How to prune an overgrown apple tree?

Nobody wants an overgrown apple tree in their backyards. When you leave the apple tree without cutting it for a long time, it may become an over-grown apple tree. However, you can maintain the desired measurement of an overgrown apple tree by pruning. In addition, pruning the over-grown apple tree can encourage its growth. 

Pruning is an easy task though sometimes you need to follow a definite way to prune. Many times it so happens that pruning in the wrong way can damage the tree. So, how can you prune an overgrown tree?

Well, I am here to talk about the proper way for pruning an overgrown apple tree. So, let’s din in deeper to know more about this!

How to prune an overgrown apple tree

Five steps to prune an overgrown tree!

When you are about to cut your tree, you need to consider many things. Like disease or pests can attack the tree if you prune the tree in the wrong way. That’s why I don’t want you to make mistakes that can be a death threat to the plant while pruning.

Here I am mentioning the steps of pruning one by one so that you can follow them.

Step 01: Appropriate timing for pruning!

During summer, you can prune the tree to maintain a manageable size. On the other hand, during late winter, you can prune the tree to encourage growth.

For example, there are six limbs on the tree. During winter, the sap goes down out of those branches. So, when you cut three branches in winter, they will grow back in spring. Because during spring, the sap will rise again, and it will look for those branches again. Thus, there will be a lot of new growth in spring.

On the other hand, when you cut the limbs with sap in summer, there will be no stimulation for growing new limbs. 

That’s why, if you want to maintain the shape of the tree, you should prune it in summer. The problem with summer pruning is that sometimes the tree becomes sensitive to diseases and pests.

However, you can prune the tree in late winter as this will be less shocking for the tree. But the problem is the tree may grow those branches again. 

Besides that, when the suckers and the unproductive wood grow on the tree, you should start pruning. Heavy pruning and removal of those suckers and unwanted branches can encourage the growth of fruiting spurs.

Also, there will be more space inside the tree for better air circulation and sunbath. 

Step 02: Collect your tools!

If you don’t have the right cutting tools, all your efforts will go in vain. Well, make sure that the tools you are using are sharp enough and clean. If you use dirty and dull tools, it can damage the tree by injuries to the bark.

You can cut the smaller limb easily with the shears, but the larger branches may need heavy tools. You can use pruning shears for the small branches. Besides this, the hand saw, or the electric saw for cutting large limbs.

No matter what tools you are using, keep your comfort and knowledge about those tools first. Also, you can use heavy-duty gloves, and safety glasses, hardhat to maintain your safety. On top of that, the blades should be sharp. Otherwise, they may harm you or the tree. 

Moreover, you may need a ladder to cut the upper branches if the tree is too tall to reach. Also, don’t forget to keep a trash bag to collect the trashes after cutting. 

Step 03: What to cut and what not to cut

Planning is an essential part of pruning the tree. If you start cutting the tree without planning, you may leave poor wood on the tree. Or else, you may prune an essential limb that is crucial for the tree.

That’s why you should know which part of the tree you should cut and which part should not. So, let’s learn more about it. 

Dead, damaged, and diseased branches!

diseased tree branches

At first, you should remove all the diseased, damaged, and dead branches from the tree. You can identify the deadwood by its peeled barks, and dark or brittle texture. You should remove these branches as they are nothing but trash on your tree. Then you should remove the diseased branches as a diseased limb can spread the disease.

Also, the injured wood can be an ideal place for pest attacks. So you should remove those branches with open wounds on them. 

Sucker branches

We often prune the tree to encourage growth. But not all growing branches are beneficial for the tree. There are some branches called suckers coming out of the base, and then there are whorls that grow surrounding the shoots. Also, water shoots are growing straight upright from the branches. 

So, all these suckers, whorls, and water shoots are not going to bear any fruits. These branches only absorb energy and sap from the plant. So, removing all these irrelevant branches will help the tree to get proper nutrition.

Also, pruning these branches will help you to structure the tree properly by cutting them earlier in pruning. 

Lower branches 

The lower branches are too shady to bear any apples. Besides that, these lower limbs can attract deer and other animals to the tree. So, it’s better to get rid of those shoots. Remove the lower limbs for about 4 feet from the ground. Also, prune the down-facing branches. 

Problematic branches

Remove the crisscross shoots from the branches that are disturbing the main or large limbs. These branches will damage the scaffold branch after growing. Besides that, it may ruin the shape of the tree.

So, it is better to remove them before they cause any problem to the tree. 

Competitor branches

You need only one central trunk in your apple tree. So if the number of the main branches is more than one, you should prune them. You will not want other major larger limbs to compete with your trunk for nutrition and energy.

Thin branches

Many irrelevant interior thin branches may create a messy bush. Because of this mess, the sunlight and air can’t get inside the plant properly. So, cut those light and delicate shoots so that the air and sun can reach the fruits properly.

Also, if you remove them, the essential limbs of the tree can rest properly on the plant at a greater than 45 degrees angle. 

You can remove the thin branch as much as possible. But make sure that you are not removing more than one-third of the limbs. All this pruning will result in new growth. So, don’t hesitate to prune the poor branch. 

Step 04: Cross-check the tree!

After cutting all the branches, you can cross-check the tree so that no poor wood is left behind. Check the upper limbs whether they are shorter than the lower ones or not. After the final cut, the tree should resemble a pyramid with properly spaced parallel branches.

There should be enough space left so that a bird can fly through that structure without touching it. The tree may seem bare at first, but it will be healthy and fulfilled after it starts to grow.

Step 05: Clean the space!

This cleaning task is fun and tiring at the same time. Well, but you can’t leave the place untidy. So, remove all the affected poor branches from there. Also, if you keep the infectious limbs near the tree, they may attack the tree again.

That’s why it is better to remove them as early as possible. 

Some extra tips!

  • Cut the branch from the collar of the limb. Also, trim the edge of the cutting place. 
  • Prune above an out-facing bud if you are pruning the tree for shaping purposes. This type of cutting will encourage the branch’s growth outward. 
  • Avoid pruning above the in-facing bud, as this will encourage the growth of branches inward. So, then the inward limbs may disturb other limbs.

Final thoughts!

Pruning the tree can improve the tree’s health. By pruning, you remove the dead and unhealthy branches from the tree. As a result, for the remaining limbs, there will be more nutrients and energy. These energy and nutrient will encourage its new growth.

Besides this, there will be no crowd of branches on the tree. There will be good air circulation and better access to sunlight. With all these benefits, you can get a bountiful harvest for sure.

That’s why I suggest you prune an overgrown apple tree if you want to get bountiful crops. Follow the steps one by one, and I hope you will have a great harvest from your over-grown apple tree!