How to Prune an Apple Tree

With shears, a pruning saw and common sense, you don't have to be a tree surgeon to improve the appearance, yield and health of your apple trees.

| November/December 1976

"You don't have to be a graduate tree surgeon to improve the appearance, yield, and general health of an apple tree," says Richard Korst of Samuels, Idaho. "In fact, anyone with some shears and a pruning saw—and some common sense—can handle the job."

Whether you want to restore vigor to that aging apple tree in the backyard, ensure the success of a recently planted sapling, or increase the yield of a whole orchard . . . you'd do well—especially now, while the sap's down and the leafless branches are easy to see—to explore the advantages you can derive from a little judicious tree pruning.

Few things are as beneficial to a fruit tree as regular pruning. A properly trimmed tree is not only more pleasing to the eye than its untrained counterpart, but can yield more and better fruit AND live a healthier life . . . all of which adds up to money in your pocket.

And speaking of money, tree pruning is a marketable skill that can pay your bills if you live anywhere near commercial orchards. (As a traveling tree pruner, I find it profitable every year to trek 300 miles from the woods of northern Idaho to the lush orchards of central Washington!)

Tools for Pruning Trees

The main tools you'll need to do a good pruning job are: a small pruning saw, a saw mounted on a pole (for reaching those high, thick branches), hand loppers (lopping shears), and pole loppers (for topping and high work). You'll find these items at most large nursery and garden supply outlets.

In case you've ever wondered, a pruning saw differs from a carpenter's saw in two ways: [1] the pruning saw has coarser, thicker teeth that are less likely to bind up than an ordinary saw's, and [2] it's made to cut—usually—on the pull stroke. Each of these features can be a definite advantage when you're working atop a ladder or a branch and you can't afford to lose your balance.

4/10/2015 3:25:31 PM

I never realized that it was so important to prune apple trees carefully. Is this true of all fruit trees or is it especially important for apple trees? Also, how do you know if you've done it right? Are there any signs that may signify you've done something wrong? Thanks for sharing these tips with us.

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