Trying to Salvage an Inherited Orchard
My husband and I just bought our first house and we inherited about 40 fruit trees. They were not necessarily planted by someone with much knowledge and some varieties are not suited for our zone (I.e. Fuji apple or apricots, neither of which will mature in time in our frost free season).
So, at least half are dead. But some are 6' tall and well leafed, even flowering depending on the variety. I'd like to salvage as many as I can and have some questions:
1. If the main trunk and branches are dead but the roots have sent up shoots can I remove all but 1 shoot and get a tree from that? Specifically 2 apple trees are doing this. Since they are dwarf I assume the apples won't be true to the original tree, but maybe I end up with a decent pollinator crabapple type tree?
2. I know pruning should wait until the trees are dormant, but can I shorten shoots that tower above the height of the tree and also remove dead branches now or should that also wait until fall?
3. Any of these trees that did flower this year did not set fruit. I guess I'm trying to troubleshoot why...most appear to have pollinators nearby. But these trees have not been watered regularly for 3 years, at least. So could that be the reason? Fertilization maybe? Lack of bug life? I didn't expect a bountiful harvest from a neglected orchard, of course, but the more I know the better next year should be!
4. Ants? There are some sort of ant on the trees? Not a fire ant *though we have plenty of those!* But a red and black ant, about the size of a fire ant. Mostly likes the peach trees. Any idea what those are and how to get rid of them? Not there for scale - don't see any scale anywhere.
5. --really a matter of opinion here, but hoping to hear some opinions: Should I just scrap the whole thing and start over? None have ideal shapes, all need lots of pruning and care, many have wilted or mis-colored leaves so perhaps disease I don't know about, and so on...