One of the primary problems faced by gardeners when growing apple trees is that they do not understand how to prune an apple tree properly. Pruning apple trees plays an important role in ensuring proper growth and fruit production. Pruning apple trees begin from the first season after planting, and contiue yearly until the tree dies. Before growing one, any gardener must fully understand how to prune an apple tree properly. Before understanding how to prune an apple tree, it is important to know how apple trees grow. Apple trees are central leader trees, this means that there is one main upright trunk, called the leader. All branches will sprout and grow out of this. A properly pruned apple tree should have a scaffold shape. This means that there are branches circling the tree, perpendicular to the leader, and there should be an area of about two feet between the levels to allow for light to reach the lower leaves and fruit.
Pruning apple trees should be done in the winter, encouraging the plant to grow more during the growing season. The first level of branches should begin between twenty-four to thirty-six inches above the surface of the soil. The branches growing out of the central leader should be either weighted down or tied loosely to string to promote outward growth as opposed to vertical growth. Pruning apple trees during the summer will inhibit growth, and should be done once the desired size has been reached.
Thinning out the fruit is also important to proper apple tree pruning. The fruit grown by the tree is oftentimes too heavy for the branches. When this happens, the branches may break off. Apples should be removed until they are spaced about four to six inches apart. This will reduce the burden on the branch, as well as increase the chances for a full crop the following year.