Gardening with Dave Allan: Summer apple pruning

·2-min read
During the late winter, we undertake major shaping and designing, but in August, we focus on the tree’s fresh growth.

Picture: PA
During the late winter, we undertake major shaping and designing, but in August, we focus on the tree’s fresh growth. Picture: PA

Pruning apple trees now encourages a fine, ripe crop and possibly the same again next year. By pruning trained and small to medium-sized trees in summer you’ll keep them tidy and make harvesting much easier.

Winter and summer pruning are separate jobs designed to control different aspects of growing an apple tree so each should be done at the right time of year and not be combined into one task.

During the late winter, we undertake major shaping and designing, but in August, we focus on the tree’s fresh growth.

Left unchecked during the summer, an apple tree sprouts a mass of thin stems, perhaps as much as 75cm long.

This thick vegetative growth is unsightly, shades the crop and makes harvesting very difficult.

Put simply: pruning these new shoots keeps the tree open, allowing apples to ripen in the sun and stops us from damaging branches or knocking off next year’s fruiting spurs as we pick.

When we reduce stems to around 20cm, a tree diverts its energy into forming fruiting, not vegetative buds.

Research shows that this process starts in the next few weeks so pruning now gives us the best chance of good flowering next year.

Regrowth from below the cuts could happen but you can help prevent this by leaving one stem per branch to act as a sap-bearer that diverts sprouting from the other pruned stems.

Then prune the sap-bearer next spring. If you haven’t thinned this year’s crop yet, do it now.

A common problem in apple growing is having a bumper crop followed by a paltry one the following year because the tree “needs a rest” after its excesses.

During the first year, the apple tree is putting all its energy into growing a crop so simply doesn’t have enough resources to produce many fruiting buds.

The solution is to significantly reduce the number of apples in the first season to allow for fruit bud formation.

During the drought, as an act of self preservation, I’ve noticed that the apple drop has been much larger than usual, so there will be much less thinning to do.

But check the trees and reduce clusters to one fruit.

Plant of the Week

Leucanthemum x superbum ‘Banana Cream’ has shaggy daisy flowers that open lemon yellow and gradually fade to ivory. Like all Shasta daisies the plant is hardy and reliable but only grows to about 45cm so does not need staking as do the larger cultivars.