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Hello, I live in York and wonder if it's too late to summer prune my apple tree (sorry I don't know the type but it's a small, eating apple and the apples don't store for long because they go fluffy/powdery, if that helps). Most websites seem to suggest mid-August is the latest but will the 3 weeks make much difference? The tree has a lot of apples on it, which are almost ripe. I wanted to summer prune to limit its growth a bit. Thanks for your help, CLK
Firstly, are the apples at the end of the branches, on little spurs that run along their length or both? Is the tree a bush or standard shape rather than a cordon?
Assuming that the answer to both questions is 1. both and 2 yes, leave the tree alone for now and enjoy the apples. In the winter, from Nov to March, cut out any branches that cross the centre of the tree as you want the shape to be an open cup shape.
The more you cut the branches back, the more the tree will respond by making new growth. You say that you want to restrict its growth, so prune as lightly as you can. Prune the upright branches back to leave about half of the growth that they made this year. You can see where 2013 growth began because it is a slightly different colour. Then prune the sideways growing branches that come off the now-pruned long upright ones to an outward facing bud, leaving six or seven leaves of this year's growth on the tree.
If the fruits are only at the ends of the branches, you will need to go at your pruning in a much milder way as any tips you cut off will then have no fruit next year.
Thank you ever so much waterbutts, that's more helpful than I even expected. The answers are as you anticipated so I'll leave now and lightly prune as you described in winter. However, I'm now curious to know why it's too late to summer prune now? Thank you, CLK
If you prune it now clk, it will sprout fresh growth which won't have time to develop fully before it gets frosted. If that happens disease can develop from the damaged new growth.
Thank you BobTheGardener. Is the new growth, before it fully develops, what they call semi-ripe?
Semi ripe is a bit riper than new growth but not as ripe as old wood.
So, waterbutts, does that mean that if you summer prune an apple tree, by the time the frosts come the growth will be semi ripe? (And possibly is the newest summer growth what's referred to as soft wood?). Thank you.
Summer prune to encourage fruit formation. August is best time, generally, to summer prune. Done mine. If your trees are spur bearers summer pruning by shortening the shoots off the main branches to 3 or 4 leaves encourages fruit. It is bit late now for summer pruning in my opinion.
I prune not only my own cordon, espalier and bush apples n pears but also a friend's.....she has a score of apples n pears. We both have easy to pick trees with masses of blossom and, currently, heavily laden with fruit.
For me, winter pruning is for growth.
clk you got it in one.