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Best care for old apple trees?

Discussion in 'Plant Health' started by TreeandLand, Dec 16, 2011.

  1. TreeandLand

    TreeandLand ArboristSite Member

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    I have 3 old apple trees that could use some help. They are not in the best shape. They are vase shaped, about 25 feet tall, with about four main limbs. Each of these has exposed dead wood on the top side, running for many feet. There are dead branches here and there which I can prune out. There are a handful of water sprouts in each tree. I could top these to a lateral to force the growth outward. There is some crowded growth that could be thinned out.
    I want to keep the trees healthy, but I am concerned that too much pruning will put too much stress on trees that are already fighting decay. Any thoughts? The trees are in Maine.
     
  2. Urban Forester

    Urban Forester AboristSite Guru

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    Try re-structuring trees on a 3 year pruning cycle. Slowly working the trees back into shape. Fruit trees will "rebel" against significant pruning by producing suckers and top growth. Removing deadwood (most likely canker infected) now and then take living tissue on a reduced cycle of the 3 years.
     
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  3. TreeandLand

    TreeandLand ArboristSite Member

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    dead wood

    Thanks for those tips. How do you decide if a limb should be removed when most of the limbs have some deadwood, but are still supporting live branches with buds? Reducing the tree's photosynthesis capacity is not in it's best interest, no?
     
  4. Urban Forester

    Urban Forester AboristSite Guru

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    Correct, however if it is canker disease killing those branches (common in old Apples), then its vascular in nature and needs to be removed. Best to get as much deadwood out as possible. Simply cut back to living tissue. Apple trees compartmentalize well, even if only somewhat healthy.
     
  5. TreeandLand

    TreeandLand ArboristSite Member

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    I think there is some "black rot" fungus....and that produces cankers, right? The signs of black rot are a powdery black substance on the deadwood and where bark meets the deadwood. Thanks for the advice.
     
  6. logbutcher

    logbutcher Banned

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    Jim, our woodland on the Blue Hill/Deer Isle peninsula has 10-12 apples crowded by decades old spruce and fir. The woodlot was patch cut in 2000 opening up the apples.
    Over the decade I've been gradually pruning the apples; they're still scrawny but tough. Urban Forester's advice is correct ( even though from Detroit ! :msp_tongue:).

    There is a group of 'restoration' apple tree people in Maine. Apples were once a staple crop for early settlers as we find in the many cellar holes in our woodlands.
    Try SWOAM, or Orono for more info.

    Nice web site BTW. Good luck.
     
  7. PJM

    PJM ArboristSite Operative

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    I could not agree more with UF's recommendation. Always start out by removing the deadwood. This gives you a better look at the branching structure. Next, I would look at removing any branches that rub against each other. These can create wounds that are entry points for disease and decay. But definitely start out slow and small. And rememeber to wait until the dead of winter to prune. February is usually good for us here in NY, but you in Maine may be able to start in January.
     
  8. Urban Forester

    Urban Forester AboristSite Guru

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    Very funny :laugh:. Hey, our "state flower" is the Apple blossom, does that help? :clap:
     
  9. nick 55

    nick 55 AboristSite Guru

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    Sorry to drag up an older thread, but I am in the same boat as the OP except with about 30 trees. I understand about the dead wood removal and the pruning on a 3 year plan, but with the mild winter we've had here in the Midwest, we haven't had a "dead" of winter to do the trimming in. My question is when would be good for this work given our unseasonable warm winter? If it helps, I live just west of Chicago about 50 miles.

    Thanks!
    Nick
     
  10. Urban Forester

    Urban Forester AboristSite Guru

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    If it is Black Rot (Botryosphaeria obtusa), a pretty high probability, then pruning now should not be a problem. It is both a sexual and asexual re-producing fungus and most spore release occurs above 46F with periods of rain. For maturation of the fungus to occur it needs to land on leaves first, a rather complex disease. I've included a link to some good info on the fungus and how it "works".

    Black Rot of Apple
     
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  11. nick 55

    nick 55 AboristSite Guru

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    UF, thank you for the good reading and information you have given us. I have read the link already and downloaded the PDF they published about spraying the trees. If I just remove the dead wood right now, I will be OK even if the temps are all over the place(20-45 degrees)? Many of the trees have lots of vertical sprouts coming out, I assume they were because of the distress? Next winter, would I be able to start removing g some of the verticals to thin the tree out a little bit?

    Nick

    Sent you some rep for the help to by the way!
     
  12. Urban Forester

    Urban Forester AboristSite Guru

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    Thanks for the rep :rock: Yes, you should be able to remove suckers and deadwood, then next winter (or late fall) begin working on form and structure. I don't see any problems w/your plan :msp_thumbup:
     
  13. Rickytree

    Rickytree Addicted to ArboristSite

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    What about sterilization of tools before after each cut?
     

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