Growing Fruit

How to prune old and neglected apple trees

Hoew to prune old apple trees

How to prune an old apple tree

This article covers pruning old and neglected fruit trees, if you would like to learn how to prune younger or freshly planted trees please read ‘An introduction to pruning apple trees‘.

I get asked a lot about how to prune older trees, particularly from gardeners who have moved to a new house and have inherited unruly and unproductive specimens. The other common issue is dealing with a older tree that has been pruned too hard either by a previous owner or by the gardener themselves. I hope this article will help avoid pruning problems while also giving some assistance in correcting mistakes that have already been made.

How to prune a mature appe treeOld and unproductive trees in a commercial orchard would normally be removed (a well pruned new tree will produce far more fruit in the long run) but in the garden there are often other things to consider. You may want to keep an old tree for the beauty it ads to your garden or for sentimental reasons, in this case there is more to consider than just fruit yield.

Reasons for renovating old trees include:

1. To enhance their appearance in the landscape.

2. To restore an old tree with sentimental value.

3. To get better quality fruit.

Pruning apple tree loppersIt is worth bearing in mind that it will take at least 3 years to restore an old tree and in that time you can easily be harvesting quality fruit from a new, healthy semi dwarf tree. It is also not worthwhile trying to save a diseased tree so if the main framework is badly cankered you should remove it and plant a new tree.

Before we get going on tree restoration I am including a list of common pruning terms which should make the following information easier to understand. Don’t get overwhelmed on your first read through, it’s not as complicated as it sounds!

Common Pruning Terms

Dormant – An tree is in a dormant state in the Winter approx between November and February. At this time the leaves have fallen and the tree’s energy is conserved in the roots, trunk and main branches.

Tip bearing – Fruit is produced on on the tips of the branches. Tip bearing varieties are relatively uncommon. Any pruning of of shoot tips will reduce the yield of a tip bearing tree.

Fruiting spur on an apple treeSpur bearing – Fruit is produced on small lateral branches called fruiting spurs. You are more likely to have a spur bearing tree than a tip bearer. You can see a fruiting spur in the photo growing from a small lateral branch.

Partial tip bearers – Many varieties of apple bear fruit on tips and spurs. Partial tip bearers are pruned in the same manner as spur bearers.

Fruiting or flower bud – Fruiting buds (sometimes called flower buds) are larger and more plump than growth buds and have a downy surface. Flower buds produce flowers which mature into fruit.

Wood or Growth bud – Growth buds are smaller than flower buds, they are more pointed and grow flush with the branch.

Outward facing bud – Any growth bud which faces away from the centre of the tree.

Terminal bud – The growth bud at the tip of a branch. Removing the terminal bud will stimulate the buds below to produce woody side shoots which will become new lateral branches.

Spur – Fruiting branches which produce apples, they look like small and stubby compressed stems with fruiting buds.

Leader –The leader is a clear central-leading branch that grows upwards ahead of the other branches.

Apple tree scaffold or lateral branchesScaffold or Lateral branches – Scaffold branches are the main supporting branches of the tree.

Crossing branch – Crossing branches are branches that cross each other creating a dense canopy in the centre of the tree.

Downward branch – A downward branch hangs down from a lateral or scaffold branch, these will never produce fruit and should be removed.

Whorl – A whorl is where three or more small branches originate from the same location, it is common on unpruned mature trees.

Water Sprouts – Water sprouts are thin branches which normally grow straight up from lateral branches.

Remove suckers apple tree pruningSuckers – Suckers are unwanted shoots which grow near the base of the trunk. Most apples are grown on grafted rootstocks to control the size of the tree (the immature tree has been joined to a root from a different variety) so the root suckers will not be the same apple as the above ground tree. Suckers also grow faster and stronger than the tree itself and can even out compete it if they are not removed.

Dead Wood – Dead wood is as the name suggests any dead or diseased wood. Dead wood will be obvious when the tree is in leaf due to lack of any leaves but can also be recognised in Winter as it is dark and brittle, often with bark falling away.

Canker – Canker is the most common apple tree disease and is identified by areas of dead, sunken and crusty bark. Canker is highly likely in old and neglected apple trees, the extent of the disease will decide whether the tree is worth saving.

