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How to prune apple tree


In pruning a fruit-bearing plant like the apple tree, attention must be given not only to the height and formation of the head, but to the removal of wood as well. The apple bears its fruit on spurs which are themselves developed from wood one year or more of age. For that reason, therefore, the removal of wood which carries fruit spurs reduces the crap the tree is capable of bearing.

This then, is a practicable way of thinning the fruit. Besides accomplishing this result pruning can be used to lessen the annual growth and force the energy of the plant which would naturally be used in making wood into the fruit, thus increasing its size or enabling the tree to carry a larger quantity than would be possible were a normal wood growth permitted.

where the removal of large branches becomes necessary, a saw must be substituted for the knife or the shears. In such cases it is frequently desirable that the saw be so constructed that it will cut with a drawing motion rather than when pushed from the operator. There is a saw upon the market which combines both features, that of cutting on the downward stroke and on the upward stroke, one edge of the saw being provided with teeth for each motion.

The blade of the saw is also curved, which enables one to reach some distance above his head and by drawing the saw toward him have it cut very freely on the downward stroke, which it would not do were it straight or provided with teeth set in the opposite direction. This type is exceedingly useful where the removal of branches of considerable size is necessary.

Other forms of pruning saws are made to be used upon the end of a pole, and some are also provided with a chisel blade at one end so that they can be used for smoothing the cut surface after sawing off a branch, or for cutting off small water sprouts or branches in the same way that they would be cut with a hatchet. This method of removing branches, however, is not to be commended, as it is seldom possible to cut them close to their origin, which is, of course, necessary in order to secure the best results.

Modern orchardists have come to look upon the low-headed tree as more desirable than those headed high. A head which is 2.5 to 3 feet from the ground is at present considered more desirable than, one which is 6 feet or more from the ground. The latter height was formerly frequently used. In forming the head care should be taken to have the framework branches disposed at different heights along the body of the tree - say from 3 to 6 inches apart, and distributed as evenly as possible around the body as a central axis; that is, when viewed from above the picture presented would be that of a wheel, the hub being the central axis of the tree and the framework branches representing the spokes.

For an apple tree three branches are considered the ideal number. More may be left upon some varieties, particularly those which are strong growers and upon trees which have a well-developed root system at planting time. If, however, the roots have been badly mutilated in removing the tree from the nursery, it will be safer to reduce the number to three rather than to maintain a larger number. These three main framework branches upon the ordinary first-class nursery tree should not be more than 10 or 12 inches in length.

At the close of the first season's growth after planting each one of these three framework branches should be considered as though it were a separate nursery tree and, if possible, three sub­divisions of this should be maintained for the wood supply of the second year, the three branches retained being cut back to about the same length as those originally held by the tree as planted in the first place. This operation should be repeated each succeeding year. By so doing a symmetrical development can be maintained, and by cutting to an outside or an inside bud the habit of the tree can be modified so as to make it upright or spreading in character.

Some trees are normally upright in their habit of growth, while others are spreading. This must be borne in mind and the character of the variety under treatment must be taken into consideration in cutting the branches, so that they will be upright or spreading according to the desire of the planter.