Apple tree branches are removed through the process of pruning and training. The two processes vary in that pruning removes dead or overgrown branches, while training creates the tree growth direction to minimize future cutting. Tree training will open the tree canopy to increase light penetration for blossom development. An apple tree maintenance plant that includes both pruning and training will produce a tree with increased fruit yield and a longer life span.
Cut a newly planted tree that is a whip (looks like a stick with no branches) to a height of 32 inches. Cut back newly planted trees with side branches to a height of 32 inches and remove all branches growing between the soil level and 24 inches.
Pinch back all shoots that compete with the top shoot during the first summer of growth. This is the central leader of the tree.
Choose three to five branches to keep that are 4 inches in length and growing vertically around the trunk. Remove all other side branches that appear to be competing with the leader during the first winter pruning. Prune the center leader to maintain a pyramid appearance.
Remove competing shoots during the second summer of growth to keep the top leader growing vertically.
Choose to keep three to five vertical branches that are 2 to 3 feet higher than the first set during the second winter pruning. This step can be done the third winter if the tree growth was slow.
Repeat Step 4 until there are three to four sets of vertical branches. Prune the tree to keep the lower branches longer than the upper branches.