My Everchanging Garden

Gardening That Grows With Me

Learning To Prune Fruit Trees

Today was a perfect day to prune my crab apple trees. I have to admit that this was a task that needed to be done, but that I wasn’t looking forward to. I believe I’ve fairly well mastered the art of pruning shrubs. After all, it’s pretty hard to ruin a shrub. Most will survive even a hard pruning. But trees – well they scare me. Perhaps that’s why I have largely ignored my young crab apple trees since their planting in 2007. But this year, no more cowering among the spireas, I was determined to correct my errors of omission.

I started out with a bit of knowledge — my first steps were to remove any branches that were growing straight up (and there were a few) or in towards the middle. There was little winter damage (this past year being rather mild) so I didn’t have that to contend with. After that though I was stuck … now what?

So what to do? Turn to the experts — those with more experience than me — my father and father-in-law. A phone call to my Dad (who had a small apple orchard when I was younger) lead to this advice: you want to keep branches with as close to a 90 degree angle to the tree as possible, anything with 45 or less should go. Can I cut back any branches that are way longer than the remainder of the tree? Yes was the answer. In fact, if one area is a bit sparse you should actually prune that area quite severely. This will generate more new growth, balancing out the tree.

OK, so back out I went and removed a few more branches. Then lucky me, my father-in-law was up for a visit for the day. So what did I do, I put him to work helping me. Oh, and I should admit that this was after my father-in-law (who is 75), my husband and oldest son finished a 11km bike ride. But did I feel bad — no I was desperate. His advise: remove most of the inner small branches to make for a more open center. Apparently he used to climb a ladder to do this on a more mature crab apple in his yard. Then we cut out quite a few more branches and lastly went to work shaping the tree by cutting back a few longish stems. I must admit I was really getting into it by then.

The end result is below and I have to say they look much better. And I think I’ve discovered a new business opportunity for my parents generation — landscaping and gardening advice by the real experts, those with both knowledge and experience. So thanks to both Dads, my trees never looked better.

Spring pruning crab apple tree

One of my three crab apple fruit trees, fully pruned for the first time since 2007.


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