Apple trees are pruned back in the spring before they awaken from hibernation and sprout new growth. But older trees can also benefit from summer pruning. This summer pruning of apple trees allows the fruit to ripen better, calms shoot growth and reduces susceptibility to fungal diseases.
One of the most important care measures for apple trees is pruning, especially summer pruning. It regulates the growth of the tree and prevents fungal infestation, as the leaves can dry more quickly after rainfall due to better ventilation of the crown. In addition, due to the better incidence of light, the fruits inside the crown also ripen more evenly and develop a more intense aroma.
When and how to make the summer pruning of apple trees?
The ideal period for summer pruning is from late June to mid-July, when shoot growth is complete and the apple tree is putting on new flower buds for the following year. Remove primarily the annual shoots that grow vertically upwards (water sprouts). For weak-growing varieties, leave the thin branches in the crown and remove only the strongest shoots. Do not remove too much, because then the fruits will not be adequately nourished and will remain small. You can also remove thin shoots by simply tearing them out instead of using scissors, because the wounds heal particularly quickly.
You should shorten the unbranched tips of the leading shoot and side branches in summer above a downward-facing bud. This will then resprout, but at the same time several side branches will form below the bud, which will later set fruit bearing wood. Water sprouts usually develop on the upper side of the larger branches and grow vertically upward. They rob the ripening fruit of light and also hardly form any fruiting wood. It is best to cut off the shoots directly at the base.
Thinning out the fruiting of apple trees
Apple varieties such as ‘Russet’ often become so exhausted with flowering and fruiting that they hardly form new buds for the following year and then bear correspondingly less. To avoid this so-called alternance, you should thin out the fruiting at the end of June. Rule of thumb: Leave only one or two apples hanging from each fruit cluster. These fruits are optimally nourished by the tree and achieve a particularly good quality.
Tying instead of pruning is the expert tip for small-crowned apple trees and spindle bushes on weak-growing rootstocks. Flat growing branches form their blossoms and fruits earlier. When tying down, make sure that the string does not cut into the bark. This can be easily prevented if you weigh down the branches with small weights instead.