When and how should you crop an apple tree?

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When should you prune the apple tree in spring or autumn? And again and again the question, which branches are cut and how far? How do I recognize fruit wood and water shoots? The best approach: get a small theoretical overview and then start working. Every apple tree forgives a few mistakes when cutting. Best "learning by doing". This is always more promising for a good harvest than doing nothing, for fear of doing something wrong.
The timing of the main section is largely unanimous. The best months are February and March. At this time, the water has not yet fully risen in the branches. In addition, the apple tree can still regenerate from the cuts before it comes to bloom. Due to the protection of the birds, there are precise specifications as to when trees can be cut back or cut on the trunk. Mostly this is the period from March to September. During this time, only slight correction cuts are allowed. Until when exactly stronger cutbacks are allowed, you should inquire in advance in his community. In autumn, from September, you can remove dead, rotten branches. The more an apple tree grows, the later in spring it should be pruned. A later cut inhibits the growth, but promotes the formation of short shoots, which later on ripen the fruits.

Tip: During the cutting work in spring, temperatures should not be below -5┬░ C. The wood is then too brittle for a healthy trim.

Which branches are cut or cut depends, among other things, on the shape of the tree. Basically, there are two types of apple tree, the round crown and the spindle. Often, this framework is already predetermined when buying. Rather dwarf trees with horizontal branches are shaped as a spindle during the educational cut. The strong-growing varieties on a high stem with round crown shape.

  • round crown
In the round crown you can grow the trees on a trunk in the air. On a high or low trunk then sits a shapely, round crown. Mostly, the crown is made up of three strong leaders. These branches point diagonally upwards and form the basic framework. The crown itself should not be too dense, the apples need light and air to mature juicy and healthy. The main focus of the pruning is the clearing of the crown. Competent branches to the leading branches must be recognized in time and removed. From case to case it may also be necessary in the first years to tie the leader in the desired directions. Ideally, they form a 45┬░ angle to the trunk. The most common is the classic round crown. It is suitable for both low and high-stemmed trees.
  • spindle
An education in the spindle is about keeping the tree small and getting it early to bear many fruits. In the form loosely around a trunk around, many horizontal branches with lush bloom approach. Too strong competitive drives must be removed year after year. The fruit-bearing branches are shortened and fixed horizontally. The cut for a spindle is quite demanding and must be carried out professionally every year.
  • education section
The educational cut, also called construction cut, takes place in the first four to five years. In any case, until the leaders are strong enough that they will not bend anymore. The following steps are involved:
  • Wild shoots (water shoots) and root rashes are completely removed.
  • Competitive drives to the leaders are also completely removed.
  • Central drive and leading drives are shortened a little.
  • Side drives (short drives) on the main drives are not cut.
  • Control of the position of the leaders. In the young tree, if necessary, they can be bent in the desired direction and fixed.
  • Every year is the illumination. That is, shoots that grow inward and intersect or touch will be removed.
Tip: In the first years, quietly reduce the shoots. To carry many apples they are still too weak anyway. Better cut back more in the early years to later get a strong backbone.
  • rejuvenation pruning
The rejuvenation cut is made when the parenting session is completed and the tree with strong, firm guide branches forms a harmonious crown. It is also a care cut at the same time. The task now is to keep the crown permeable to light and air, so that the fruit can ripen under optimal conditions. The branches of an apple tree always consist of the skeleton and the fruit wood. The basic framework is now cut only when it comes to a height or shape limitation. The following work results in a rejuvenation cut:
  • Competitive impulses to the leading gears and water shoots are removed as usual.
  • dead branches are removed.
  • The apple tree bears fruit on biennial wood. So the one-year wood should not be completely removed when pruning, otherwise there will be no harvest in the following year.
  • Annual shoots are recognizable by their lighter wood.
  • Inward-pointing and intersecting shoots are removed.
  • Not much is cut around on the fruit wood. Only branches that grow strongly down are curtailed.
  • If branches are merely shortened, then always above an eye that is directed outwards.
How strongly an apple tree should be cropped, depends also on the previous year's harvest. If there was a less productive apple harvest in the previous year, one can calmly cut courageously to support the growth of many new shoots. After a rich harvest in the previous year, can be cut more gently.
Expressed differently: Strong cut means stronger growth and fewer flower buds, meaning less (but usually thicker) apples. Accordingly, a weak cut results in a weaker growth, but more flowers and a higher yield. However, often with smaller fruit size.
cutting technique
  • Water shoots and completely removed branches are cut off directly at the origin.
  • Branches to be shortened are always cut off above an outwardly facing bud obliquely outwards in the direction of growth.
  • Do not cut too obliquely so as not to unnecessarily increase the cut surface.
  • Thicker branches are severed with a folding saw or a powerful pruning shears.
  • From a branch diameter of 3 cm, the cuts should be brushed with a wound balm for trees, especially in the trade, to avoid infection.
  • Always use sharp tools to make smooth cuts.
Technical terms
In connection with the cut of apple trees one meets again and again some technical terms. Here is a simple explanation:
  • juice Libra
When cutting is to pay attention to the juice balance, it says in many instructions. In practice, this means that equal-ranking branches should always finish at the same height. This applies above all to the basic framework with the leading drives. This ensures that the rising water reaches all parts of the crown evenly in spring.
  • Alternating crop rotation
Depending on the apple variety, there is a more or less alternating crop rotation. This means that a tree that has yielded a rich crop in one year will produce fewer apples the following year. A little can be influenced by skilful cutting technique on an overly alternating crop rotation.
  • derive
Of derivations, the expert usually speaks when the crown is to be reduced in total. The Leit├Ąste be shortened, always over a branching side shoot.
  • spindle
In the apple spindle, there is a central drive, from which the fruit shoots branch off sideways. Mostly they are not higher than three meters. They require little stand space and are easy to harvest. For a long-term good yield, a regular cut is mandatory.
  • water lap
A water shot, also called Wassertrieb or Wasserreiser, is a fresh summer shoot that usually grows dead straight out of old wood. Usually they are removed. However, they can be used as a replacement drive in the event of an emergency, in the event of damage to the branch or for rejuvenation. Morphologically, a water shot has the same structure as the young green shoots.
In addition to the shape cut for a balanced crown, the main goal of the annual cut is a rich harvest. With this goal in mind, it is relatively easy to decide which shoots to remove in early spring and which are not. The crown also needs in its interior enough light and air to form flowers. So rather radical than too timid approach to the annual cut.

Video Board: How to Prune Old Apple Trees.

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