How to prune a fruit treeWhen to prune and how much to prune.
Pruning should be completed when the tree is dormant. It is far better to prune a tree just before it comes our of dormancy with early March being ideal. Early winter pruning leaves open wounds exposed to the elements at a time when the tree is unable to repair itself. Pruning when the tree is not in its dormant phase will result in excessive new leafy growth as the expense of fruit production.

The reason restoring an older tree will take 3 years or more is that (a) we don’t want to over stress the tree by making too many wounds (remember every cut is an entry point for disease) and (b) we don’t want to stimulate vigourous, uncontrolled growth that will severely reduce yield and adversely effect the shape of the tree. I think it is helpful to remember it took more than one season for a tree to become overgrown so it will take more than one season to correct.

Poor tree pruningThe most common mistake is ‘topping’ shown opposite where excessive pruning has produced a tangle of fast (and weak) growth. This will mean no fruit the following year and a lot of work to restore fruiting for subsequent years. The weak forked joint between fast, new growth and a large limb also leaves the tree more susceptible to storm damage in later years.

There are two types of cuts you use when pruning a tree; thinning cuts and heading cuts. A thinning cut but means removing complete branches right back to the point where the branch joins the trunk. When renovating an old tree nearly all your cuts will be thinning cuts. A thinning cut allows air and light into a tree and doesn’t trigger uncontrolled growth.

A heading cut is used to shape an immature tree. It involves cutting a branch anywhere other than its point of origin and will stimulate growth below the cut. A major heading cut (referred to as ‘topping’) causes a tree to fight back and quickly try to replace all foliage that has been removed. Heading cuts on main branches produce dense upright growth that congest the tree, block out light and severely hamper fruit production. It will take years to sort out. To understand the effect major heading cuts have on a tree it might help to look at ‘apical dominance’ as follows:

Aptical dominance pruning

Apical dominance it the process that allows the tree to grow upright so it can present its leaves to the sun and make energy. Without apical dominance tree growth would be completely random. The leading bud (the last bud at the tip of a branch) produces the hormone auxin that controls the buds below and prevents them producing new branches. If the leading bud is removed (by a heading cut) auxin levels fall and the buds lower down spring into action and produce new lateral branches. Once the leader is gone everyone wants to be king! You can see the result of major heading cuts in the ‘NOT GOOD’ image below.


how to prune an apple tree

The trees environment
Before doing any renovation it is a good idea to concentrate on the trees general health. Plenty of light and good airflow will be essential for a good recovery so cut back any hedging or large shrubs that may be causing congestion. In many cases apple trees are planted too close together so you may need to decide on trees to keep and trees to remove altogether. A slow release feed like good garden compost spread around the base of the tree will also aid recovery. Avoid high nitrogen feeds however as they will stimulate too much new growth.

The tools of the trade
To prune an old tree you will need am good quality secateurs, loppers and a pruning saw or bow saw. You will need the pruning saw or bow saw more in year one and will be using the secateurs and loppers every year thereafter. To keep a fruit tree in top productive condition it will need a small amount of pruning every year.

Marking tree for pruningMy top tip for the day is to get yourself a pack of coloured chalk. I find chalk very helpful for marking the branches I am thinking of removing but also for highlighting the ones I definitely want to keep.

You need to take your time in contemplating the finished shape of your tree and only start cutting with a definite plan in mind. If you are new to this (we all were once) marking the branches will take a lot of the stress and uncertainty out of the job and ensure a cool and calculated result.

Pruning Tools Available Here

Ok, are we ready to start pruning? Here we go……

Pruning fruit tree step 1Year 1 – The first year of pruning is to remove any dead, damaged or diseased wood and to open out the centre of the tree. You should not remove more than 25% of the tree per year or it will try to repair the damage by producing too much new growth. All the cuts you will be making at this stage will be thinning cuts.

First remove any dead wood, it will be obvious from its appearance and lack of buds or new growth. Dead wood is not counted as part of the 25% limit.

Look for damaged wood where two branches have been crossing and rubbing or where branches have come into contact with a neighbouring tree and remove.

