How to Prune an Old Apple Tree

by Alex Kountry
Updated on

It’s time to give your old apple tree a good pruning. Follow these steps and your tree will be healthy and productive for years to come.

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The Benefits of Pruning

Pruning an old apple tree can seem like a daunting task, but the benefits of pruning are well worth the effort. Pruning apple trees helps to encourage new growth, fight off pests and diseases, and improve the overall health of the tree. In this article, we will discuss the benefits of pruning an old apple tree in detail.

Pruning Increases Sunlight and Air Circulation

One of the main reasons to prune an old apple tree is to increase sunlight and air circulation within the tree. This allows the leaves to dry more quickly after a rain or dew, which reduces the risk of disease. In addition, more sunlight reaching the leaves will mean higher photosynthesis rates and greater fruit production.

Pruning Reduces the Risk of Storm Damage

Pruning your trees regularly can help to prevent storm damage. High winds can break weak or dead branches, which can then fall and damage your property or injure people. By removing these branches, you can help to reduce the risk of storm damage.

Pruning Stimulates New Growth

Pruning apple trees encourages new growth and fruit production. This is because pruning stimulate the tree’s natural ability to produce new wood. The more wood there is, the more leaves the tree can produce, and the more leaves there are, the more fruit the tree can produce.Apple trees need to be pruned every year to keep them healthy and productive.

The Tools You’ll Need

Pruning an old apple tree can be a daunting task, but it’s important to do if you want to keep your tree healthy and produce a good crop of apples. The good news is that you don’t need a lot of fancy tools to do it. A sharp pair of pruning shears is all you really need.

Bypass Pruners

Bypass pruners are the most popular style of pruning tool, and are an all-purpose tool for any gardener. Bypass pruners have two blades that slide past each other, like scissors, allowing for a clean cut on live plants. These pruners are best for making precision cuts on small to medium-sized branches.


Loppers are long-handled pruning shears with blades like scissor but much larger, capable of cutting branches up to two or three inches in diameter. The handles are usually between two and four feet long, giving you extra leverage to cut through larger branches. If you have an apple tree that needs some serious pruning, a pair of loppers should be your go-to tool.

Pole Saw

Pole saws come in different sizes, but the most common length is about 13 feet. Different models have different handle options. Some have a pistol grip like a chainsaw, while others have a more traditional two-handed saw setup. The latter can provide more power when cutting through larger branches, but both types of pole saws will get the job done.

Pruning shears are another option for cutting smaller branches (under 1 inch in diameter). These hand-held tools look like large scissors and can be easier to maneuver than a pole saw in some cases. But they won’t be able to reach very high branches, so you’ll need to use a ladder in addition to the pruners.

When to Prune

Pruning an old apple tree is a big job. You need to know when to prune, what tools to use and how to do it properly. Pruning an old apple tree is a big job. You need to know when to prune, what tools to use and how to do it properly.

Late Winter or Early Spring

It’s best to prune apple trees in late winter or early spring, before the trees start to produce new growth. This gives the tree time to heal before the stresses of summer.


Although you can prune an apple tree at any time of year, summer is the best time to do it. Summer pruning encourages fruit production and ensures that the tree will have a good shape.

To prune an apple tree, start by removing any dead or diseased branches. Then, cut back any branches that are growing out of the top or sides of the tree. Finally, cut back any branches that are crossing over each other or rubbing against each other.

How to Prune

When pruning an old apple tree, it is important to know where to make the cuts. You should also have a plan for what you want the tree to look like when you are finished. It is also important to know what tools to use and how to use them. This section will cover all of that information.

Remove Dead, Dying, or Diseased Wood

The primary reason to prune an old apple tree is to remove dead, dying, or diseased wood. Diseased wood can harbor pests and diseases that can spread to other parts of the tree or infect other trees. Dead wood is a potential fire hazard and can provide a hiding place for pests. Dying wood is often weak and can break easily in strong winds, potentially damaging the rest of the tree.

Remove Rubbing or Crossing Branches

1. Rubbing or crossing branches are two of the most common problems you’ll find on an old apple tree. Branches that are rubbing together will often be girdled (the bark is scraped off completely around the branch), which will eventually kill the branch. Crossing branches can damage both branches, making them more susceptible to disease and insect problems.

2. To remove a rubbing or crossing branch, first identify the branch that is the weakest (usually the smaller of the two).

3. Make a clean cut on the underside of the branch, just beyond where it joins with the trunk or another major branch.

4. Make a second cut on the top side of the branch, about 2 to 3 feet out from the first cut. This will prevent the branch from tearing bark off of the trunk or another branch when it falls.

5. Finally, carefully saw through the remaining portion of the branch.

Remove Suckers and Water Sprouts

Suckers are young shoots that sprout from the roots or lower trunk of a tree. They compete with the apple tree for water and nutrients, and they can eventually strangle it if left unchecked. Suckers are best removed when they’re young, using pruning shears or a sharp knife. Make sure to cut them all the way back to the parent tree so they don’t regrow.

Water sprouts are similar to suckers, but they sprout from the upper trunk or branches of a tree. They’re more difficult to remove than suckers, but it’s still important to do so because they can weaken the apple tree’s structure. Use pruning shears or a sharp knife to cut water sprouts all the way back to the parent branch.

Properly Dispose of Prunings

Apple trees require pruning every year to remove dead or diseased wood, to increase air circulation and sunlight penetration into the canopy, and to promote fruit production. The best time to prune an apple tree is late winter or early spring before the new growth begins.

On-Site Composting

Pruning apple trees helps keep them healthy and productive. But what do you do with all the clippings? Many people simply throw them away, but that’s not the best option.

The best way to dispose of prunings is to compost them. Composting is a process of breaking down organic matter, such as leaves and twigs, into a rich soil amendment. It’s an excellent way to recycle prunings and other yard waste.

To compost prunings, you can either build a compost pile or use a composter. Compost piles are simple to build and can be made from a variety of materials, such as wire mesh, pallets or concrete blocks. If you decide to build a compost pile, be sure to locate it in an area that is convenient for adding new material and removing finished compost.

Composters are also available for purchase. They come in a variety of sizes and styles, so you’re sure to find one that fits your needs. Composters can be placed directly on the ground or elevated off the ground on legs or a frame.

If you have questions about how to properly dispose of prunings, contact your local extension office for more information.

Municipal Solid Waste

Municipal solid waste (MSW), also known as trash or garbage, is used to describe consumer and business waste that is typically disposed of in municipal landfills. Most MSW in the United States is composed of paper products, yard waste, food scraps, plastics, glass, metal, and textiles.

While the composition of MSW varies from place to place, MSW typically contains a combination of these materials. For example, a typical MSW landfill in the United States might contain 40 percent paper products, 20 percent yard waste, 15 percent food scraps, 10 percent plastics, 5 percent glass, 5 percent metal, and 5 percent textiles.

The types of MSW generated by businesses and consumers also vary greatly depending on the location and type of business or activity. For example, businesses that generate large amounts of packaging material (such as grocery stores or manufacturers) will generate more MSW than businesses that generate less packaging material (such as office buildings or schools).

Similarly, households that contain more people will generate more MSW than households with fewer people. And households with children will generate more MSW than households without children because children tend to create more garbage per person.

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About the author

Alex Kountry

Alex Kountry is the founder of HayFarmGuy and has been a backyard farmer for over 10 years. Since then he has decided to write helpful articles that will help you become a better backyard farmer and know what to do. He also loves to play tennis and read books


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