How to prune an overgrown apple tree
Q: My new house has a huge overgrown apple tree in the backyard. I have no idea how to care for it or what kind of apples it is producing. It needs to be pruned but am not sure how to do that.
A: Overgrown apple trees like your will never produce good apples without yearly pruning. It’s pretty simple after the first time.
First, remove any dead or dying branches. The best time to do this is in summer. If a limb has no leaves, it’s dead.
Second, take out vertical “water sprouts” in the center of the tree. Most will be the diameter of your thumb or less. These limbs don’t produce apples because they are so shaded.
Third, examine the remaining branches and selectively prune away those that shade another vigorous limb a few feet beneath them. The best time to do this pruning is in January but you can walk around the tree anytime of year and make plans for your future attack.
You’ll be surprised how easy it is to prune an apple and how productive the tree will become.