Apple canker diseaseAny branches showing signs of canker will need to be taken down. Bear in mind that canker is a fungal disease that can be spread through contact. Even when removing dead wood care should be taken as canker was likely the cause of its demise and may still be present. It is good practice to dip pruning tools in a sterilising solution as you work to avoid spreading the disease.

With an old tree it is better to make a small number of large cuts than a large number of small ones. Neglected trees often have a crowded main branch framework so the objective of pruning is to improve branch spacing, allowing light and air to reach all parts of the tree. The resulting open ‘goblet’ shape is better for ripening fruit, easy picking and yearly pruning.

How to prune and established apple treeIt is likely that you will have one or two large branches crowding the center of the tree. This branch (or branches) need to be removed right down to the union with the trunk.

Old apple tree pruning tipsDo not cut flush but just above the ‘collar’ which is the raised ring where the branch meets the trunk. The cut should be at an angle (often facilitated by the tree anyway) to allow water to run off. If the branch is too large to remove in one go it can be taken down in sections as long as the whole is finally removed. Do not leave partial limbs or stubs, thinning out entire limbs will result in considerably less regrowth. You will be surprised how much difference removing just one large central branch will make in opening up the tree.

Next remove any suckers from the base of the tree, at that stage you are likely to have reached your 25% rule and should leave the tree alone until the following season. This is the point where you will be tempted to do more, don’t. This is the point that separates the amateurs from the pro’s.

Step 2 haowe to prune apple treesYear 2 – Pruning in the second year will be more concerned with shaping the tree and building on the ‘goblet’ shape you initiated in year 1. The goal in pruning a tree is to remove congestion. As we’ve said we are trying to get as much air and light into the tree while also cutting out crossing branches that will rub and be an entry point for disease. As with year 1, the 25% rule still applies.

Spend time at this point contemplating the tree and try to picture the ideal shape to suit your needs. Are the fruiting branches too high up and out of reach? Are there low hanging branches that block access to the tree for picking and pruning? There is an old saying that a tree is well pruned if you can throw your hat through it, keep this in mind as you look at your tree.

How to remove tree branches safelySafely removing large lateral branches
If you are removing a large lateral branch the method is to make 3 cuts to avoid the branch tearing at the trunk as it falls. Make the first cut below the branch about 6 inches from the trunk, this cut should be about a third of the distance into the branch.

The second cut is made about 3 inches below the first, you may need to cut all the way through but it is likely the branch will snap off when you reach the depth of the first cut.

You will be left with a stump with can now be safely removed from the tree. Cut tight to the branch collar but not completely flush with the trunk of the tree.

Downward facing branches – If you look at the main tree diagram above you will see a number of branches that are growing towards the ground. These restrict access to the tree and are shaded from the branches above so won’t fruit well. Remove any downward facing branches cutting back to their point of origin.

Upward growing branches and new sprouts – Remove any branches that grow straight up from any of your main lateral branches. You will also have a large number of new vertically growing whip like stems (water sprouts) as a result of the previous years pruning, snip these off at their base. You will also have water sprouts facing away from the centre of the tree which are valuable as new lateral branches. Leave these until your final pruning.

Prune crossing branches apple treeCrossing branches – Crossing branches congest the tree but also rub off each other creating wounds in the bark. Any cut or wound is a potential entry point for disease so these must also be removed. You can see in the picture opposite 2 rubbing branches that have died, probably from disease that entered at the contact point.

Shading branches – If you have one large branch network growing directly above the other it will be shading the lower one and preventing it from producing good fruit. Choose the healthiest looking branch that fits your vision for the tree and remove the other.

Competing branches – At this point you may have reached your 25% quota but if not you can start some lighter pruning to shape the canopy of your tree. Up till now you have probably been removing large branches but we are now concentrating on the smaller branches growing from your main lateral framework. If branches are growing into the same area and competing with each other they need to be thinned out by removing them at the point where they join the main branch.

Picture bright, open space as prime real estate. If you have a number of small branches competing for that space thin them out. If you have a group of small branches in the same area remove the middle one, chances are it will solve the issue and leave room for the ones either side to breathe.

Pruning apple tree year 3Year 3 – Depending on how much pruning you were able to do in year 2 you may have some more competing branches to remove to open out the tree. It is a simple diagram below but this is the sort of shape you are looking for. Notice how all the branches are exposed to sunlight while all the branches that were being shaded from those above have been removed.

