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When to Prune an Apple Tree

Spring is in the air, and that means it’s time to break out the pruning shears and get to work on those apple trees! But wait – before you start hacking away, you should know a few things about when to prune apple trees. After all, timing is everything when it comes to getting those juicy apples to come harvest time.

Type of Pruning

The first thing to know is that there are two types of pruning: formative and vegetative. Formative pruning is done when the tree is young and still growing into its shape. This type of pruning helps determine the overall structure of the tree and is best done in late winter or early spring. Vegetative pruning, on the other hand, is done once the tree has reached its mature size and shape. This type of pruning removes excess growth in order to promote fruit production. The best time for vegetative pruning is late spring or early summer.

What to Prune

Now that you know the difference between formative and vegetative pruning, you need to know what specifically you should be looking for when you’re ready to get started. For formative pruning, you’ll want to remove any dead, diseased, or broken branches as well as any branches that are crossing or rubbing against each other.

You’ll also want to thin out the canopy of the tree so that light can reach all of the leaves. For vegetative pruning, you’ll want to remove any water sprouts (vertical branches that grow straight up from the trunk or main branches), suckers (shoots that grow from the roots), and any branches that are crossing or rubbing against each other. You should also thin out the canopy so that light can reach all of the leaves and fruit.


Pruning your apple trees may seem like a daunting task, but it’s really not that difficult once you know what you’re doing. Just remember to start with formative pruning when the tree is young, then switch over to vegetative pruning once it reaches maturity. And always keep an eye out for dead, diseased, broken, or rubbing branches – those need to go regardless of what type of pruning you’re doing! Contact WGS Tree Services for more advice about tree surgery.

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