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  • Pruning apple trees – drastically
  • thenorthwind
    Full Member

    I posted a couple of years ago about our apple trees: https://singletrackworld.com/forum/topic/any-tree-experts-in-should-i-cut-this-dead-branch-off I can’t resurrect that thread, and the photos have disappeared, so…

    Life has improved for my apple trees since that thread. We persuaded our neighbours across the back to get the massive conifers removed last summer so they now have much more light and water.

    20220926-163817

    However, the results of their years in the shadow of their evergreen cousins is still plain to see in their straggly shape. Any apples they produce are at least 10′ off the ground, and get eatn by the birds or bruised when they fall off before we get a chance to harvest them.

    What I’d like to do is prune them right back, and I mean right RIGHT back, like chopped off at about the level of the fence (~6′) in the hope of producing more manageable, if slightly oddly shaped trees. There’s plenty of growth lower down, as you can see in the photos, but it’s still a bit of a daunting prospect (in terms of not killing the tree – the actual cutting shouldn’t be difficult done in stages, though the one on the right might be more tricky, might need help with that one).

    A few semi-knowledgable people have suggested this will be fine, but thought I’d see what the STW hive mind thinks.

    Thinking I’d probably do them one at a time to give one a chance to grow a bit so it doesn’t look quite so bare. Presumably this is the time of year to do it.

    20220926-163838
    20220926-163846

    dropoff
    Full Member

    Yeah, take them off at fence height , but remember cuts must shed the rain, wait till the end of February so the sap is starting to rise (this will help prevent disease) and they will respond by growing lots of watershoots which will need pruning in the summer.

    thenorthwind
    Full Member

    Cheers @dropoff. Doing it in late winter sounds sensible – I’d wondered whether it would risk leaving it open to disease.

    Thanks for the link @onehundredthidiot. The bit about not removing more than 25% of the canopy suggests I’d be better doing it over a couple of years.

    Philby
    Full Member

    I think I must have been a bit over zealous last year with pruning my tree as there’s not single apple on it this year.

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    sandboy
    Full Member

    Remember that apple wood is great for smoking pork shoulder if you like that sort of cooking?

    pk13
    Full Member

    Apples only grow on last year’s growth

    dlabz
    Full Member

    We did something similar this year with good success. The tree was a lot lower than yours, but the branches were overhanging a path and getting in the way. Cut the whole thing right back to effectively the trunk and a couple of small branch-stumps and it’s burst back into life now. Did the pruning in March before the leaves started to open up (NE Scotland).

    Bunnyhop
    Full Member

    A horticulturist friend says you should be able to throw a cap through the branches when pruned, this lets air and light in.
    I pruned mine back in late summer, up to where the branch ‘bulges’ slightly. But it’s not as old as yours.
    I also mulch the base of the trunk

    finbar
    Free Member

    It’s boring but I’d (for example) take that big tree where the trunk splits into three down over three years, removing one branch at a time.

    Conventional wisdom says you shouldn’t remove more than 1/3rd of the canopy of a tree in a given year.

    I’ve finally got some huge bay trees in my back garden just about under control and into a nice shape, and we moved in in Nov 2019…

    johnnymarone
    Free Member

    When youre taking a lot of wood off the tree, i was advised by an old time self sufficiency bloke (i read his books) , to try and split tbe task into three seperate years, taking a third of the wood off each year.
    I had a very old , neglected pear tree which was under producing , took his advice, and the tree reinvigorated and started pissing out pears after the third year.

    dcwhite1984
    Free Member

    This post reminds me of my old man pruning the apple tree in our old house.

    Was fairly tall, hanging over a fence which backed onto a footpath, he got the saw and loppers out and set about pruning it, he literally attacked the thing with all his might.
    He took so much off of it we were convinced it was dead, it went from about 12ft high to just under 6ft, no leaves or anything left other than about 4 or 5 branches coming off the trunk.

    That day was forever known as the apple tree massacre in our house.

    No apples for two years and it was nearly taken out, but the third year the apples came back and the tree was looking a lot better and healthy again, drove past that house the other day and its still there and doing well by the looks of it.

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