garden, pruning, trees

Pruning the crabapple

CrabappleI have been wanting to thin the death out of the crabapple tree for a few years now, and Sean helped me achieve it this past weekend!  The few moments of manpower he contributed really kept me focused – he had minimal time between periods of the NBA playoffs (!) so I had to make haste with my pruning decisions.  He loves the new chainsaw (as do I!) and he also loves the fact that he won’t be ducking under the low branches that we trimmed off when he’s out cutting the grass.

There are many good sources for advice on trimming your crabapple tree – I found a few just by Googling “Pruning Crabapple Trees”.


When to Prune a Crabapple

But is spring really the optimal time to be pruning the crabapple?  According to what I’ve read, the best time is late winter through early spring.  Considering the extreme cold and snow of this most recent winter, there was no way I was pruning in January or February!  The tree may have survived, but I’m not sure I would have.

The best time to prune is before the tree blooms in last spring, so I’m hoping I didn’t do too much damage by taking my shots at it in late April.  It’s still pretty cool outside, and with the leaves just starting to emerge, I was able to determine quite easily which branches were dead.


How to Prune a Crabapple

Some very basic guidance:

  • You should never take more than 1/4 of the branches (not that I’m counting!),
  • Remove the shoots that are heading straight up – they are suckers that should be removed
  • Any branches that cross or touch should be eliminated (a skiing friend use to tell me “x’s are bad”)
  • Don’t try to prune the entire tree in one season.  Less pruning is better than too much, just realize you should consider making this an annual event for at least 3 seasons.


Tools to Use

Most of my pruning was done with loppers and a long pruner with a pull rope.

But some of the larger branches had to be removed using a small 10″ chainsaw.  I found my small chainsaw on – it’s a GreenWorks brand that comes with a pole for higher pruning action!  As I’m still in training with this tool, I wasn’t comfortable using it any further than my hand could reach, but it’s a nice option for this future lumberjack!

Caution! Lady with a chainsaw!


It didn’t take 10 minutes of chainsaw action to bring the neighbors out to take a gander.  Of course, Elaine brought out a basket of cookies, which made Sean’s efforts totally worth it!

John wanted to know what we would be doing with all the trimmings – I will be cutting them up into kindling and firewood for a few summertime fires I have planned.  I found a great idea for the firepit and can’t wait to have Sean help me with that!



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