Normally I tackle this when the first hints of mild weather hit in February, but having had my nose buried in seed catalogs for a while, it was nice to get out in the garden buried in snow [see below] and do a job that needed doing for the coming growing season. My objective with my apple is to clear out the center, remove any waterspouts, truncate the branches that are getting too long, and clean up any wood that is overcrowding, overlapping, or otherwise offending a neighboring branch. The problem is, I find pruning akin to harvesting berries – I get into a zone of obsession. Just a little bit more. Just one more. Until there’s a serious pile of branches on the ground.
My second problem is that I then am unmotivated to clean up the mess. I think today was the first day ever that I actually cut up the wood the day I pruned, and stacked it neatly, ready for future use. Having run very short on apple wood to smoke with, I was very pleased to stack up a good pile of sticks that should last me the next year or more when smoking bacon, jerky, etc.
An advantage to pruning this year: were I to have fallen off my ladder, I would have fallen into 3′ of fluffy snow.
Your tree is a giant compared to ours. I usually prune the same time as you – maybe a bit later…. but pre-spring… though the apple tree has not needed it for a few years…but as I sit here looking, it could use a little off the top. It has actually grown like a Cinderella tree. Not much to look at as a baby, but each branch grew out just where one was need in a circular motion. It is a very pretty tree…. so, next time you are by, I would like suggestions about this. Because, believe me – I am also like you in the “zone” thing. The poor little mountain ash in the front yard used to be the largest tree in the yard. It was growing only one direction and for the first three years I cut off about 1/4 of the new grown each year to “bush it out”. Then it just stopped growing. It is alive… still reaching toward the one direction with all its might… but hasn’t grown (not have I pruned it) it 5 years!
Valerie – I’d be happy to take a look at your tree. I received a gift of a very useful pruning saw that now makes the job enjoyable. I’m still green, but have pruned ours for the past 3 years with good success. It used to grow down to the ground, and now you can walk under it – that’s how much work it needed.
I’ve already spent a small fortune on seeds. I’m ready for spring dangit!
VGC – I quite enjoyed spending my holiday perusing catalogs and making seed purchases online. I think it may become a holiday tradition for me!