Rejuvenating Old Apple and Pear Trees
Many old, neglected apple trees can be rejuvenated by proper pruning during the dormant season. Many will have grown too tall to manage and harvest conveniently. Most will have too much old wood and not enough young, productive fruiting wood. Here are some suggestions for bringing them back into production, but keep in mind that it usually takes several years of corrective pruning. Don't try to make up for years of neglect in a single season.
- Remove dead branches, rotten and diseased wood, and water sprouts (suckers).
- Next, make big thinning cuts to the top and middle of the tree, removing whole limbs from their point of origin. Reduce the height of the tree by as much as a third, cutting just above a large side branch. Remove water sprouts that grow just below those cuts in July and August to keep them from shading the center of the tree.
- Remove shoots that are growing toward the ground.
- Make thinning cuts to remove limbs that cross or compete with each other.
- Leave some well-positioned vigorous shoots, which will eventually replace older limbs and laterals.
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