Pruning apple trees is an interesting gardening task.   They are such prolific plants, surging up to meet the sky with great gusto, growing three stalks back where you cut one off last year. It takes endurance, stamina and a plan, or it can’t even be attempted, really.

I have only have 6 trees to prune and harvest from, but they keep me busy through March and April.  I have amazing ratcheting loppers but even so, the sheer volume of new branches is overwhelming. Once they are cut off the trees they have to be burned right away, or rabbits set up house under them and when I do move the pile the baby rabbits find themselves exposed to all sorts of predators.  I’m shuddering at the memory of such an event….I like to save some of the branches to burn in the fireplace during the winter because they smell sweet as they burn.

Pruning the trees makes harvesting much easier, and reduces the area to be sprayed with lime sulphur and vegetable oil. I’ve heard that if I prune in fall they will grow less but I haven’t found that to be the case with my trees  – pruning at any time of year seems to trigger the growth of many replacement branches. The number of apples may be slightly less when I prune, but the quality is improved, with the apples being larger and having more pleasing shapes.

It’s pretty hard work, especially after a winter of sitting down and reading gardening magazines and books!  Sort of an Apple Tree Pruning Boot Camp, guaranteed to whip me into shape in 6 weeks or less.