realenglishfruit

Top fruit tree growing advice and information from Real English Fruit

Renovating old fruit trees

An old apple tree, photo courtesy of Chris Moore/flickr.com

An old apple tree, photo courtesy of Chris Moore/flickr.com

Fruit trees are a wonderful investment. If looked after well, trees will continue to crop year after year, even when the trees are 30 to 40 years old.

But what about a situation in which you have just moved house and you’ve found a totally neglected fruit tree in the new garden? What should be done?

If it turns out that the tree is cropping well, restrict the pruning to cutting out dead wood and crossing branches in the first year. The next year do a little more and improve the light entrance into the centre of the tree. Without good light the fruit tree is unable to make good fruit bud.

On no account try to remodel the tree all in one year. Old fruit trees do best when you bring on improvements gradually. In my experience an old tree reacts very favourably if 4 or 5 large branches are taken out rather than lots of little snips here and there.

Neglected trees usually will show lots of dense drooping fruiting wood totally overgrown by younger wood, which makes it all very dark and overcrowded. Over a number of years, gradually take out all wood which creates layer upon layer, in and around the canopy. The timing to do this job is also important. In order to reduce fungal infections to a minimum, choose a nice warm day in the July/August period rather than a period when the tree is without leaves and the healing of the wounds takes a long time.

You can bring the height of the tree down, provided this is done gradually over a number of years. This operation should be carried out any time in August towards the end of the summer. NEVER during the winter months. Always seal large wounds with either Arbrex or Heal and Seal or similar wood healing compounds.

If after 3 or 4 years you can throw your hat through the trees without the hat getting hooked up any where you will have done a great job. The old fruit tree will start a new lease in life and will thank you for it by producing wonderful fruits.

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