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Poorly old apple tree!

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Hi all, this is my first post on this forum so please go easy on me. I would like some advice on my apple tree. It is approxamatly 70 years old and for the 11 years or so I have lived in this house it has produced juicy big fat apples every year. each year I have pruned and shaped it to get it to the shape that suits me best for apple collection as its quite tall. However this year I removed a great deal of ivy that has been covering the trunk of the tree and found the sore sights in the photos. My questions to you are should I do anything to 'patch up ' the damage to this tree caused by either the tree splitting or very bad pruning and is in your opinions is it still structually safe? Any advice would be very welcome,

 

Thanks Damien

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Hi Damien,

 

What you've uncovered is quite normal. There are many old pollarded trees which keep going for centuries and are completely hollow, so basically I wouldn't worry about it. The foliage is good and dense and a good healthy colour with decent length extension growth, so the tree looks overall in good shape.

 

The only thing I might watch out for is trying to minimise leverage on the trunk. That means keeping the spread of the branches reasonably balanced and the branches well spaced so the wind goes through. It looks very one-sided from the pictures. You could also reduce leverage by gradually bringing the point where the branches spring lower down the trunk. If you cut out some branches from the top, and train the new ones I can see at just above fence height, doing a bit each year over about 3-5yrs, you can eventually cut the trunk at that height, leaving the newly formed head of branches a little lower, which might make picking easier and would reduce the risk of the trunk snapping off.

 

You could also consider removing the grass from directly around the trunk, say a 3-4ft circle, and mulching that area, giving a bit of annual fertiliser, something balanced like blood, fish and bone.

 

I look after a small orchard where my mum still lives which was planted in about 1919, and the apples are still doing fine, so I reckon you've got a good few decades left in yours!

 

Alec

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Alec, many thanks for the reply its very informative an the idea of gradually reducing the height would be a great advantage. I suppose my main concern was that the rain can just enter straight into the trunk and rotting whats left of the trunk weakening the tree. Thinning out the braches also sounds like sound advice.

 

Thanks

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It looks worse than it is, the tree is healthy, it just has cavitation which is perfectly normal in an old apple with pruning wounds.

 

I would suggest over the next few years pruning it back hard bit by bit, year on year to force those lower shoots to develop and make a lower easier to manage tree that will cope with the cavity for many many decades yet.

 

If you prune this hard back in the winter, youll lose a fair bit of fruit for 2 years but the lower shooting will mean later youll be able to cut the whole top off and maintain it as a lower form and more stable.

 

safer for you too as working on it with its current form over the cavity isnt that great!

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Hi again when you say 'hit it hard ' how hard are we talking ? To what eventual height? If you could guestimate a point on the picture where would it be? Also how would I go about this, and would cutting the trunk right off after 4-5 years pruning not cause the tree problems would the exposed trunk surface heal over and not just absorb water straight into the trunk? Sorry for all the questions but I dont want to cause irrepairable damage to a cracking tree. I've added pics from both sides to gain perspectave.

 

thanks

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Cut back anythingoff at this line but ensure all cuts have at the least a leaf bud, or better still a good growth point, give it 3 years then look to reduce again as the growth comes from further down trace the crown back with it.

 

this is basically retrenchment pruning but in this case restorative or corrective pruning.

 

Dont worry in this case regarding the inner trunk, it is hollowing anyway and will happen with or without pruning as th basal decay goes upward, or leave the tree be and eventualy lose it through a structural failure.

 

I hope this helps if not keep asking happy to help:thumbup1:

 

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I would do this progressively, over 3-5yrs. I can't see the exact branch layout from the pictures, but I would look at something like the pictures below. This is progressive cutting back, whilst training the low level shoots into a new framework of branches at a lower height. It means you end up with a new head on the tree, on a shorter trunk.

 

With the tree that close to the boundary, I would try to make it relatively 2-dimensional, up and down the boundary line, rather than sticking out over your garden so much (although obviously you want to keep it your side).

 

Cutting the trunk off won't cause problems. It may eventually heal but if it rots instead it's done that already! Cut it on a slant so the water runs off rather than ponds to help slow the process. Because by that time the new framework of branches will be a reasonable size it won't stress the tree significantly (although some balanced fertiliser and grass removal would help).

 

The pictures below should be taken as a general idea rather than a definite suggestion as I can't quite work out the branch structure accurately. The aim is to make a small number of big cuts, rather than lots of little ones. These start by reducing leverage, then gradually take more and more of the top off. Red is year one, cyan is year two, green is year three, yellow year four. You might add or remove a year depending on the response.

 

The second picture shows more of a shape aim after year one (again red) and eventual cut height and year four onwards possible size. You could go up or down on that depending on what suits you but I personally wouldn't go too much bigger.

 

Alec

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Wow, many thanks for all the detailed responses I think I have a plan now to work to.

 

The tree produces large cooking apples lots and lots of. And with the way I shaped the tree got nearly all the crop using a catch net which I could empty daily by lowering one corner worked well actually. Also prevented injuryies to the kiddlies as before the net these apples broke many slabs.

 

What month should I look at making the first cuts?

 

Thanks

DSC03106.jpg.3667a7c33eb8e8ec9befb7cea1f621c8.jpg

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Wow, many thanks for all the detailed responses I think I have a plan now to work to.

 

The tree produces large cooking apples lots and lots of. And with the way I shaped the tree got nearly all the crop using a catch net which I could empty daily by lowering one corner worked well actually. Also prevented injuryies to the kiddlies as before the net these apples broke many slabs.

 

What month should I look at making the first cuts?

 

Thanks

 

any time after october really till march, wherabouts are you DGB?

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