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So I plan on pruning apple trees,

I have approximately over 50 trees that I would say are overgrown.

Is there any tricks or advice I should do?

Timing, how much to cut ETC.

Thanks

 

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Good question , I asked a buddy of mine who has some well manicured apple trees in his yard . He told me to cut anything that grows straight up . I pointed to the base of the tree and and asked " like that?" . He said "not like that" . I never did finish learning how.

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Prune anything dead off, prune the "stickers" at bases of tree and main branches. Jeremy is referring to the "shoots" that grow straight up- they typically dont bear any fruit and just grow straight up towards sun. Dont take more than %20 of tree when pruning otherwise it can shock the tree. This is the time to do it up through February.  

If it's a very old tall tree I would start by taking a couple main branches and opening center of canopy to allow more sunlight to hit the tree. At the same time you lower the height of the tree as a result. Next year you can get a bit more finicky,  but I would start at a macro level with these old trees.

 

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Prune the growth the grows up like mentioned, all dead and diseased branches, dont cut more than 1/3 of your living branches, but focus mainly on thinning the top half(more vertical branches) to allow a little more sunlight though to your lower better fruit bearing branches. I would wait until late winter when brutal temps are over.. keeps your trees healthier where your fresh saw cuts(wounds) would freeze and cause more damage possibly due to extreme low temps.. 

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ONe of my favorite winter chores when the weather allows. Also be sure to cut back brush, trees etc. that block sunlight or are moving in on them. And make sure someone is around to hold the ladder!

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17 minutes ago, NockednLoaded said:

Prune anything dead off, prune the "stickers" at bases of tree and main branches. Jeremy is referring to the "shoots" that grow straight up- they typically dont bear any fruit and just grow straight up towards sun. Dont take more than %20 of tree when pruning otherwise it can shock the tree. This is the time to do it up through February.  

If it's a very old tall tree I would start by taking a couple main branches and opening center of canopy to allow more sunlight to hit the tree. At the same time you lower the height of the tree as a result. Next year you can get a bit more finicky,  but I would start at a macro level with these old trees.

 

Thanks for the advice, I have a Macoun apple tree in my front yard and i have been trying to prune it for several years. One year i pruned it too late in the spring and had no apples that year, other years i think i cut it back too much and had poor crop. The problem i have is it gets a lot of suckers and grows too tall every year, so i find myself cutting way back to try to keep it from getting so big. 

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Hunt when I can.. ;)

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So It will be best to cut the top branches as most of my trees haven't been touched in at least 8 yrs.

Thanks for all the help, will post pictures.

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25 minutes ago, LET EM GROW said:

Prune the growth the grows up like mentioned, all dead and diseased branches, dont cut more than 1/3 of your living branches, but focus mainly on thinning the top half(more vertical branches) to allow a little more sunlight though to your lower better fruit bearing branches. I would wait until late winter when brutal temps are over.. keeps your trees healthier where your fresh saw cuts(wounds) would freeze and cause more damage possibly due to extreme low temps.. 

Interesting I was always thought once you get into hard frosts your in the clear.  Isnt this late winter though? One cool tip In the early spring if your apples have buds and your expecting a frost you can spray the trees and the frozen water will protect the tree buds from the frost.

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6 minutes ago, beagler said:

So It will be best to cut the top branches as most of my trees haven't been touched in at least 8 yrs.

Thanks for all the help, will post pictures.

I think key with canopy lowering is moderation.  If you take too much your left with branches that dont bear the fruit. do it slowly over a couple years is my recommendation. 

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9 minutes ago, 2012_taco said:

Thanks for the advice, I have a Macoun apple tree in my front yard and i have been trying to prune it for several years. One year i pruned it too late in the spring and had no apples that year, other years i think i cut it back too much and had poor crop. The problem i have is it gets a lot of suckers and grows too tall every year, so i find myself cutting way back to try to keep it from getting so big. 

Another tip is in full bloom if you have branches not producing flag them with surveyors tape and revisit during the winter pruning season. Anything that doesn't produce gets pruned especially those suckers at base- they just steal nutrition

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Doesn't get any more expert than this. It's what I follow and I've even brought some old dying ones back to "deer" fruiting quality

http://chemung.cce.cornell.edu/resources/pruning-apple-trees

Timing is getting close, iirc you want late winter (feb/march) before spring so that your pruning will prompt growth in the right spots and not wasted resources on areas you end up pruning. Also they don't recommend fall as it could leave them vulnerable in the winter. 

