Rejuvenate overgrown fruit trees
Neglected apple trees can soon get into a tangled, unproductive mess and it’s tempting to wade in and hew away. This will only make things worse. First, clear the ground around the tree, chop off suckers from the base and get access using a proper three-legged orchard ladder so that you can reach into the crown, although you should not climb into the tree.
‘Don’t be tempted to remove too many branches or you’ll simply get a mass of useless shoots’
Using a folding pruning saw, loppers and secateurs, remove dead and damaged branches neatly back to a branch collar, in sections if necessary. Look carefully through for branches with canker and remove those too. After a good view from beyond the crown, remove crossing branches, especially those that rub against others. This should leave an open structure of branches, with the whole tree vaguely resembling a wine glass in shape.
Don’t be tempted to remove too many branches or you’ll simply get a mass of useless shoots in the coming year and you’ll be in a worse state than before. If necessary, stage the removals over two or three years, gradually introducing an annual pruning system in which the previous year’s growth is cut back to three buds, the last facing outwards.