Re­ju­ve­nate over­grown fruit trees

Country Life Every Week - - A Walking Life -

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.

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