Cutting a lower limb on an apple tree

Hello, I have a question about cutting a lower limb off our young Gala apple tree. As you can see in the picture, it's almost at the soil line. We worry about causing disease or trauma to this young tree. We planted it in the fall of 2011 and it was approx. 4' tall (a stick basically) when we got it from Stark Bros.
This Gala apple is blooming for the first time this year and is now about 18' tall. It's a dwarf tree, about 18' x 18' full grown. The limbs are still fairly small. My husband's gloved hand is in the picture for size reference.
If we do cut it, how do we cut--- at a slant? How? And also, how close to the main trunk? I've heard of a salve or something you can put on the newly cut spot--is that necessary? If so, what do I use? Sorry, lots of questions... I appreciate your help.
cutting a lower limb on an apple tree, gardening, Young 2 1 2 yrs Gala apple tree trunk Hand holding the limb to cut
Young (2-1/2 yrs) Gala apple tree trunk. Hand holding the limb to cut.
  11 answers
  • Amanda DeLoach Amanda DeLoach on Apr 18, 2014
    google pruning apple trees....sorry I am no help
  • Traci BlitzenBenish Traci BlitzenBenish on Apr 18, 2014
    Yes, it should be cut. When cutting, leave at least 1 inch from the trunk to the cut itself. If you do not leave enough, as the tree grows in diameter, it will leave an injury that will be susceptible to multiple pest and fungus problems. The fresh cut will form a scab but to prevent invasion from insects or other problems it is very helpful to apply a dressing.
  • Michelle Van Horn Michelle Van Horn on Apr 18, 2014
    cut it at a slant about 1/2 to inch from trunk then take a unscented candle and rub on the fresh cut it will seal out any pest and disease.
  • I agree with Traci because it does leave a wound where ever you cut then it will bleed sap. I use the tree wound stuff from local garden stores and the wrap to help protect it. I t still go through the wounding process but at least you tried to keep stuff out. Debbie
  • Douglas Hunt Douglas Hunt on Apr 19, 2014
    Pruning should always be done in the context of the whole tree, which we can't see, but it appears that that limb should go. Prune flush with the trunk, not leaving a stub. Current horticultural practice recommends against putting anything on a pruning cut. Make the cuts with a sharp lopper that has been dipped in a diluted bleach solution and then leave the cut exposed to air. I suggest you check out this link from the University of Arkansas:
    • See 1 previous
    • Douglas Hunt Douglas Hunt on Apr 19, 2014
      @Traci BlitzenBenish I don't think it's new. If you look at these pruning guidelines from North Carolina State, it clearly says, "Pruning cuts should be flush with the adjacent branch without leaving stubs."
  • When ever I can I always check out my trees and if I see new grow then I pinch it off before it gets to that point. So just take a daily stroll and check out your trees, then pinch when needed. It really help just walking and smiling at what you have done. Debbie
  • Jocelyne marchand Jocelyne marchand on Apr 20, 2014
    I live surrounded by orchards - cut it flush and leave it - it will heal on its own
  • Jocelyne marchand Jocelyne marchand on Apr 20, 2014
    this is pruning - what you are doing is removing a limb to shape the tree
  • As a licensed Arborist, and former owner of an apple orchard, I can tell you Douglas & Jocelyne are correct!
  • Julie Julie on Apr 21, 2014
    Thank you everyone, very helpful. I appreciate your comments!
  • Julie Julie on Apr 21, 2014
    Can we do this any time of year? I've heard early spring & fall are the "only" times to trim but is this true? This tree is starting to leaf out and the weather here has finally warmed up to 60s-80s (no more 30s-40s)... so is it too late? Your answers will be helpful because we have other trees we may work on too, Thanks!
    • Douglas Hunt Douglas Hunt on Apr 22, 2014
      @Julie Fruit trees should really be pruned when they are dormant. But cutting off that one branch is not going to seriously affect the tree and there is no point in having it send its energy there.
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