework of canes & tie it  in then it will be more productive anyway. If not trying to get it into a dwarf pyramid shape will be difficult but not impossible. I do agree though bending like that usually means a plant is chasing the light- very odd.

    AB Still learning

  • Unrelated to your problem but What rootstock is that on? Unless it’s dwarfing you can remove the stakes now. 

  • How do you know what rootstock it is? It was described as "JAGR4 Malus James Grieve" and came in a 30 litre pot

  • Thanks for the replies. I've just checked and the branches will just about bend into an upright position. One of them in particular would require quite a strong frame to keep it upright and with them all bending over the same way I'm struggling to envisage how to keep the cane frame would keep upright, unless it was somehow tethered to the trunk of the tree or a ground stake?

  • I have done some detectoring and that’s a chew valley code, chew valley use MM106 on all apple trees so you can happily remove the stake now image

  • Learnincurve says:

    I have done some detectoring and that’s a chew valley code, chew valley use MM106 on all apple trees so you can happily remove the stake now image

    See original post


    Good detectoring :-) That's good to know, thanks, although I wonder whether I might need them to help secure the cane-frame thing, given the force which one or two branches might exhibit on it in a non-vertical direction?!

    Last edited: 07 February 2018 20:17:18

  • I think what people do is make a Y shape, but if those branches are bendy enough you could probably get away with simply  moving your stakes back and tying branches to it with a pair of tights. 

    No matter what you decide I can see in the picture that you have four thicker branches and then a smaller one that seems to be crossing over and through two of the thicker ones. That branch needs to go as it’s going to rub and cause problems. You should also prune any other crossing branches and thin it out a bit, seems counter intuitive but you will get more apples if you do image

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