Pruning an old Apple Tree

Giving it a New Lease On Life



Apples generally are pruned in the spring, before the leaves bud out - this is mostly so you can see what you're doing, and not damage the growing tender buds of leaves and flowers.

Pruning an old Apple Tree

This old tree had been pruned years ago, but not by an expert, by any means!  The result of the butchery was the growth of large numbers of 'water sprouts' or suckers.  These grow straight upwards, and if left, they'll either break off, or take all the energy from the tree.

Pruning an old Apple Tree - before

Flowers (and hence the fruit) will only form on horizontal branches, which makes sense.  The whole trick of pruning an apple tree is to try and get as many horizontal branches as possible, while giving each branch enough room to grow and produce and ripen fruit.

Pruning an old Apple Tree - after

Genie told me that the person who used to live on their property showed up one day, as a very elderly lady. 

She said that her mother had planted that tree from a tiny sapling found down by the river, obviously from a seed dropped by a bird, bear or borne down the river and deposited on the bank to grow.

Tip; don't cut off too much at one time, especially on an old tree. 

This will trigger some excessive growth of exactly the wrong kind - water sprouts.  Give the growth somewhere to go, with a well placed horizontal or outward facing bud.

Take out any damaged, dead, diseased or crossing branches, and leave enough room for a robin to fly between the branches.

The fruit is green, and tart - perfect for cooking and baking into pies. 

One thing that happens with older trees is sometimes an alternate year bearing cycle, when it only flowers and bears fruit every second year. 

This can be triggered by bad pruning, but sometimes the tree comes into it naturally.

Mike was my helper on this job - I told him what to cut, and he cut it off with various tools. 

One tool that came in handy was a reciprocating saw with a fine toothed blade, a folding pruning saw, and the trusty Felco loppers.

We decided to quit once the main framework was in place, to avoid the possibility of excess growth.  Once it's started into growth, we'll go back and redirect it if needed to outward facing buds. 

Can't wait to see it start to produce again!


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