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For information about UMaine Extension programs and resources, visit extension. Find more of our publications and books at extension. Apple trees are important for wildlife in Maine and all the New England states. This region is fortunate to have many apple trees growing in the wild but, for a variety of reasons, a lot of these trees are being lost each year.
WATCH RELATED VIDEO: This Simple and FREE Test Tells You If Your Fruit Tree is Dead or DormantContent:
- Home Gardening: Pruning to Renovate Old Fruit Trees
- How to save a sick or dying tree
- Can These Trees Be Saved?
- How To Manage Citrus Trees
- Common Diseases of Apple Trees
- Pruning & Training
- Why Your Tree is Not Growing Leaves in Spring (Cherry, Elm & Ash)
- Pruning Apple Trees
- Tree Topping – What You Don’t Know is Killing Your Trees
Home Gardening: Pruning to Renovate Old Fruit Trees
It looks like your browser doesn't support it or it is turned off, so you might find that some things don't work correctly. In particular, online ordering will not work. We're sorry for any inconvenience. Whether they be abandoned heirlooms or wild seedlings, tucked in the woods or growing alongside an old road, apple trees live on for hundreds of years. More and more people are renovating these old —and sometimes forgotten— trees, not only to enhance production and fruit quality, but also as an act of reverence.
Cut out dead branches and limbs any time. Cut back cleanly to living wood, but avoid cutting into it. Remove competing trees and shrubs to let in light and reduce competition. Ancients Rise Mix , our unique blend of rock powders, trace minerals, biostimulants and humic acid is formulated to enhance the soil Cation Exchange Capacity CEC , build humus, and condition the soil in which the ancient roots reside. If you wish, you may add cubic feet of compost; Rainbow Valley or Coast of Maine Quoddy Blend are both good choices.
No need to work anything into the soil—just cover with a thick layer of woody mulch. Can be applied in fall or spring, ideally in conjunction with a thoughtful pruning program. Ancients, rise! By Charles D. Kesner and Keith L. Old, abandoned or semi-abandoned apple trees occur throughout Michigan. Often the cultivars are very old and are no longer grown commercially. Many of them, however, if properly managed, could produce good fruit for use by homeowners for fresh eating or for processing into applesauce, apple jelly, apple butter or cider.
When trees of desirable cultivars are near residences, people are often interested in attempting to care for them so the fruit can be used. Often the old trees are 25 to 30 feet tall and have not been pruned for many years. The average homeowner is simply not equipped to spray and care for them, so the fruits produced are generally small, diseased and severely damaged by insects.
A tree that is reasonably structurally sound may be renovated and brought back into production. The trunk should not be severely rotted, and large lateral limbs should not be hollow.
Unsound trees can be successfully renovated but they will not live as long. In some cases, aesthetic value may also be a consideration. The following renovation procedure is suggested. Figure 1. The typical abandoned apple tree is very tall with many weak and dead or dying interior limbs.
An abandoned or semi-abandoned apple tree is generally very tall and very thick and contains a large number of dead or dying limbs inside the canopy Figure 1. Such a tree is obviously unmanageable and its size needs to be significantly reduced.
Very severe cuts can be made without doing permanent damage. Latent buds within the tree will produce new, very vigorous limbs to replace old, weak ones. Figure 2. An unpruned, abandoned apple tree showing several water sprouts new growth within the past 2 to 4 years. Note the smooth bark on these limbs. Older limbs have scaly bark. Leave some of this young growth to begin the new tree structure. Study the main limb structure of the tree closely before deciding where to make cuts.
Try to locate some relatively new water sprout-type of growth in the lower portion of the tree that can be left to produce part of the new tree structure. Water sprout growth is identified by very smooth bark that indicates it is new growth that has occurred within the past two to four years Figure 2.Older limbs will have heavy, scaly bark and generally should not be saved. Figure 3. The first severe pruning of an abandoned apple tree. Note that some newer water sprout growth was left on this tree and large limb cuts were made 8 to 12 inches above the origin of these small branches A.