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"Ethical behavior is doing the right thing when no one else is watching, even when the wrong thing is legal"

-Aldo Leopold 

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Pretty good links Belo.  I find this book to be quite helpful. It goes soup to nuts for smaller home orchards, including a section on pruning.  I also order all my trees from this nursery. Good stock and good prices. Schlabach's Nursery. If you order something like 100.00 of stuff they throw this book in for free. I have some Asian pears from here that are monsters. Pay attention to the root stocks if you order. Most nurseries I speak to dont have a clue when I ask them the root stock. 

I usually prune during snow goose season in march. I dont like pruning in Feb as its still very cold and I get concerned about damage.

Regarding not getting apples one year. This could be due to over cropping. If one year you have a huge crop, the following year you may get none as the tree spent all its energy creating the massive crop and has nothing left for the following year.  THINNING is key in this scenario. 

https://www.amazon.com/BACKYARD-FRUIT-PRODUCTION-David-Schlabach/dp/0976508109

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@NockednLoaded has said everything that I have learned over the years and then some more. Follow his advise and within a few years you will have trees that produce more apples than you know what to do with. It's a slow process but the good news is its not difficult and a good excuse to be outside on a nice winter day. 

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3 hours ago, NockednLoaded said:

Interesting I was always thought once you get into hard frosts your in the clear.  Isnt this late winter though? One cool tip In the early spring if your apples have buds and your expecting a frost you can spray the trees and the frozen water will protect the tree buds from the frost.

wifes grandpa is a fruit tree farmer. truth here, not bs.


"Ethical behavior is doing the right thing when no one else is watching, even when the wrong thing is legal"

-Aldo Leopold 

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Now up through the end of February is a good time to prune , all good advise. One thing that I don’t think I’ve seen mentioned and is very critical is that all your cuts should always be on an angle, slant. Don’t make straight up/down cuts. The worst thing you want is for water to lay on exposed  cut areas, leads to rot and potentially disease.

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i would seek help from someone who knows their crap when it comes to apple tree pruning. just for the first couple trees. then take what you learned to do the rest.


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Pruning apple trees is a pita. I have a huge tree dead center back yard and i could spend a week pruning it every year and need a lift bucket to do it. Which I don't have and am getting too old to hang 20 feet up in a tree!! My tip keep your trees small!

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Are these apple trees for you to harvest fruit from or for the animals to eat what they can reach and what drops on the ground ?.                                        I have a few I prune every other year and some I do not prune at all, they are all older trees and the apples from the pruned trees do not get as big as store bought ones.                                                                                                    As far as the deer go they eat the ones from both ,until all of the fruit is gone. My neighbor does not do any pruning at all and the deer are at there trees all of the time.  

 

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Out of all the trees I have, I have noticed around a dozen or so are excellent for eating.

But the rest are no bigger than the size of a clementine. 

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2 hours ago, beagler said:

Out of all the trees I have, I have noticed around a dozen or so are excellent for eating.

But the rest are no bigger than the size of a clementine. 

Size has to do with numbers on tree, as well as apple type. If you have trees that are over grown you will need a 2 or 3 year plan to get them back into shape. Hard pruning can be a shock to the tree resulting in more water sprouts and more work.. less is more when your getting old trees back in shape

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I've hunted almost everyday of my life.. the rest have been wasted!

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This is a very useful thread with some good tips.  We have dozens of old apple trees scattered around our property that need work this spring.  Sadly last year when I checked a bunch of old groves have died out.  Also want to knock down some tries that are blocking sunlight to some of our deep woods groves.

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On 1/25/2020 at 2:06 PM, UpStateRedNeck said:

This is a very useful thread with some good tips.  We have dozens of old apple trees scattered around our property that need work this spring.  Sadly last year when I checked a bunch of old groves have died out.  Also want to knock down some tries that are blocking sunlight to some of our deep woods groves.

dont give up up on what you think is dead. I had some trees with entire sections that were dead. Some chainsaw work on the dead sections, some canopy work to let the light in and pruining of the suckers and I had new growth and dying sections come back to produce apples. Sure the tree was goofy looking, but we're just talking about deer apples and who cares?


"Ethical behavior is doing the right thing when no one else is watching, even when the wrong thing is legal"

-Aldo Leopold 

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