apple tree

Hello everyone. I hope you have been able to get out to enjoy some of the sunshine and warmer temperatures the last few days. If this weather patterns keeps up, spring will be upon us very quickly.

I’ve already noticed purple deadnettle weeds looking a little more vigorous around our property, peonies poking through the soil, snow drops blooming and aspen trees flowering. It’s a great time to get outside and get a head start on pruning your fruit trees.

When we think of an ideal apple tree for producing fruit, it has very stout branches, a solid vertical leader and relatively few small branches. It is often said that you should be able to fly a paper airplane through the canopy of an apple tree without hitting a branch. If your apple trees look like the Macintosh in my back yard, it does not resemble that description.

Old apple trees are typically pretty gnarly looking with tightly spaced branches, overgrown and difficult to prune. Despite looking like something out of a Grimm fairy tale, they can often produce a plentiful amount of good fruit. Trying to rejuvenate an overgrown apple tree can be a daunting task, but it can be accomplished, although it may not always be advisable.

Getting those old trees back in shape will almost guarantee a loss of fruit for at least one year, if not more. Apple trees start to lose production after about 20 to 25 years, so sometimes it is just better to leave the old tree alone and start fresh with a newer variety.

If you just can’t stand to look at that old tree and you feel the urge to get it back into shape, sometimes deciding where to make the first cut can be daunting. To be honest, it doesn’t really matter where you make that first cut. Don’t be afraid to make one big cut instead of multiple smaller cuts. If you have an overgrown tree, your goal should be to remove one quarter or one third of the canopy to promote sunlight and airflow. As you are pruning your apple tree identify the central leader, or the most dominant branch, and work to create a scaffold of branches off of it. You can find some good illustrations in this fact sheet from Ohio State.

Plants are resilient and most can withstand hard pruning without significant consequences to the overall health of the plant. As my colleague puts it, “when it doubt, cut it out.” Pruning is not an exact science, and you will quickly learn that it is more of an art form. There are thousands of correct ways to prune, and each person has their own preferences and approach. The only wrong way to prune is to make one large horizontal cut at the base of the trunk, unless you want a reason to start with a new tree.

Pruning can be fun, and often it is best to watch someone else do it first to get an idea of what needs to be accomplished. OSU Extension will be partnering with Hartford Orchard for our March into Pruning program March 4 from 9 to 11 a.m. We will be talking about best pruning practices, and get some hands-on experience pruning trees in the orchard. Cost for this class is $15/person and includes a set of handheld pruners. We will start inside, but then move out into the orchard so dress for the weather.

You can register for the class by calling our office at 330-638-6783 or online here

Enjoy the sunshine and stay safe!

Submitted by Lee Beers, an Agriculture and Natural Resources Educator for OSU Extension – Trumbull County.  He can be reached here by email.


OFBF Mission: Working together for Ohio farmers to advance agriculture and strengthen our communities.

Labor has always been an issue, mainly because we are a seasonal operation. So that's a challenge finding somebody who only wants to work three months out of a year, sometimes up to six months.
Mandy Way's avatar
Mandy Way

Way Farms

Farm Labor Resources
I appreciate the benefit of having a strong voice in my corner. The extras that are included in membership are wonderful, but I'm a member because of the positive impact to my local and state agricultural communities.
Ernie Welch's avatar
Ernie Welch

Van Wert County Farm Bureau

Strong communities
I see the value and need to be engaged in the community I live in, to be a part of the decision-making process and to volunteer with organizations that help make our community better.
Matt Aultman's avatar
Matt Aultman

Darke County Farm Bureau

Leadership development
Farm Bureau involvement has taught me how to grow my professional and leadership experience outside of the workforce and how to do that in a community-centric way.
Jaclyn De Candio's avatar
Jaclyn De Candio

Clark County Farm Bureau

Young Ag Professionals program
With not growing up on a farm, I’d say I was a late bloomer to agriculture. I feel so fortunate that I found the agriculture industry. There are so many opportunities for growth.
Jenna Gregorich's avatar
Jenna Gregorich

Coshocton County Farm Bureau

Growing our Generation
Knowing that horticulture is under the agriculture umbrella and having Farm Bureau supporting horticulture like it does the rest of ag is very important.
Jared Hughes's avatar
Jared Hughes

Groovy Plants Ranch

Groovy Plants Ranch
If it wasn't for Farm Bureau, I personally, along with many others, would not have had the opportunity to meet with our representatives face to face in Washington.
Austin Heil's avatar
Austin Heil

Hardin County Farm Bureau

Washington, D.C. Leadership Experience
So many of the issues that OFBF and its members are advocating for are important to all Ohioans. I look at OFBF as an agricultural watchdog advocating for farmers and rural communities across Ohio.
Mary Smallsreed's avatar
Mary Smallsreed

Trumbull County Farm Bureau

Suggested Tags: