The Q&A Archives: Pruning

Question: I am worried about my old apple tree which I had to prune last summer because it was heavily laden with apples and the limbs were breaking. Have I hurt the tree by pruning it while fruit was on the tree? It shows no sign of damage but is covered with moss.

Answer: Commercial growers sometimes place supports under branches that are heavy with fruit, so that's something you might consider in the future. You can make supports out of 2"X4"s that look similar to crutches, and use them to prop the branches up. Or, you can thin your apples early in the season to lessen the number of fruits it has to carry to maturity. Thinning is recommended to increase the size and quality of the fruit and is a fairly simple process; simply pull off all but one or two fruits per cluster.

Some fruit trees go into a cycle of alternate bearing after they've carried a heavy load of fruit. This means that you'll have a bumper crop one year and practically no fruit at all the next, but the following year the tree will bare heavily again.

It's not likely that you did permanent damage to your tree by pruning during the summer. If you cut back lots of large limbs, the tree will take a few years to produce new fruiting wood, but it should remain healthy throughout the process.

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