Gardening Help FAQs

Here are answers to some of the most common questions we receive about garden plants. You will find concise information on general gardening techniques as well as plant selection and care. For detailed information on specific plant pests and problems refer to our Common Garden Pests and Problems page.

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Horticulture Questions and Answers

How do prune an established apple tree?

Apple trees should be pruned in late February or early March before growth begins. Pruning will renew tree growth and encourage production of high quality fruit.

First, remove any water sprouts growing on the trunk and main branches. Water sprouts are the long straight shoots rising upward. You might occasionally leave a water sprout to fill an open area if needed. Next, cut off all suckers. These are long straight shoots growing from the ground. Remove them at or below ground level. Now, remove any broken and diseased branches as well as weak or crossing branches. This will complete your preliminary pruning.

It is now important to open up the tree to admit more light and air to the center of the tree. To do this first remove any branches growing toward the center of the tree. They generally originate on main branches. You can easily see them when you stand next to the trunk and look upward. Then remove some of the branches around the tree to provide more open space between the branches. The outer branches can also be cut back to lateral branches if the overall size of the tree is to be reduced. Make clean cuts just beyond the raised collar area where branches joins the main trunk. Since apples produce fruit on short fruiting spurs which bear year after year be careful not to remove these on the branches which remain. They can be recognized as short thick stubby spurs that become branched with age.