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Pruning misshaped apple tree

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We have inherited a very small (5ft.) apple tree. It produces a useful crop of tasty cookers. However, the main branches all curve downwards, so it’s difficult to work out how to prune it. Any suggestions, please?




It has been planted much too near the fence, which is a very common.mistake easily made. I hope someone else will give you good pruning advice.
So my first reaction was to try to train the tree with its branches horizontally against the fence, ie as a cordon. although changing the direction of the two strong branches would have to be done gradually.But looking again, the forward facing branches look much stronger than than rest, and are being drawn towards the light - which direction is the fence facing? ie for how much of the day does the fence receive direct sun?
Was there a lot of other vegetation around the tree when you moved in?Was it the weight of fruit that bowed the branches ? Did the thinner branches have any fruit on?

All this will make some difference to the best way to tackle the job.

15 Mar, 2021


I wonder if it is some form of "weeping" apple tree?

Depending on fence's aspect I'd follow YorkL's advice and start to train as cordon / espalier along the fence

Can't properly see but has the main leader been removed at some stage? Hence the breaks at the top

I would remove the forward facing ones, wait until winter for this, and work on the horizontals now, tying them in as best you can

TBH you would be best waiting until Autumn, Winter to start shaping this tree, enjoy the fruit this year and sort it out for 2022

If you start at it now you'll prompt lots of soft water shoots and lose some 2021 fruit

16 Mar, 2021


Hi. Thank you for these helpful responses. The fence faces southwest and gets a lot of sun. It looks like the main leader may have been removed in the past. It is difficult to tell if the bending down has been due to the weight of the apples, but that is quite credible. There is quite a lot of periwinkle in that bed, which we struggle to keep on top of, so that may have “choked” the tree in the past. I’ll take your advice about tackling the training in the autumn. I wonder about dealing with one or possibly two main branches each year for a few years so I don’t shock the tree too much, or lose too much fruit.

16 Mar, 2021


Glad it faces the sun. It seems a pity to cut off the strongest branches if you can avoid it. Would it be possible to put in a stake or two to hold them back at an angle so that eventually you might be able to wire them to the fence? I trained a Pyracantha against a fence like that, without having to tie anything in. Might be worth try, moving the stakes back gradually over the year? And if you get branches with a good weight of fruit it might be a good idea to fix up some sort of support.

16 Mar, 2021


Thank you. I’ll have a go at that and see how I get on. I’m very grateful for these suggestions.

20 Mar, 2021

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