Pruning an apple tree immediately after planting and during the first two years is important. It establishes the growth pattern of the tree and trains the branches into the best position for fruit production. According to the University of Wisconsin Extension Service, proper pruning when the tree is young saves hours of frustration and corrective pruning in later years. Train the young apple tree to develop a small Christmas tree shape that will produce high quality fruit.
The First Summer
Prune the newly planted unbranched whip to approximately 30 inches above the ground. Cut just above a bud on the windward side of the tree.
Prune newly planted branched or feathered trees to eliminate branches with poor crotch angles and those that grow downward.
Remove the lowest branches to accommodate mowing beneath the tree; in most cases lifting branches up to about 2 feet off the ground is best.
Remove branches more than 40 inches above the ground.
Retain straight shoots with wide crotch angles when they develop; branches that are nearly horizontal are best. Remove shoots with narrow crotch angles or that grow downward.
The First Winter
Remove approximately one-fourth to one-third of the new growth on the central leader. Cut just above a leaf bud on the windward side of the leader. This will encourage new branching and encourage the tree to grow straight and healthy.
Remove the uppermost shoots with narrow crotch angles, if they were not removed when they appeared. Keep branches with wide crotches.
Remove all of the new shoots if less than three shoots have developed or if all the shoots have developed on the same side of the tree. Retain shoots that produce an upright and balanced tree.
About this Author
Diane Watkins has been writing since 1984, with experience in newspaper, newsletter and web content. She writes two electronic newsletters and content around the web. Watkins has a Bachelor of Science degree in chemistry from Clemson University. She has taken graduate courses in biochemistry and education.