Apple tree prunig diagram

Once you have cut out any competing branches Year 3 is more about fine tuning than major surgery. At this point we need to start to look at how the tree behaves when pruned and how we use this to help it to produce the best fruit. . As you know there are two types of cuts we can make when shaping a tree, thinning cuts and heading cuts. So far you have been using thinning cuts and removing entire branches. Heading cuts are used to shape a tree when young and are not usually required with mature trees unless as part of a restoration. To use heading cuts accurately we need to look at the types of bud on the tree and how they respond to pruning.

Growth and flower buds apple treeGrowth or wood buds (Left)
Growth buds are much smaller than flower buds and grow tight in to the branch or stem. They are slender and more pointed and look more scaly than downy.

Flower buds (Right)
Flower buds are larger and more plump than growth buds and have a downy surface. You will easily see the difference in growth and flower buds by November. Unless you have a tip bearing (unlikely) variety flower buds grow on spurs which are short, stubby branches where the fruit is produced. I a tip bearing variety you will see the flower buds at the branch ends.

When training a tree we are concerned with the growth buds. Heading cuts are made above growth buds and will produce a new branch facing the direction the bud is pointing. For example, if we prune above a growth bud facing in to the towards the centre of the tree we will get an inward growing branch (which we don’t want). By pruning above growth buds facing outwards we encourage the tree to form an open habit rather than a congested one.

As with year 2 you will have a large number of new water sprouts growing both vertically and at an angle from your lateral branches. Remove any vertical sprouts or those facing the centre of the tree. Any sprouts facing away from the trunk can now be trained to become new fruit producing branches or removed if they are growing towards a congested part of the tree.

Apple tree pruning cuts

Stand back and look for open gaps in the framework where there are no branches shading from above. Leave any outward facing sprouts that are growing towards empty areas and remove the rest. It is common for sprouts to grow in pairs, you can remove one and leave the other if it is growing in the direction you want. If you want to modify the direction of a sprout look for a growth bud facing the direction you want and prune above it at an angle of 45 degrees. You can see examples of a good pruning cut above.

As we are using heading cuts at this point (remember apical dominance) be aware that pruning new wood will result in new lateral branches being produced below the cut. Any laterals that don’t fit your plan can be removed later by pruning back to their point of origin.

That’s it!
I hope this article has been helpful. Obviously this a general guide and might not fit your tree exactly but all the same principles apply. Here’s a quick 123 reminder:

  1. Don’t top your tree.
  2. Don’t remove more than 25% of your tree in any given year.
  3. Make a small number of big cuts rather than a big number of small cuts.
  4. Open the center of the tree, make sure all branches have access to light.
  5. Remove the 3 D’s, dead, diseased or damaged wood.
  6. Finally shape you tree using minimal heading cuts.

Read 'An introduction to pruning apple trees'

    1. Andrew

      Hi Anne
      Thank you for your kind comment on our article, I hope you found it helpful. If you have any tips to add please let me know, I will add them to the article.
      I hope you have a productive season ahead!

  1. derek chapman

    Dear Andrew,

    I have a very congested and overgrown medium sized contorted hazel tree which I would love to let air and light into, in order to make it more transparent and decorative.

    Can I use the same pruning technique as you have so brilliantly described for apple pruning, and could I telescope the three-year timescale as the fruit/nut bearing is not a big feature anyway.

    Many thanks…

    1. Andrew

      Hi Derek.
      Yes, you can use the same technique but I would still spread it over the 3 years. The longer pruning regime is not just about fruit production, it is about the amount of growth the tree will do to repair itself. If you prune your hazel very hard in one year only you will produce masses of new growth which will make it even more congested than it was in the first place. Each year remove a third of the overcrowded stems cutting them right back to their base.
      I hope this helps

  2. derek chapman

    Thanks for prompt reply, Andrew, I will go out and get stuck in as soon as the “Son of the Beast (from the East)” allows! Derek…

    1. Andrew

      Hi Derek
      You’re welcome, I hope it all goes well for you. Just remember to remove complete branches rather than leaving sprout producing stumps unless you want to grow a hedge!

