Carrington Research Extension Center


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Pruning Your Fruit Trees


It has been a couple of years since I mentioned pruning apple trees, so here are the basics again.

Pruning opens up a tree so that more light and air gets around all of the fruit and leaves. You can also manage the height and shape of the tree.  It is best to prune your tree while it is dormant – before buds swell.

Here are the benefits of pruning:

  • Reduce the chance of fungal problems by allowing more air to move in the leaves.
  • It will be easier to apply product if you need to spray your tree.
  • It will reduce the tree’s crop load, making the tree more likely to bear fruit every year.
  • The fruit will be larger and ripen faster.
  • The tree has more time to prepare for the coming winter when fruit is picked earlier.

Use a sharp, quality hand pruner, lopper or pruning saw (think Felco brand – high quality, more expensive, but you will use them your whole life). Remove branches that point downward, inward, straight up (water sprouts), cross over/through the tree, or will shade the branch below. Clean out small twigs near the center of the tree.  Keep branches that are growing outward and upward and look healthy. Start in one place, removing the obvious stuff, and go from there. Don’t be afraid – you can always fix mistakes next year! 

Be careful to make cuts at branch collars (see pictures).  Do not leave ‘stubs’ which will rot.

Arrow shows branch collar of an inward-pointing branch that needs to be removed.

Arrow shows branch collar after branch removal.

Arrow shows correct position of unfinished saw cut and branch collar.

To prevent disease transmission, use a 1:5 dilution of either bleach, Lysol or Pinesol (1 part disinfectant+ 4 parts water) to spray onto or dip your tools into between trees or between infected branch cuts. Keep in mind, bleach will rust your tools.

Links to more information:


Kathy Wiederholt, Fruit Project Manager

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