Pruning is often regarded with some trepidation, but a few judicious cuts can really invigorate a struggling tree.
The aim is to encourage the tree to grow into an open structure that allows air and light to reach all parts of the plant. This will encourage good fruiting and ripening, and reduces hidey-holes for nefarious pests to lurk in.
A good trim refreshes trees. Once they get a healthy cut, they can spring into a new growing season with gusto. Though there is one infamous pruning shortcut that holds trees back from a healthy start—tree topping. When you cut the top of a tree off, you leave behind a weak tree that’s unstable and at risk of decline.
Over-pruning stimulates lots of lush new growth at the expense of fruits. The key is to only cut out what are known as the 3Ds – diseased, dying and dead wood – plus any crossing branches or branches that point inwards.
Severe pruning often will cause an apple to tree to produce vigorous side shoots from the trunk, called water sprouts. Main branches will also produce suckers that grow straight up. The suckers and water sprouts should be removed throughout the growing season so the center of the tree stays open.