    1. Andrew

      Hi Anne
      Thank you very much for your kind comment. I am glad the information made sense to you, I know there is a lot so am very glad you thought it was clearly explained. I hope you have a great season growing season, let me know if I can be of any help in your garden.

    1. Andrew

      Hi Sandi

      Thank you for your comment on our article. The best natural way of getting rid of wireworms is to use a wireworm nematode. A nematode is a microscopic worm that attacks the wireworm larvae and kills it. I don’t know if they are available in your area but it would be worth checking. I hope this helps.


  3. April

    I have an old apple tree that has been severely topped out for years. It looked like a cactus tree when we moved here a year ago. I just let it grow last year and this year in February pruned out spouts and tried to give it new scaffolding type limbs from last years growth. I’m a newby to apple tree pruning, hopefully I didn’t take too much off this year. I now have growth buds all along the top sides of the very old limbs. Can I just “rub” these of to inhibit sprout growth again?FYI You article is the best I’ve managed to find!

    1. Andrew

      Hi April.
      Thank you for your kind comment on our apple tree pruning article. Yes, you can rub off any upward facing growth buds and will hopefully get the tree back under control in the next 2 or 3 years. Let me know if I can be of any further assistance.


  4. Valerie

    Dear Andrew
    We moved into our 1930’s house nearly 40 years ago to 9 espalier Apple trees in a poor state. We were able to keep 2, one of which has given me good apples. This one has suddenly given up. All the apples and leaves are shrivelling, suckers are growing from the base, all the lower branches are bare and brown inside. Does it stand a chance? Should I cut it back now? I wondered about cutting off the lower branches and just trying to keep the top 2. Not concerned about the fruit. Many thanks.

    1. Andrew

      Hi Valerie
      It will always be worth trying to save the tree by cutting away any dead branches so, yes, I would give it a go. I would also try to find the root of the problem. Have the roots been disturbed with any recent garden or house renovation work? Has there been sufficient irrigation in the recent hot weather? Has there been any other recent changes to the trees environment?

  5. Lorenzo

    Hi Andrew. Thanks for providing plain language guidance. I have two questions. You said it is best to prune a tree in March. I had my tree given its first pruning (in probably over ten years) today, January 16 (cold climate Edmonton, Alberta). Is that all right or will it cause a problem? Second – the company I hired said they couldn’t reach the top of the tree to cut back the top branches. Those high branches are way too high for us to reach the fruit and, obviously, block sunlight from getting to the lower branches. Is it all right to cut those high branches, and, if so, do I just use a thinning cut as you described in your article to lower the height?

    1. Andrew

      Hi, March here in NW Europe is the start of Spring, the best time to prune fruit bushes ans trees. I’m not sure how the seasons line up in Alberta. Early pruning won’t cause any problems though.
      Its always wise to thin out the branches of mature trees, and do the heaviest pruning in the top. Remove long shoots in the center and top, but leave some short shoots and most spurs. Remove horizontal branches in the top so they won’t produce suckers. Hope this helps.

  6. Lorenzo Heinrichs

    Thanks Andrew,

    If we have spring in March, it is a blessed year. With the high branches, If they are mature branches, like 3 inches or more, is it ok to cut them horizontally to lower the overall height?

  7. tree trimming

    Tree trimming or pruning is a Technic that requires both skill and knowledge for the desired results. Some of the reasons for trimming include; maintaining a tree’s shape and appearance, human safety and saving an infected tree by strategically pruning all limbs and branches affected by diseases. Pruning tools include; secateurs for young branches vines and flowers, loppers for branches up to 3 inches thick, pruning saws for branches up to 5 inches thick’ hedge shears for hedges and pole pruners for dead wood. Before embarking on the trimming process, it’s essential that one understands the vital tips for proper pruning.

    1. Andrew

      Tree wounds are often painted to protect the cut from rot and fungal infection, however this is bad advice, the paint actually causes more harm than good. Either way it wouldn’t affect the growth of shoots.

  8. Lynn

    We have a 30 year old red delicious apple tree that has grown very tall. Is it safe to reduce the crown by 25%? We live in the D.C. area. Is it too late to prune? Thank you so much for your help. We love this tree and want to preserve it for sentimental reasons.

