Commercial growers prune their apple orchards during the winter months. Farmers have more time on their hands in the winter, and the absence of leaves makes pruning apple trees and other fruit trees easier. However, you can prune apple trees in the spring before the flowers bloom. Pruning apple trees is essential to the health of the tree, to maximize the size of the apples, and to make picking easier. Too many apples on the tree results in plentiful, but smaller fruit.
For home gardeners, it is best to prune and trim apple trees, anytime after harvest, from fall to late winter. You can prune them any time before flowers bloom in the spring. After blooming begins, you risk knocking apples off the tree, reducing your harvest.
Prune off suckers and small branches, especially those that grow straight up from major branches. It is best to trim the tree so that major branches arch up away from the trunk. These branches will eventually droop downward. Top off the center (trunk) of the tree, to limit the overall height of the tree. Also, remove some branches where the tree has grown too thick You want to leave plenty of room for the apples to grow, allow air circulation, and light to penetrate to the leaves. It also allows for more effective spraying of insecticides and fungicides.
Pruning is an annual event. Schedule it for early in the season, before your gardening chores get into full gear. Or, pick a sunny winter day and go out and do some gardening!
Do you want bigger apples? Sure you do, we all do! Sometimes, nature does too good of a job pollinating all of those beautiful apple blossoms. As a result, more fruit grows on the branches than the tree can support. You can remove some of the fruit. The remaining fruit on the branch grows bigger. After you have harvested apples for a few seasons, you will get to know when and how many fruit to remove from the tree.