Also, note that the terminal ends of the small branches have been cut back infavor of more outward growing laterals B. Renovation is best done in early spring, usually in April. If water sprout growth can be found in the lower areas of the tree, remove all the old, large limbs about 8 to 12 inches above this new growth Figure 3. This is most easily accomplished with a chainsaw. Undercut these large limbs slightly before removing them so that they don't tear the bark severely when they fall.
The old limbs will generally be very large and heavy. Be careful that they do not break off the shoots you intend to leave when they fall to the ground. When making the severe cuts on old limbs, try to cut them more or less perpendicular to the ground. Cuts that face upward will collect and hold water from rainfall, causing ice damage in winter and decay in summer. Paint these large cuts with white outdoor latex paint within a few days to protect the wound from the weather.
Outdoor white latex paint is not toxic to the tree and seals moisture out, preventing decay. Figure 4. A renovated tree two growing seasons after major limbs were removed. Note cut made on upright growth to force outward growth. Making the major limb cuts will generally remove a significant portion of the old tree. The root system under such a tree is very extensive and will produce much new top growth the first season, so avoid fertilizing the tree the first season after cutting. Trim back the shoots left on the main cut limbs so that new growth will be forced outward.
Usually this means cutting off the upright shoots in favor of a lateral limb on the shoot Figure 4. Figure 5. In the second spring, many small limbs produced the first summer are removed, leaving only the most desirable. Note that the upright portions of new shoots denoted by dotted lines should be removed to prevent the tree from becoming too tall. By the end of the first growing season, this severely pruned tree will have produced large numbers of new, vigorous shoots.
In the second spring usually April , most of these new shoots should be removed, leaving only those in desirable locations that can be trained outward. The shoots that are left as permanent limbs should then be headed the top portion removed to a more lateral limb parallel to the ground Figure 5.
Figure 6. By the spring of the third season, the tree has now produced many new, vigorous branches and is capable of producing a small crop of fruit. Note that many of the small limbs left the first spring have developed to relatively large, productive structures. During the second growing season after the severe pruning, very vigorous new growth will again occur, producing a tree very similar to that shown in Figure 6.
In April of the third growing season, many of the new shoots produced during the second growing season should be thinned out, leaving only the most desirable limbs chosen earlier.
The limbs left should also be tipped again to promote more lateral rather than upright growth. Generally, a small crop of fruit is produced the third year. Figure 7. A renovated tree after three full growing seasons. Note the productive capacity of this "rebuilt" tree. Also note where cuts have been made to force outward rather than upright growth. The new tree structure produced using this pruning method will generally result in a tree 12 to 15 feet tall, or about half the height of the original tree.
All the growth on this new tree is also quite vigorous and will produce good crops of large, high quality fruit. The reduced tree size will also make the tree much easier to spray and manage Figure 7. Each succeeding spring, remove some limbs and thin the growth on permanent limbs to prevent the tree from getting too thick.
The shading that will result from underpinning will reduce fruit production and cause weak growth in the inner portions of the tree. This system of renovating old apple trees is very severe but has proven to be very successful in producing smaller trees with good production of high quality fruit.
These trees can also be maintained relatively easily for many years. Cooperative Extension Service programs are open to all without regard to race, color, national origin, sex, or handicap. Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work in agriculture and home economics, acts of May 8, and June 30,, in cooperation with the U.
Department of Agriculture. Lansing, MlThis information is for educational purposes only.Reference to commercial products or trade names does not imply endorsement by the Cooperative Extension Service or bias against those not mentioned.
This bulletin becomes public property upon publication and may be reprinted verbatim as a separate or within another publication with credit to MSU. Reprinting cannot be used to endorse or advertise a commercial product or company.
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How to save a sick or dying tree
Featured eBook: Tree Care Kit. A storm can leave trees looking like there is no tomorrow. Major limbs may be broken or damaged, foliage can be shredded or stripped, or the bark may be torn or gouged. But what at first glance may look like mortal wounds are not necessarily fatal to a tree. Trees have an amazing ability to recover from storm damage. In general, the answer as to what to do about a particular tree will fall into one of three categories:. If damage is relatively slight, prune any broken branches, repair torn bark or rough edges around wounds, and let the tree begin the process of wound repair.