    1. Andrew

      It should be fine to prune the tree by 25%, using the tips outlined in the article. Its best to prune in late winters while the tree is still dormant. I don’t know what the “D.C. area” means so I’m not sure what your current season will be.

  9. Kory

    Thank you for the wonderful article. We inherited an apple tree with our new house and it looks like it has never been pruned. It did produce over 115lbs of apples this past summer, but it is in desperate need of attention. I have been so afraid to tackle the task of pruning it. Your article was extremely helpful. Should I still follow the 25% rule every year with the tree even though it isn’t a dormant tree?

    1. Andrew

      Hi Kory, the 25% rule still applies. But please bear in mind that 25% is the upper limit, it is not necesasry to prune to that much EVERY year.

  10. Tony

    Thank you for the insightful article. Is it ok to remove the deadwood in the summer? I have inherited a very old apple tree that has not been pruned in a long time, but has several areas of deadwood that I would like to remove.

    1. Andrew

      Hi Tony
      Yes, I would say it is OK to remove deadwood in mid summer. I would avoid doing any pruning immediately after the first flush of growth in the spring as the tree has expended a lot of energy to grow the canopy and will be at it’s weakest. I would wait until mid summer to remove deadwood and would leave any further pruning until just before growth resumes next year.
      I hope this helps

  11. Perry Share

    Great article – looking forward to getting going in Feb/March (NW Ireland)

    I have inherited some badly neglected apple trees, though I suspect they are not that old. They are surrounded by other trees and overgrown hedges that I am gradually cutting back/down as appropriate to let in air and light. A common feature of the apple trees is a long skinny branch shooting up from the middle to 3 or 4 metres in hight. Obviously way too high to ever be any use for getting fruit. How can I get rid of this overly tall centre branch, without encountering the problems of top-heaving sprouting that you mention?

    Any assistance gladly received!

    1. Andrew

      Hi Perry
      Sorry for the late reply to your query. What percentage of the tree is the centre branch? If it is a quarter or less remove it right down to it’s point of origin. This will result in some water sprouts coming from other parts of the tree but these can be removed next season. You get the heavy clump of growth from the top of the branch by ‘topping’, as explained in the article, this won’t happen if you remove the complete branch. To avoid damaging the surrounding branches, take down the centre branch in sections using a pruning saw (https://www.quickcrop.ie/product/curved-pruning-saw). Even if the there is more pruning to be done elsewhere on the tree, leave it alone until next year.

      I hope this helps


  12. Gabrielle Roh

    Andrew, this was so helpful. We bought our home right after the fruit had ripened- it was delicious but I can tell from your article that our trees haven’t been trimmed in years. We have one delicious cherry tree, two apricot trees and one plum tree. Are there any other suggestions you might have for these types of fruit trees? Our cherry tree has hundreds of vertical suckers that are four feet tall.

    1. Andrew

      Hi Gabrielle
      Thank you for getting in touch. I would be inclined to remove 30% of the vertical suckers this year and another 30% next year. You need to clear as much congestion from the centre of the tree as you can to allow light to reach the fruiting branches. I hope this helps. Andrew

    1. Andrew

      Hi Gabrielle
      Yes, you can email me images to andrew@quickcrop.ie. I may take a few days to come back to you as I run a busy horticultural business and you’d be amazed at how many people email me photos off their trees to look at which I fit in when i have time.

  13. james

    thanks for the help, i know nothing about apples, and i suddenly have an orchard full of ancient heritage trees that produce very good apples, all different, and all worth saving, if i can. will be following your advice as diligently as i am able.

    however, i’ve done a little research into hazelnuts, and although i cannot claim much practical experience, the common knowledge there seems to be the opposite of your advice to Derek, above..

    in my understanding the best practise for hazelnuts is coppicing, in which you literally cut the whole tree down, every seven to ten years, and let it grow back from the water sprouts surrounding the stool. the adult trunks and branches of hazelnuts are quite short lived, and are best removed periodically, to rejuvenate the tree.

    however, i must admit i have not practised what i am saying here. i have an obvious coppice of about five hazels to manage, which has been allowed to mature, unfortunately, and has become very overcrowded, while i’m still working to persuade the owner to coppice.

