The Q&A Archives: Planting another apple tree

Question: Thank you for your last e-mail re: how i can trim my apple tree. As per your suggestion, I now woulld like to plant another tree (Granny smith). Here in western Wash. It is late August and was wondering when is the best time and how close to my one year old Gala apple tree should I plant?

Answer: The dormant season (December through February) are the best times to prune your apple trees. The first rule of pruning is to remove any dead, injured or diseased branches. Near the base of all branches is an area of wrinkled wood called the branch collar. This portion of the tree has all the cells necessary to heal wounds. Never cut into the branch collar when pruning.

Although you don't want to cut into the branch collar, you should also avoid leaving a stub, from which suckers, or water sprouts, may grow.

Moving up the tree, look for branch angles, or scaffolding branches: branches that grow from the main trunk, preferably evenly spaced, at 45- or 50-degree angles. Leave these scaffolding branches for the basic framework of your tree.

Fruiting buds are dark-colored, wrinkled wood that grows from scaffolding branches. Leave these small branches -- they're the ones that produce fruit. Trees begin to form fruiting buds at around three years of age.

Vegetative buds are similar in appearance to fruiting buds, but they're not so wrinkled and dark. These buds form leaves and new branches.

Remove any competing branches that will cause problems for the tree. Sometimes these branches create a hollow where water can collect and encourage rot.

Look for branches growing toward the inside of the tree, and remove them to improve air circulation.

When you remove a branch or a limb, the bud directly under the cut will take over and grow. For this reason, you should cut above outward-facing buds.

A fruit tree should have only one central leading branch. Don't allow two leader branches to form, or the tree will become weak. Identify the healthier leader, and remove the other.

The ideal is one central leader surrounded by evenly spaced scaffolding branches that have plenty of fruiting spurs.

You'll want to plant your new apple tree within 50' of your existing tree, preferably line-of-sight so the bees won't have to go searching to find the blossoms. If you have an average size yard, you might even be able to plant one in the front and one in the backyard.

Best wishes with your apple trees.

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