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Apple Tree Pruning

I planted several young trees last winter and wrongly assumed that any neccessary pruning would already have been done by the nursary.

When the trees came into leaf in the spring the branches coming out from the main stem were bare for about three feet with leaves, blossom and fruit right at the ends of the branches. Needless to say the fruit weighed down the branches and needed supporting. clearly some drastic action is required.

I'm about to prune them but don't really know how to remedy the situation. any help would be much appreciated. 


  • Lion SLion S Posts: 263

    Janey, the best thing you can do now is look if you can find an apple pruning course in your neighbourhood. Preferably a course where also new trees are included. Courses are about to start around this time of year.

  • That would have been a good idea - just Googled it - the perfect course within a reasonable distance was today! Duh! 

  • pansyfacepansyface PEAK DISTRICT DerbyshirePosts: 16,223
    Do you know the varieties of your apple trees?

    It sounds as if they may be the type which flower at the ends of their branches (called "tip bearers" in books) rather than the type which flower on short spurs along the length of the branches (called "spur bearers" in books).

    How many trees did you buy? Tip bearers are relatively uncommon as most apples are spur bearers so I would be surprised if you had only bought tip bearers.

    Can you send us a few photos of a typical branch and we can maybe go from there. To add a photo click on the little green tree icon at the top of the box where you type a message.
    Apophthegm -  a big word for a small thought.
  • Thanks pansyface. They are Discovery, James Grieve, Sunset and Tydeman's Early. I'll take some photos when i go up to the allotment.

    I can't help but think it's a pruning (or lack of it!) problem because the branches were about three to four feet of completely bare stem with a little bunch of leaves at the end.

    I was going to chop them right back to about a foot long but that seemed a bit drastic! 

  • pansyfacepansyface PEAK DISTRICT DerbyshirePosts: 16,223

    I have James Grieve and it is definitely a spur bearer. I am going to take a photo and you will see the typical shape of a James Grieve branch.

    Apophthegm -  a big word for a small thought.
  • pansyfacepansyface PEAK DISTRICT DerbyshirePosts: 16,223

    Got the photo but it won't upload. I may be some time.............image

    Apophthegm -  a big word for a small thought.
  • pansyfacepansyface PEAK DISTRICT DerbyshirePosts: 16,223


    OK, this is James Grieve, a spur bearer. The long, shiny brown branch that runs diagonally into the top, right hand corner grew last summer. As you can see, it's quite long and bare looking. But it has little budlets along its length. If you look at the greyer, arching branch that runs from bottom right to top left you will see little spurs coming off it. These are what produce the flowers this summer. And these spurs are what emerge from the budlets that look so unpromising on the first branch. The first branch will look like the second branch at the end of this summer.

    You say that your trees are young. Assuming that they are spur bearers like James Grieve (you will have to check this) you can safely cut your long unpromising looking branches back by one third now. This will encourage them to produce spurs this summer rather than continuing on the same long path that they are taking just now.

    But prune them to a bud that points outwards from the centre of the bush. Where you cut defines the shape of the tree so don't cut the branch to a bud that is facing into the centre of the bush.

    If you find out that any of your trees are tip bearers, come back.

    Edit  The damned photo is upside down. Allow for this in my description.image

    Apophthegm -  a big word for a small thought.
  • Haha! Laptop upside down and I see what you mean!

    So I reckon I'll go in and cut them back by a third and hope for the best!

    Thanks for your help.


  • pansyfacepansyface PEAK DISTRICT DerbyshirePosts: 16,223
    Discovery, I have just discovered, is what is known as a partial tip bearer. That is, it fruits on the spurs that James Grieve makes but it also flowers at the very tip of the branches too. So whenever you prune it you will lose some potential fruit. But it doesn't matter at this stage in the game. You must prune the trees now in order to form their ultimate shape. When Discovery is a more mature tree you will find that it needs just a bit more thought when choosing how to prune it in order to maximise its potential.

    Tydeman's is also a partial tip bearer.

    Sunset is a spur bearer.
    Apophthegm -  a big word for a small thought.
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