Are you wondering if your tree is worth saving? first step in pruning an old apple tree – or any tree at all - is to remove the dead.
It's a rare event that a tree gets sick. If you're wondering how to save a dying tree, you're one of the unlucky, but it's not a random roll of the dice. Most trees, once established and mature, have the ability to fend off disease, problems associated with insects, and extreme weather conditions. But once a tree's health is compromised, it becomes vulnerable to all of the above problems, making it crucial to act as soon as possible. I'll help you identify the problem and provide some actionable steps you can do to restore your tree to full health. Learning how to revive a dying tree is the hard part, but we've made it easy here. The easy part is the healing process. First and foremost you need to confirm that your tree is, infact, dying. Below this section I list out the signs of a dying tree that will help you confirm the problem. Second, you need to identify the specific problem.
Can These Trees Be Saved?
Many fruit trees — including semidwarf varieties — can easily grow to 15 feet and taller. Anyone who has tried to manage one of these large trees in a backyard will instantly appreciate the value of small fruit trees: They require less space, are easy to care for, and produce fruit in manageable quantities. Growing compact trees allows you to tuck more varieties of fruit into corners of your property or a small orchard, and means you can choose those varieties by flavor and climate adaptability rather than by tree size. Nearly any standard and semidwarf tree — from pears, peaches and plums to apples and apricots — can be trained to stay much more compact.
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How To Manage Citrus Trees
Join us on Facebook. Like all plants however things can go wrong and this page is designed to help you identify what the problem is and the best method of dealing with it. Because plum trees can deal with a good amount of neglect, many of the problems are associated with old age. Another cause of problems with plum trees is frost. Plant them in a frost pocket and the tree will survive but fruit will suffer. The picture above shows the damage done to plums by the plum sawfly Hoplocampa flava.
Common Diseases of Apple Trees
Young trees are pruned to train them to become structurally sound, to make them easy to care for and to ensure the production of high quality fruit. Pruning will:. The optimum time of year to prune fruit trees is the dormant season, December, January best and until the middle of February, but note summer schedule for Apricots. Strongest growth goes to the terminal bud. When cut, the lateral bud becomes the terminal bud and growth continues in that direction. Open Center or Vase-Shaped can be used on all fruit and nut trees.
Those are suckers from the root stock. You need to replace the tree. Like; Save.
Pruning & Training
Can a half-dead tree be saved? We have to admit that when we hear this question from clients and potential clients — and we hear it a lot — we have to laugh just a little. Can trees be mostly dead — and thus slightly alive?
Why Your Tree is Not Growing Leaves in Spring (Cherry, Elm & Ash)
After record cold temperatures swept across the country during the February storm, many of us are left worrying about our trees and outdoor plants. Although you may have covered up small plants and flowers, many trees and shrubs were left exposed to the cold. The following information should be used as a guide to assess your tree and plants after severe cold:.Even though we are all eager to start cleaning up our yards, you will not be able to tell if your tree or shrub is damaged for at least a couple weeks after the storm.
Unless deterred, diseases in apple trees are frequent and spread from tree to tree.
Pruning Apple Trees
Dieback is a progressive death of fruit tree branches and twigs caused by various diseases. Trees may suffer initial decline but ultimately survive, or they may die within a year. Generally, these diseases infect mature trees compromised by poor health or environmental stresses. Because weaker trees have lower disease resistance, they are unable to fend off pathogenic attack. Fruit trees show subtle symptoms at the onset of branch dieback diseases. Initial telltale signs may show first in their leaves before their branches die.
Tree Topping – What You Don’t Know is Killing Your Trees
It happens all the time, and usually the offending branch is just removed when the tree is pruned. In many cases this is possible, and it can help to retain valuable fruit growing parts of the tree. More importantly, it can help to preserve the structure of your tree. A broken branch can often be put back together as long as both pieces are still joined to the tree.