The basics of apple tree pruning include timing, tools and methodology. Regular trimming helps to prevent alternate bearing, with a year of a bountiful harvest followed by one with a small harvest. Proper pruning techniques open the tree for air circulation and sunlight, ensuring a healthier plant.
The proper time to prune an apple tree is late in its dormant season. While it is possible to delay pruning several months, owners should not trim trees just before frost as trimming encourages new growth.
Tools for pruning include hand pruners, lopers, a folding saw and a pole saw. Hand pruners are easy to use tools for most small branches, but lopers have long handles to give enough leverage to cut through limbs up to 1 inch or more in diameter. The folding saw is ideal for cutting larger branches and the pole saw allows trimming without using a ladder.
Methodology is the plan for pruning. It begins with the removal of any dead wood from the tree. When cutting a branch, leaving the branch collar intact is essential. This wrinkled portion of the branch, where it connects to the larger limb, contains the cells the tree needs to heal the wound. Remove any limbs that interfere with maintaining limbs so they branch off the trunk at 45-degree angles to the trunk.