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Apple tree - prune now or in summer?

Hi everyone. 

A few years ago we moved house and inherited a well established apple tree, which looks like it has been pruned well in the past as it has a nice open shape. 

The last 2 winters I've pruned it relatively hard in an attempt to keep it in size and bear lots of fruit, but alas the last 2 summers I've had A LOT of upright shoots and foliage, and barely any apples. 

I've read in Monty Don's book Down to Earth that it may be best to prune in July rather than winter to avoid the above, but this also seems contrary to everything else which suggests pruning in winter is the way for good shape and fruit. 

Should I leave it alone until July? Or perhaps just a light trim?

Any advice would be very welcome!




  • Sounds like you have been pruning too much off the tree. I think the RHS advice page on apple tree pruning says to not take more than 25% of the tree off in pruning to avoid it responding with lots of the type of shoots you describe. I don't think trimming the branches to the same length is advised either as this leads to congested growth where a bunch of new branches are all starting around the same area of the tree. Just take out any dead, diseased or damaged branches and then any that are crossing or look to be causing congestion but stop cutting and take a step back regularly to see how your work has effected the shape and stop altogether before the 25% point.

    Happy gardening!
  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 54,350
    Those long upright shoots are water shoots, which is the result of hard pruning.  :)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
  • Yes hard pruning in winter stimulates thin whippy growth.  Summer pruning limits regrowth as the tree is beginning to slow down for Autumn/winter.  You may need to do a bit of both but as said no more than 1/4 to 1/3 at any one time.  It may take you several seasons to achieve what you want. 
    AB Still learning

  • With mature apple trees, you only really need to do summer pruning to keep them fruiting well.  Hard winter pruning tends to stimulate vigorous new wood to grow.  RHS have some good advice:

    A trowel in the hand is worth a thousand lost under a bush.
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