Here's received wisdom: The perfect angle is 60° off vertical. Picture one corner of an equilateral triangle. This is the best compromise between flowering and vegetative growth -- more, tending to horizontal, means more flowering, less vegetative growth -- less, tending to vertical, means less flowering, more vegetative growth. You need growth; you want flowering. Limbs that are too short may be raised. Branches that are too long may be lowered.The best time to position younger branches is in June or when they are 3 – 6-inches long. Positioning older branches is less time dependent. Most growers position branches when they dormant prune, others position limbs in late spring to early summer. Limbs positioned toward horizontal in spring to very early summer will initiate flower buds for the following year, not the current year. Weak branches that are hanging from the weight of fruit should be tied up as early as possible.
Roper, Teryl R. Training and Pruning Apple Trees. Madison: University of Wisconsin, Cooperative Extension Service, 1997. A1959. <http://learningstore.uwex.edu/Assets/pdfs/A1959.pdf>.
The tips of branches of some varieties tend to split into three at very close angles. You can force them apart by wedging toothpicks between them.If all limbs within a tree were trained to the same angle, those at the top of the tree would have more vigor and overgrow those at the bottom. If a great deal of limb positioning is done within a tree, care must be taken to avoid reducing the vigor of the bottom of the tree more than the top, so in general, angles from vertical should be greater at the top of the tree than at the bottom.
Autio, Wesley R., and Duane W. Greene. Limb Positioning. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Extension, [1993.] F-114. <http://www.umass.edu/fruitadvisor/facts ... bposit.pdf>.
This would be a good time to check the ties holding the trunks to stakes. Be sure they're loose enough now to contain this summer's growth without cutting the bark.
The next job is to sharpen your shears for pruning. I see some winter kill on my Golden Russet, but I'm giving it plenty of time to rejuvenate. My main concern going forward is for trees that didn't bloom: Honeycrisp, Honey Gold, Fameuse, Northern Spy. These are young trees that bore last year. In my greed for a crop I probably let them overdo it, so this year they are going to get some growth instead. I can be very selective about which branches to keep and which to prune because the trees are going to be rambunctious. A lot of good growth in the right directions will mean a better crop for years to come -- I hope.
53° — Wind SW 5 mph