Pruning Fruit Trees - Knowledgebase Question

Dryden, Mi
Question by margietorre
February 24, 2011
I would like to know how to take care of my fruit orchard. When do I prune my apple trees? How much should I prune? What about the use of a dormant oil spray? When should that be applied?


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Answer from NGA
February 24, 2011

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Apple trees should be pruned in February so you're right on schedule. Start by removing any suckers near the base of the tree plus any suckers growing on the branches of your tree. Suckers are upright growths and they're non-productive. Prune them off as close to the branch as possible. Then remove any crossing, rubbing or broken branches. The goal now is to remove one quarter to one third of the branches to make the remaining branches bear nice, big apples. You also want to end up with a tree where sun and air can get into the center of the tree. Remove any branches that grow into the middle of the tree or any branches that cross and rub other limbs. You're almost there.

Remove a few more branches that seem too close together. When I prune a branch back, I leave an outer bud that will grow the branch in the direction I want. This technique helps you balance out a tree over a few years.

To avoid diseases, your apple trees can be sprayed with Bordeaux (lime-sulfur). This fungicide must be applied early and thoroughly to protect new growth. Apply according to label directions; as the buds break until the leaves are fully expanded. Do this at prepink, pink, calyx, and first cover. Since the fungus overwinters in fallen leaves and fruit, be sure to thoroughly clean up and dispose of plant debris in the fall months. The horticultural oil is effective against overwintering scale insects and insect eggs and should be applied in the winter. It is sold as dormant spray. Hope this answers all your questions and you have a great apple harvest!

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