Untended apple trees advice

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This topic contains 5 replies, has 3 voices, and was last updated by  andrew.metheven 5 years, 2 months ago.

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    I have just taken on an allotment in Bradford. On the plot are two very poorly pruned apple trees – to my relatively untrained eyes they look very “leggy” – one has a branch almost as long as the rest of the tree is tall! We took the plot on in October, and so they were both fruiting, so would like to try and save the if at all possible.

    They are both probably about seven feet high. One has a lot more branches than the other, and both have grown tall central trunks, which have become very bendy. My plan was to basically chop both of the central trunks down to some strong outward growing branches, and then to cut all of their outward growing branches back to an upward/outward facing bud, as well as removing any crossing branches or dead wood. Does that sound like a reasonable way forward? I also plan to mulch etc around each of their bases.

    But I’m a real novice when it comes to fruit trees, so would really appreciate any and all advice!



    I have tried to add photos but I don’t think the system will allow me, perhaps because I have only had a few posts so far.



    That sounds like a good plan. The RHS has a useful video and, although it is about trees much taller than yours, the principles are the same.

    Link to RHS pruning video

    Photos need to be relatively small files, not straight from the camera. If you use the camera on the phone you can email the photo to yourself as a medium sized file and then upload it using the Attachments facility below the edit screen, not the ‘img’ tag above it; the latter is useful if you have images on a website. My photo is just a test!

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    Great, thanks for the encouragement, and the great video – I’ll try to find time to sit and digest it before I get chopping!

    I imagine it will take a few years to get them into a better state – we’ll see how it goes.

    Here’s another go with a photo… one tree has quite a lot of branches, and I’m not too worried about that one. The other I’m a bit worried that it doesn’t really have another side branches to cope with a heavy prune, what do you think?

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    Do you have any idea the variety or rootstock? Frankly, from the photos , they do not look
    ‘top class’.
    If you want to give them a fair chance, I would
    a)take out the centre top, this will let each tree put its energy into the branch array.
    b)remove any broken/damaged branches.
    c)suppress all vegetation under the circle of branches(with cardboard) and mulch with compost/manure or a mixture of same. Keep watered if dry summer.
    d)if they blossom (this may give a clue to variety) and set fruit this spring, then I would thin this to single fruitper spur, and hope to get at least a few ,to decide if you like them!!
    e) consider ‘summer pruning’ as per RHS advice in July, to shorten back new growth ,reducing spindly new shoots
    f)Next Dec/Jan , review all growth in line with RHS advice, Maybe remove , replant elsewhere new tree(s) or continue if seeming viable.

    If they become too top-heavy, consider staking until the ‘legginess’ diminishes.
    Good Luck, please report progress.



    Thanks for the advice. I agree they’re not particularly special trees – we tasted the apples last year and they were really quite ordinary (not much different to what you’d buy in a supermarket all year round). To be honest I’m interested as much in practicing/skilling up as I am in saving the trees, if that makes sense! I’m also not short of space on the plot – yet – so I’ll do what we’ve discussed on here and see what happens. If it all goes wrong I haven’t lost much.

    I’m going on a grafting course in a few weeks time, so I’ll plant whatever I bring away from that too!

    Thanks for all the advice, I feel much more confident now.

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