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Guide to Pruning Dwarf Apple Trees

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Authored by Sandy Rothra in Gardening
Published on 12-15-2009

Because of their small size, dwarf apple trees are easy to prune. Usually there is no need for a ladder, making the pruning process easier and safer. Dwarf apple trees need to be pruned when dormant. The best time is between January and March, before spring growth begins. For a young tree, decide the shape preferred. Most apple trees are trimmed to maintain an open bowl shape. Pruning the young dwarf apple tree helps to shape a strong frame, needed to support the weight of the fruit. Mature trees need pruning to encourage new fruit.

Prepare your tools. Hand shearers and loppers should be sharp to prevent damage when cutting. Have a bucket nearby, containing approximately one cup of bleach in one gallon water. Dip your cutting tools in this mixture between cuts to avoid spreading any existing disease. An old tarp or piece of plastic, spread on the ground to catch the branches, facilitates removal of the cuttings. Just drag them away.

To prune young trees, decide the ultimate shape of the tree. Cut the central trunk off at about three feet above the ground. This will encourage new branches to form along the trunk. Allow the top branch to become the new trunk. In order to open the center of the tree and form the shape of a bowl, leave several strong support or scaffold branches angling up from the trunk to form the bowl. Cut the scaffold branches back to about four inch stubs. Remove all other side branches. By the end of the first summer, your main scaffolding branches will be formed.

Annual maintenance is necessary each winter. Remove all suckers growing up from the root system and sprouts growing out of the truck below the main crotch of the tree. Also remove all branches growing straight up or down. Branches should grow at an angle. Cut out branches that have grown crosswise to the main shape of the tree, and cut out any branches that rub on other branches. Remove all dead or diseased branches. When pruning mature trees, remember that apples form on old growth. Therefore, to maintain shape, you will want to prune back the new growth. Each year you can prune the top of the trunk by cutting the trunk back to the first big lateral branches. This will maintain the size of a dwarf apple tree and keep the height of the tree down. Each winter, prune the dwarf apple tree to maintain the bottom branches longer than the upper ones to maintain the shape.

By pruning your dwarf apple tree each winter you can keep the canopy of the tree open and maintain a bowl shape. This allows sun and air to reach the center leaves and fruit. Sunlight helps prevent disease and reduce pests. Your purpose is to prevent the fruit from being shaded. Apples prefer direct sunlight in order to become large and ripen properly.

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