realenglishfruit

Top fruit tree growing advice and information from Real English Fruit

Renovating neglected orchards

Old orchard

An old orchard, photo courtesy of sparkleice/flicr.com

New owners of a property that includes an old orchard are often faced with this question: is it worth the time and finance to renovate a neglected orchard? Even when taking out of the equation the value of the site related to other considerations such as, for example, house building, careful thought has to be given to the problem before undertaking such a major operation. The chances of success are not always very great. The following questions will have to be asked:

1) Why did the orchard become neglected?
2) Which rootstock was used for the trees?
3) At what distances apart were the trees planted in relation to the rootstock used and the quality of the soil?
4) Is the soil free draining?
5) Are the fruits of the varieties used in demand?
6) What is the rating of the site in relation to the risk of hail?
7) Are the fruits going to be used for processing or the fresh market?
8) Are there any difficult diseases in evidence, such as canker or Armillaria root rot or collar rot?

Often, if fruit trees become neglected, and they are planted in deep free draining soils, the task of renovating the orchard – which includes bringing the trees down to a manageable size – is particularly difficult. The main reason is that one has to deal with the very powerful root systems of healthy trees. Often the root systems are larger than the trees themselves.

Therefore hard pruning is usually not a successful way of dealing with the problem. In short the renovating process will have to be spread out over a period of 3 to 4 years. Even so at the same time one has to do everything possible to keep the trees cropping well. This is of great importance because to control tree size, it is important that a major part of the tree’s energy resources is used in fruit production and not for surplus wood production.

In summary, the questions listed above have to be looked at first of all. Only after having determined the answers can you make a realistic risk assessment. The outcome of the overall risk assessment evaluation will determine if renovating the orchard will be worthwhile.

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