  14. Donald McLintock

    Thanks Andrew,
    I agree with other posters, this was the most helpfully comprehensive practical explanation of restorative fruit tree pruning I have read anywhere. The theoretical explanations and diagrams added a lot.

    My question is to ask if restoring Cordon apples and pears requires different solutions?

    I have planted rows of Apple cordons twice in the past so I am happy with formative pruning theory and practice.

    I have been tasked with restoring a row of 5 very overgrown CORDON apple trees in a Devon allotment because cordon runs beside a main access path in the allotments.
    The plot holder is new this year but is covid shielding.

    The trees look quite young and very healthy with no sign of canker but look and as though they have not been pruned for 2-3 years, so they have lots of long (75-100cm) first laterals and have some excess head growth from a previous rescue attempt.
    Some branches have formed large slurs with sub laterals already 30 – 40 cm.
    All the trees have fruit on the older smaller spurs nearer the bole.
    Top wire is 1.8 metres from ground level
    Complications are a sloping (partly terraced) site with the trees planted on the uphill side within 15cm a restraint wall of scaffold planks 2 high ( 40cm )
    Sadly also the posts are wobbling and the wires are cutting into the main bole of most of the trees.
    neighbouring plot holders are looking after the soil and planting in the rest of the plot.
    So .. it’s early July now.
    The trees are very vigorous and it’s a damp mild climate so there are conflicting thoughts over summer pruning.
    I am content if you could give a brief strategic response.
    I have necessary tools and will not be wound painting.

    I personally cannot grub them out and start again but if that is your advice then I shall relay that to the plot holder via the allotment manager


    1. Andrew

      Hi Donald. Personally I would leave them, especially if they are healthy and are not showing any signs of canker. Almost any healthy tree can be brought back to good yield, it just takes someone with a bit of vision and a good knowledge off the basics, by the sound of your post, you are the man for the job. I would be inclined to with until the treen are dormant for any substantial pruning and to replace the supports and prevent wires cutting which will eventually lead to a problem. I hope this helps. Andrew

  15. Donald McLintock

    Hi Andrew.
    I’ll talk to the site manager about doing something about the posts and wires.

    go raibh maith agat as an gcabhair


  16. Chrissie

    Hi Andrew, Thank you for all the above. I have an apple tree that’s probably 50 years old that has quite knobbly bark but it seems healthy and produces lots of lovely apples. This year however there is one branch where the bark is coming off and I think it is has died, but it has another branch coming off it that is alive but the leaves have started going yellow. I keep watering it. Should I cut the dead branch off below the one with yellow leaves?

  17. Filomenita Mongaya

    Just thankful I discovered your trail here. alas, my husband already cut branches and top of our apple tree at this moment when it is brimming with fruits- he does the same with decorative trees and even rhododendrons and azaleas which are the tone setting plants in our 1100 sqm property. He is older and stronger than me so by sheer brute force, he gets his way but I am more the Equal Opportunity Gardener and give any plant an opportunity to grow and be counted. He is European and I am Asian. I do not want to dominate nor control others, not even plants unless they are harmful to others. I am interested in hearing from you regarding conflict in households regarding plants and the garden. I am the one who does the jam making of the berries and fruits. I also try to repot tree saplings so I can give them to friends and acquaintances who want to grow a tree in their garden! Any essentlal rules about succesful growing of trees such as maple, oak, cherry, hazelnuts- Appreciate any suggestions that will help my predicament and situation. Mange Tak. Many Thanks.

  18. Jackie B

    Hello I am moving into a old home. There is an apple tree it doesn’t look old but all of the branches are bent downwards. Apples appear to be good! I have no expertise in planting but I am learning and want to take good care of this tree. Could oi possibly send you a video or photos of this tree for advice? Thanks so much!!

  19. Andy Read

    Hi I’m about to start renovation of my two apple trees which haven’t been well cared for by the previous owners. My main issue is that’s there’s been some previous pruning where the remains of the branch have rotted out leaving a deep hole into the trunk. This dosent seem to affect fruiting or further growth but I’d really appreciate knowing how to treat these before it has any lasting effects.

  20. Billie

    Can dead wood be removed at any time or should I wait to do it all in March? I can see the dead ones now because they have no leaves so I’m wondering if it’ll be easier now vs in the spring?

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