Can this tree be saved?

Moderator: appledude

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medgar
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Joined: Sat Mar 21, 2009 3:22 pm

Can this tree be saved?

Post by medgar » Sat Mar 21, 2009 3:34 pm

What do you guys think? I've been reading information on how to prune overgrown apple trees, but I don't even know where to start on this beast... I tried to begin pruning a little, but gave up. Any insights would be greatly appreciated!

I upload a photo of the tree here:
http://tinypic.com/view.php?pic=73gt53&s=5

appledude
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Joined: Sun Jan 06, 2008 12:24 pm

Post by appledude » Sat Mar 21, 2009 10:10 pm

I saw a partial picture with multiple trees in it. Could not figure out which one your post was about.

Most folks would agree that you could safely divide up your MAJOR pruning efforts over three winters, gradually bringing into control a tree that has largely run rampant for years. Cut it back by a third now, and it will shoot new suckers from everywhere. These you can select and choose from in future seasons, training them where you want them to go.

They say to resist the urge to cut it all off in one season. :D

tkuntz
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Location: Elizabethtown, PA
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Post by tkuntz » Sun Mar 22, 2009 2:53 pm

I've brought worse looking trees back under control for homeowners. You will have a real battle for the next three or four years. It's much easier to cut it down and plant a new tree. However, if you're like me, I wouldn't back down from the challenge.

Take three years to develop a new framework for your tree. It will look a little strange until the third year. Your goal is to develop fruiting wood like what is now on the top 1/8 of your tree, but at a more manageable height.

I would start in year one by making five or six major chainsaw cuts about 3/4 of the way up the tree. Make the cuts about where the large old wood is now. Take off the upright vigorous parts, turning the tree out away from the trunk. (called a bench cut)
Cut out any dead wood as well.
Make large cuts on an angle as opposed to horizontal so rain can run off.

Year two cut back hard on the limbs you left from the previous year. Remove 50% of the large limbs and shorten all the remaining limbs. Probably about a dozen or so chainsaw cuts.

Year three you should have lots of new growth to choose from. Thin out the tree by removing probably 3/4 of the new growth so each remaining limb has it's own space to grow in. Keep the limbs that are growing at a 45 degree angle away from the trunk, or bench cut limbs to get this. Also top it at the height you desire.

Your goal from year three on should be to trim every year. Remember that apples are produced on two and three year old wood. So remove big old limbs and renew with younger limbs each season.

Keep in mind, you can't hardly kill a tree of this size. The root system on a tree is as large as the top, so all that energy is going to keep it alive. I've cut some down to a height of about four feet (to a stump) and let them shoot back out. Then select 3 or 4 new scaffold limbs from the thousand or so suckers that shoot out. I have never killed a tree doing this. And some actually look kind of cool with their old stump and new young limbs.

P.S. Your tree put on more growth this past year than the little pile of limbs you have below the tree. You'll need to get much meaner...

medgar
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Joined: Sat Mar 21, 2009 3:22 pm

Post by medgar » Thu Mar 26, 2009 6:10 pm

Thank you both for your replies! I went ahead and removed a much more substantial amount of the upper growth.

appledude
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Post by appledude » Sun Apr 05, 2009 10:15 pm


medgar
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Joined: Sat Mar 21, 2009 3:22 pm

Re: Can this tree be saved?

Post by medgar » Sat Feb 19, 2011 1:39 pm

Well, it's been two years since I posted here regarding saving an old apple tree and I figured I'd post an update.

Here's a picture of the tree from this year - I just pruned the suckers today. Does it look like I'm on the right path?

http://tinypic.com/r/ztght3/7

macmanmatty
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Joined: Tue Aug 18, 2009 2:59 pm

Re: Can this tree be saved?

Post by macmanmatty » Sat Feb 19, 2011 9:40 pm

The tree to the right looks great! Not sure about the other one though. Hopefully some experts will chime in. But I do think you are the right path I have just never dealt with a major pruning project like that.

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