Apple trees benefit from a little attention in winter and in summer – easy care summer strategies for apples.
1) This dwarf apple tree has not has not had any attention other than a light haircut in winter and again in summer for many years. It is congested and overgrown and while it still fruits, the quality of the crop will improve in better conditions.
2) Select the branches which will give the tree its framework. Keep the main leader in the centre of the plant and choose branches which are well spaced to allow for air movement and maximum light. Remove all surplus growth not needed for this framework, including branches which cross each other. We are pruning for a tree which is more or less an espalier shape – two dimensional with height and width but little depth because it grows in a narrow border beside our driveway.
3) Now that the basic shape of the tree has been restored, thin out the clusters of fruiting spurs. Apples will continue to set fruit on old spurs for several years, but best results will be on growths from one to three years old. Where a spur is cut off, the plant will usually push out a fresh growth in spring.
4) This shoot shows two years of growth. The lower half was new growth made in spring two years ago and the upper half is growth from last spring. You can see the fruiting spurs forming on the 2008 growth. These will flower and set fruit this year. If you make the mistake of always pruning by trimming off the long whippy new growths, you are cutting off all the fresh fruiting spurs. Try to get a mix of fresh spurs and already established spurs so that you are encouraging gradual replacement.
5) Sealing the cuts is optional but strongly recommended by our visiting pruning expert. He applies Bacseal which is an antibacterial sealant. Avoid getting this on your hands and always wait until you have finished all the pruning to avoid brushing wet surfaces with your skin or clothing.
6) A spray of lime sulphur will clean up the heavy lichen infestation. Follow up with a copper spray at winter strength in three weeks time to get the tree into a much healthier state. Follow the instructions on the containers for dilution rates for both sprays.