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Pruning large apple tree?

LeadFarmerLeadFarmer Posts: 1,208
I need to prune and reduce the height of this cooking apple tree in my mothers garden. It's not been pruned for years and it's quite tall, with the best apples being right at the top. They are unreachable and end up falling, banging on the branches and then on the ground, causing them to bruise.

Whilst I can get up there with a ladder and use my loppers and reciprocating saw to cut the thick branches, is there a good method to use to encourage fruiting in future years?




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  • pansyfacepansyface PEAK DISTRICT DerbyshirePosts: 20,544
    edited June 2021
    The tree is on an old type of rootstock, not a dwarfing one, and will always want to be that size. 

    If you cut it back drastically, it will try to regain its old height with the same amount of effort that you put in to cutting it back.  Result?  Hundreds of long thin vertical water shoots, which are no use to man nor beast.

    You could try cutting one major branch back this year, to a more reasonable height, and prepare for the tree’s unwanted response next year. Cut those water shoots back in year three and in year four have another slash at a second major branch. In years five and six, cut back all the water shoots again.

    As you can see, it’s not exactly a garden idyll.

    You could try pruning the topmost smaller branches and hope that the tree reacts less violently.  But I think that whatever you decide to do you are in it for the long run.
    Apophthegm -  a big word for a small thought.
  • LeadFarmerLeadFarmer Posts: 1,208
    Thanks for the advice.

    Her other suggested alternative is to gut it down completely, but that would be a shame as it's a 50 year old tree.

    Could it be pruned to open it up so we have a fighting chance of getting to the apples?
  • pansyfacepansyface PEAK DISTRICT DerbyshirePosts: 20,544
    Any major cut will provoke the creation of those pesky water shoots. Maybe invest in some yoga mats and spread them round the tree at harvest time. 😁
    Apophthegm -  a big word for a small thought.
  • LeadFarmerLeadFarmer Posts: 1,208
    Sounds like I should leave it alone then. It's a bit of a tangled mess, perhaps I could thin back some of the thiner branches amongst the centre of the tree and leave the main ones alone?
  • pansyfacepansyface PEAK DISTRICT DerbyshirePosts: 20,544
    Yes, stick to the thinner ones and you should be OK.🙂
    Apophthegm -  a big word for a small thought.
  • PlashingPlashing Posts: 314
    Why not get someone who knows how grafted it on a to smaller rootstock and plant it into a pot when it has taken you could do quite a few especially if it happens to be a brambly apple, because they are getting worried that they may become extinct in several years time. I am thinking about doing an eating apple that has grown from a pip, its growing like the clappers and the apples are nice eaten straight from the tree or they are very nice cooked, I use them cooked in apple cake and apple and ginger cake. They are causes on line about grafting you could maybe do it yourself long as you get the right rootstock.
  • pansyfacepansyface PEAK DISTRICT DerbyshirePosts: 20,544
    What makes you say that they might be going to be extinct, Plashing? I’d not heard anything about that.🙁
    Apophthegm -  a big word for a small thought.
  • PlashingPlashing Posts: 314
    I head it a while ago on a program referring t the original tree at Grantham saying that the tree was beginning to die because of its age and it was difficult to get the original cutting to graft, I think t was on Countryfile a year or so ago, I know there had been a debate about because of climate change, you know they will blame anything on climate change. I may have got mixed up now I am getting near my 80th birthday, Its nice to hear from you, I thought you had fled the country.
  • pansyfacepansyface PEAK DISTRICT DerbyshirePosts: 20,544
    Not yet, Plashing.😁
    Apophthegm -  a big word for a small thought.
  • bertrand-mabelbertrand-mabel Posts: 1,690
    Please don't cut it down. It is as you said an old tree and worth keeping.
    Ours is over 70 years old, maybe more, and yes the fruit does fall off but we do still use the fallen fruit.
    Please keep it as long as you can.
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