Old apple

bettenoireMay 6, 2013

There are 3 old apple trees on our property that donôt look at all well. Theyôve never produced much blossom or fruit in the 3 years weôve been observing them while renovating, lots of lichen though, and this winter a storm took a couple of branches off one.

Any hope for rehabilitating?

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How on Earth would you pick from these, even if they fruited?

    Bookmark   May 6, 2013 at 11:01AM
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Tony(Zone 5. Omaha, Nebraska)


You could top work it and graft 3 or 4 new varities like Gold Rush, Fuji, Ashmead's kernel, and Honey crisps.....


    Bookmark   May 6, 2013 at 11:28AM
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alan haigh

You gradually remove the height, taking about ten feet a year finding the tree beneath the tree. I make a sizable portion of my income doing this kind of work. It's amazing how accomadating this species is to reconstruction.

If you graft, graft low, but where the graft will get good light. If you need to bring the tree down first that's ok too. You can start to prune the tree by about early summer- then do more when it's dormant.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2013 at 12:37PM
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Id take the whole tree off above the lowest major branches. Its recommended not to take more than 1/3 of the top off at a time, but in most cases, you wont loose the tree to a major chop, as long as you leave some good sized branches on it still. Then I would look into getting some wood from varieties that you do like, and graft it yourself, or have someone do it for you. I recently made a tree that will have 14 varieties of apples on it, for one of my neighbors. Hopefully they all take.... I dont think I have ever seen an apple tree that tall!!! Also I would clear the area around the bottom, out 20 feet or so in all directions, if thats possible, give it some room to breathe.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2013 at 3:27PM
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alan haigh

I have worked on ancient apple trees as high as about 70' with an equal spread. In the northeast vigorous varieties like Baldwin can get pretty impressive after nearly a couple centuries.

I've probably renovated well over 1,000 old, old apple trees in the last 25 years here in NE NY. Many of them I still manage.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2013 at 5:59PM
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Thanks all. Youôve given me hope.

Can I remove obviously dead, crossing or diseased growth this summer and then do more substantial pruning next winter?

Iôll be planting new trees rather than grafting.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2013 at 6:12AM
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Heavy pruning should be done when the tree is dormant, before bud break in the spring. Make cuts sloping so that rain water runs off instead of pools, which can cause rotting.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2013 at 11:55AM
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alan haigh

The Derek, I disagree. The point of dormant pruning is to avoid any deinvigoration of the tree. A vigorous apple tree can tolerate heavy pruning most any time of the year and research shows that trees in general seal wounds just as well with summer pruning as dormant.

Pruning an apple during the summer seems to reduce the risk of scorching the bark on big wood because the well established leaves pull adequate sap through the wood to cool it.

Dormant pruning will leave the tree more vulnerable to this kind of injury in early spring as tree begins growth and newly exposed bark heats up before leaves are developed enough to bring about adequate evaporation and transpiration.

In my opinion and considerable experience you can actually safely prune more wood in the mid- summer than when the tree is dormant, although I aggressively prune old apple trees pretty much any time and spend about 700 hours a year doing so.

The only time when I'd hesitate to summer prune a tree is if it is senescent or diseased and just not vigorous enough for any reduction in energy harvest.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2013 at 12:09PM
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