should I remove the top of the tree

Asked May 19, 2019, 10:06 AM EDT

I recently bought my first home which had a small garden section to it. I purchased an apple tree and I've planted it. The issue I've noticed with this tree is that it was grown in such a way word has a heavy top. The more I look at it the more I believe I should remove that piece to avoid it from bending and causing the tree to grow deformed. I'm not an expert gardener or arborist. Does anybody have any advice? Thank you.

Watauga County North Carolina

2 Responses

Hi
The short answer is yes, but since it is well past the dormant period in your growing year at this point, the effect of pruning will be different.

I've attached two documents about basic apple pruning. One is more complex, but deals with North Carolina in particular (https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/training-and-pruning-fruit-trees-in-north-carolina ), the other is more basic but has clear, simple diagrams to help you understand what may be needed (https://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=23014).

Essentially a newly planted tree needs to be "trained" to create solid fruiting limbs (called laterals) as it matures. Just left to itself it will grow a tangle of branches that will fruit poorly and be more susceptible to disease. Although it seems drastic, one usually takes off much of the top of a new apple tree when planting, cutting it at about the height one wants the lowest future fruiting limb to grow. This is usually done in the very early spring before bud break. Then each year after that, in the late winter one continues to select the limbs for future growth to shape a strong productive tree. The diagrams in the images will walk you through these year-by-year steps.

Since it is already in full summer growth, drastic cutting now could cause it to create excess growth in ways that aren't helpful, but you could remove some of the leaning top-most part for now, then next spring do a more appropriate training pruning.
Good luck


Thank you.