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Apple Pruning Now or Spring?

 
Curt Hettman
Posts: 18
Location: Just south of Dallas Texas
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Hi everyone!
I have an apple tree that I grew from a seed this year. I transplanted it twice and it is doing nicely in a large pot near my front porch. I live in Texas near Dallas, we had our first 30 degree day last week and last night it was below freezing again. The tree is about 3 feet tall with a good foot or more of root depth when I transplanted it. The leaves are still very green and have not begun to change color.

My questions are...
Should I prune it back?
If so should I do it now or in the spring?
How much should I cut back? I have heard that cutting 1/3 is the correct amount to trim back.
Also it has 2 side branches that are coming from near the base should I trim them off as well?
And finally should I do anything to "winterize" the tree or pot?(I will be adding a layer of leaves from last fall to the top of the pot).

The picture is from about 3 weeks ago.
tree 003.JPG
[Thumbnail for tree 003.JPG]
 
Kelby Taylor
Posts: 47
Location: SE Pennsylvania, USA
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At that size, there in no benefit to pruning. Leave it alone for at least another year.
 
Curt Hettman
Posts: 18
Location: Just south of Dallas Texas
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Thanks for the reply on trimming. I will leave it alone this year then. Do you have any thoughts on whether I should trim the two side branches?
 
Miles Flansburg
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Location: Zones 2-4 Wyoming and 4-5 Colorado
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Howdy Curt, What is your plan for the tree? Do you already have a place to plant it? One thing about having it in a pot is that the tap root will not grow down like it should.

There are two camps on tree pruning. Some say you should let the tree grow to it's natural form, never prune it. The other says prune away.

I tend to let mother nature do her thing. I only prune if a branch breaks or dies.
 
Curt Hettman
Posts: 18
Location: Just south of Dallas Texas
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The tree will go in the back yard next spring. The plan is to keep it pruned to about 10 feet tall so that it will be more of a dwarf and not shade the whole back yard. I want to put in a couple of species and other fruits as well so everything will need to be managed so that it doesn't overrun my 1/2 acre.
 
ted agens
Posts: 16
Location: Elk County PA
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I have always pruned all of our apple and pear trees about every other year in the fall after first frost. My parents had the place before me and never pruned and they got very little fruit yield. We get quite a lot more just by pruning away any vertical branches as apple and pear fruits almost exclusively on the horizontal branches.

I have been told by "old timers" to not prune in the spring as it could cause rot and other issues. Of course it could be different for you in Texas (I ma in NCentral PA)
 
Leila Rich
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Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
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My trees at home are espaliered, so I prune. A lot.
If you want to control height (and with a seedling, it may want to grow big),
I suggest looking at pruning to 'open centre'
Open centre is my standard 'normal' pruning style, ie not fancy things like espalier.
I'd probably give that seedling another season in the ground unpruned,
then take out the central leader, which will make the tree branch.

In NZ, the general pruning times are winter and summer pruning.
Winter pruning (late winter/early spring) encourages vigorous spring growth and a larger tree.
Summer pruning (late summer/early autumn) reduces vigour.
I know ' reduces vigour' sounds like 'reduces health', but it just means 'keeps the tree from going bonkers'
I'm usually trying to reduce vigour as I'm in an urban environment.
Maybe winter prune to get the tree going in it's first few years, then switch to summer?

All stone fruit in NZ are summer pruned do avoid fungal diseases like silverleaf.

It doesn't get very cold or really hot here though...
 
Curt Hettman
Posts: 18
Location: Just south of Dallas Texas
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Thanks. All advice is helpful as this will be the first time that I take an active part in the growth of a tree. My tendency would be to leave it up to nature but since I am looking to actually control the max size of the tree something will need to be done.
At the moment I plan to trim the side shoots and put on a good layer of leaf mulch. Then in the spring I will transplant it into the back yard and let it do its thing till late fall. At that time I will give it a pruning to force branching and limit height.
 
ted agens
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Location: Elk County PA
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Curt Hettman wrote:Thanks. All advice is helpful as this will be the first time that I take an active part in the growth of a tree. My tendency would be to leave it up to nature but since I am looking to actually control the max size of the tree something will need to be done.
At the moment I plan to trim the side shoots and put on a good layer of leaf mulch. Then in the spring I will transplant it into the back yard and let it do its thing till late fall. At that time I will give it a pruning to force branching and limit height.


Natural is a good way-the best if you just want a tree. But if you want any type of fruit yield, the more leaves and branches will generally equal little fruit.

Up here, you will see a lot of old apple trees on the side of the road that have gone wild. Most of them have no fruit, some still have a lot. It depends on species, area/ climate, etc.

Try to find some one in your area who has apple trees for the fruit and ask them how they do it. Most people are more then happy to help out, and I think just about everyone loves to "give advice"
 
Marc Troyka
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Location: East Central GA, Ultisol, Zone 8, Humid
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ted agens wrote:Up here, you will see a lot of old apple trees on the side of the road that have gone wild. Most of them have no fruit, some still have a lot. It depends on species, area/ climate, etc.


Trees that were formerly cultivated and then 'go wild' will never take on their natural 'wild' shapes. Instead, because of their previous pruning they tend to grow into a knot instead, and most trees will die from pests and disease if left in this state.

@OP: I don't see why you would want to keep an apple tree in a pot. Apple trees are obligate deciduous trees, and if you don't leave them outside overwinter they will not produce fruit at all. Lots of apple varieties require 800 chill hours or more to produce fruit, which you may not get at your location so you might still not get any fruit. As for pruning the tree in order to keep it down to a certain size, that can only be accomplished with dwarfing root stock unless you do serious bonzai work to it, which may prevent it from fruiting. I've never tried bonzai on a fruiting tree so I can't speak from experience, but I can tell you that a tree that wants to grow larger than your pot will fight you every step of the way, and an apple tree from seed may want to grow quite large compared to typical commercial trees (think fully grown Bradford Pear trees). Finally, although this may not apply much in Texas, keeping the tree in a pot exposes the roots more directly to freezing temps than a tree in the ground would experience, which has the potential to kill it off.

As for pruning, apple trees tend to have very weak 'natural shapes' due to being bred for other goals. Still, they should only require minimal pruning if you leave them alone, and nothing should need to be done until they're nearly of fruiting age even then. If you search the forum for "apple tree pruning" you should be able to find plenty of info on that.
 
Curt Hettman
Posts: 18
Location: Just south of Dallas Texas
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The tree is in a pot only because it was grown from a seed. And it was easier to nurture it in a pot. I will be planting it and I will track it's progress for the benefit of everyone.
 
I agree. Here's the link: http://stoves2.com
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