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Pruning an old apple tree with straight up branches

A friend of mine has an old apple tree at the bottom of her garden which needs a tidy up. We’ve looked on line at videos & rhs site which show renovating trees removal of dead diseased damaged & crossing  branches but can’t find anything that deals with branches that go straight up! It has old horizontal branches but most of the rest just go up straight and there’s loads of them! should these all just be taken down by 1/3? She doesn’t have a ladder but does have a long handle pruner which could reach nearly to the top. Should all the branches have the tips taken off? Do we assume the tree has been hard pruned in the past and these are classed as water shoots? 


  • Cutting all the branches to the same height is not ideal from what I have read about apple tree pruning. You should try thin out some of the branches so what is left has more space to allow a good airflow around the flowers and fruit and not take out more than a certain % of the growth in one go. Cutting to the same height will stimulate branching all at the same level and so congested growth at that height and less light reaching the lower parts of the tree.

    Happy gardening!
  • fidgetbonesfidgetbones Posts: 17,574
    It  sounds like  it had a heavy pruning , then produced a lot of straight water shoots. These should then have been cut back to a few buds the following August.  If you prune it now you will just get more water shoots, so wait until August and then prune it to a few buds. They should then flower and fruit  next year.
  • Ah ok thanks! Yes it does look odd with all the long straight bits! Don’t think it’s been done for a few years as they are quite thick but straight up! Ok I’ll pass that on thanks again.
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