How to Prune an Overgrown Apple Tree

by Alex Kountry
Updated on

Many apple trees are grown in backyards and orchards across the country. But, if not properly pruned, they can become overgrown and produce fewer apples.

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Assess the tree’s health

By late summer, many apple trees are laden with fruit and leaves. Unfortunately, this can also lead to an overgrown tree. When an apple tree is overgrown, it’s difficult to assess the tree’s health and fruit production. Pruning an overgrown apple tree is essential to keeping the tree healthy and ensuring a good harvest.

Look for signs of disease or pests

First, assess the tree’s health. Look for signs of disease or pests. If you see any, you’ll need to deal with those before you prune. Also, take a look at the overall shape of the tree. Is it well-balanced, or is it lopsided? If it’s lopsided, you’ll need to prune more on the side that’s heavier to even it out.

Check the soil for drainage and nutrients

When you’re assessing the health of your apple tree, the first step is to check the soil. The roots of the tree need space to spread out, so the soil should be loosen and easy for roots to grow. If the soil is too compacted, it will be difficult for the tree to absorb water and nutrients.

In terms of drainage, apple trees need well-drained soil so that their roots don’t sit in waterlogged conditions. If the soil doesn’t drain well, it can lead to root rot, which can eventually kill the tree. To check drainage, dig a small hole in the ground near your tree and fill it with water. If the water drains away within a few hours, the drainage is good. If not, you may need to improve it by adding organic matter such as compost or peat moss to improve drainage.

As for nutrients, apple trees need a balance of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (NPK) for healthy growth. Most soils have enough nitrogen for an apple tree, but you may need to add phosphorus and potassium if a soil test reveals that these nutrients are low. These nutrients are usually available in fertilizer products specifically designed for fruit trees.

Prune the tree

Pruning an overgrown apple tree is a two-step process. First, you need to remove any dead or diseased wood. Second, you need to thin out the canopy to increase air circulation and allow more sunlight to reach the fruit.

Remove any dead, diseased, or damaged branches

The first step in pruning an overgrown apple tree is to remove any dead, diseased, or damaged branches. These branches can be infected with pests or diseases that can spread to the healthy parts of the tree. They can also be a danger to people and animals if they break off and fall.

Once you have removed all of the dead, diseased, or damaged branches, you can start to prune back the remaining branches. Start by pruning back the longest branches first. This will help to balance out the tree and make it easier to control the shape of the tree as you prune it.

When pruning back branches, always cut them back to a bud that is pointing in the direction that you want the branch to grow. This will help the tree to grow in the desired direction and will also promote new growth.

Cut back any branches that are rubbing together

Cut back any branches that are rubbing together. These can create wounds in the bark that invite pests and diseases. Also, remove any dead, diseased, or broken branches.

Trim back any branches that are overgrown

Apply the 3 cuts to each branch that is overgrown. Begin by cutting back one-third of the length of the branch. Next, cut back to just above an outward facing bud (or node). Finally, make a third cut about 6 inches (15 cm) out from the first cut, sloping it downwards so that it meets the second cut. This will help prevent water from sitting on the cut and causing it to rot.

Maintain the tree

Fertilize the tree

Fertilize the tree in early spring, before new growth begins. Use a fertilizer that is high in nitrogen, such as urea, to encourage new growth. Apply the fertilizer according to the package directions, and water it in well.

Water the tree regularly

Water the apple tree deeply and regularly during the growing season. The best way to water an apple tree is with a soaker hose or drip irrigation system. Water slowly so the water has a chance to soak down to the roots.

Prune the tree annually

Pruning an overgrown apple tree is a daunting task, but it is essential to the health and vigor of the tree. Depending on the extent of the overgrowth, you may need to prune the tree annually for several years to bring it back into balance.

Before you begin, it is important to understand the basic principles of pruning. The goal is to remove excess growth while maintaining the overall shape and structure of the tree. When pruning, always make clean, sharp cuts just above a bud or branchCollapse

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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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