I first started pruning the trees at Beth's place, 3 years ago. She has about 30 different trees and shrubs that we give a once-over. The longest it has ever taken, is 90 minutes. This year it took an hour. Beth and her husband do all of the cleanup themselves.
For several years, their apple tree only produced a few blossoms and sometimes a couple apples. Then we included shaping the apple tree in our annual trimming.
The first year, I probably put 10 minutes into the apple tree, but this year it was definitely less than 5 minutes. Just a quick run around the tree to shorten all of the skinny outer branches by a foot or so. I use a long-reach cordless electric hedge trimmer made by Stihl.
Pruning has caused this tree to blossom profusely.
Last year the tree produced so many apples that they had to use some forked branches, stood on the ground, to prevent the tree from splitting. There were even more blossoms this year, and they shook some of the young fruit down, and again harvested a huge amount.
The input cost of this pruning was negligible, with awesome results.
It can take quite a while to prune fruit trees by the book. This tree is evidence that a very quick shaping of the tree can be quite effective in increasing fruit production.
I saw the same response with my citrus trees. When I moved to my land there already were a few citrus trees that were overgrown and obviously hasn't been tended for years and years. For the first couple of years here, we got very little fruit from them. I finally got around to pruning them. Within 2 years I was getting fruit. Now the trees produce lots of fruits every year, but I do a bit of pruning annually too. I just trim out the crowded internal branching, trim back any wild long growth, and keep the trees short enough for me to be able to pick the fruits.
It's never too late to start! I retired to homestead on the slopes of Mauna Loa, an active volcano. I relate snippets of my endeavor on my blog : www.kaufarmer.blogspot.com
I find with pruning, everyone has their own ideas on how it should be done. I was always told, "prune it until you think it is about right, then go back and prune that many branches again." It looks like you have killed it when I am done, but you really cannot kill an apple tree anyway.
So quick pruning, or aggressive pruning, I think it is all about preference.
It's all about money for Beth. She spent less than $5 on pruning and will get a couple hundred apples.
I have had many customers get me to do a much more thorough, and expensive job. One lady last year got me to spend at least half an hour per small tree. She wanted a certain look. But when you look at her apple production, the first $30 per tree, was spent on pruning. I didn't see her trees at the end of the year, but I expect that they were very expensive apples.
The hedge trimmer method of pruning really comes into its own when dwarf apples are grown as a hedge. You might still need to use the loppers occasionally, but even that goes much quicker if all the little face pokers have been cut to the same length. I always use the hedge cutter and then give things a quick going over with the loppers.
In the event that something quite large needs to come off, I use a cordless chainsaw. I've never encountered an apple tree that would require a gas-powered chainsaw.
I am excited to experiment with lazy pruning as my trees get bigger. One of my initial decisions when I got this place, was to do a lot of non-critical things the fast way rather than the 'best' way, in order to do more things.
If the fast way fails, I can decide if I want the thing badly enough to it the good way..
Semi-related, have you seen milwaukee's M18 quik-lok stuff? There is an articulating hedgetrimmer head for it too. Tempted, and like the rest of my M18 gear, but worried I might end up wanting more power.
'Theoretically this level of creeping Orwellian dynamics should ramp up our awareness, but what happens instead is that each alert becomes less and less effective because we're incredibly stupid.' - Jerry Holkins
That Milwaukee stuff looks alright, but I would want to see it combined with a hedge cutter. It's too expensive as a stand-alone tool.
I already have the batteries and charger, so I'm going to see what it would cost to have just the chainsaw and hedge cutter attachment, if it exists. I don't imagine them replacing my Stihl equipment. Instead, something lightweight like this, might be ideal for harvesting tree forage in the Philippines. My Stihl equipment is considerably more powerful than what I expect to need for the first few years. No point swinging that extra weight around if it's not needed.