How to Thin Apple Trees


Apple trees are great to have around. Even if you don't eat the fruit, their beauty and fragrance in the spring is something to behold. Each year the tree becomes larger and produces more fruit. If the tree goes three to four years without being affected by disease or drought, the amount of fruit the tree bears can be overwhelming and too heavy for the branches. Annual pruning is a necessity to keep the apple tree healthy and to safely produce baskets of apples each growing season.

Step 1

Begin by spreading a tarp underneath the area of the tree you are working on. The tarp will catch all of the trimmings, making for easy cleanup when you are done thinning out the apple tree. Work your way around the tree, moving the tarp to the new work area each time.

Step 2

Thin the tree when the apples have just begun to come onto their branches. Use sharp pruning shears to thin out the lower extremities of the tree first. The young apples will grow in clusters. Notice the largest apple of the cluster; leave this apple growing and remove all of the other apples from that cluster by snipping them from their stem.

Step 3

Use a stepladder to reach the higher areas of the apple tree.

Step 4

Prune out areas of the tree that are overgrown with branches of fruit. In this case, use loppers to completely remove certain branches. Too much weight on one side of the tree can cause that side to bend and break. Ridding the apple tree of this overgrowth will relieve the excess weight.

Step 5

Pull the tarp, which contains all of the trimmings, to an area where you can dump them. Adding the apples to a compost pile can be beneficial to your garden for compost during the next growing season.

Tips and Warnings

  • Use caution when climbing a stepladder. Always make sure all four legs of the ladder are resting on level ground. If the ladder is not level, the risk of serious injury or death is increased.

Things You'll Need

  • Stepladder
  • Pruning shears
  • Loppers
  • Tarp


  • North Carolina State University: Growing Apple Trees in the Home Garden
Keywords: Apple tree pruning, Thinning apple trees, Apple tree care

About this Author

Jason M. Bruner is a freelance writer who has been in the field for more than five years. His content has been previously published on sites such as eHow.