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apple tree suckers

When I moved in my apple tree was huge, so I had it pruned down about 6 years ago by at least a third so I could manage to get to the apples. Ever since then it throws out lots of shoots. I remove some in the summer so it can get some air in the centre and also to allow air in to the garden. In early spring I then try to remove all the upward shooting new growth. However, now, as usual the tree is so full of new shoots and leaves that you can't see between the branches. How do I remove the shoots so that they don't come back - at least as many of them?


  • pansyfacepansyface Posts: 21,898
    A common problem. The long whippy growths are called water shoots.  Look here:
    Apophthegm -  a big word for a small thought.
    If you live in Derbyshire, as I do.
  • greenlingreenlin Posts: 11
    Thanks pansyface, I do cut at the time suggested, but maybe I cut too many then, I just don't want it to get to tall to be manageable...
  • pansyfacepansyface Posts: 21,898
    edited July 2022
    I’m afraid that the height is determined by the type of rootstock that it has been grown on.

    If you want a short tree that you can reach then you are going to have to buy a new one on a more dwarfing rootstock.

    Your existing tree is always going to be reaching for the stars, I’m afraid.

    Here’s an explanation.

    Apophthegm -  a big word for a small thought.
    If you live in Derbyshire, as I do.
  • greenlingreenlin Posts: 11
    yes I agree, it is a hefty and probably very old tree, so I don't want to get rid of it.  I will try to cut back on the pruning (!) and see if that helps

  • pinutpinut Posts: 115
    I have a bramley apple tree which I was not happy with. It had grown to 3-4m in 10 years and was predominantly a tip bearer so was difficult to pick without climbing the tree.

    The solution I took was to chop the tree down to a stump mid-february one year and then I grafted some of the shortened branches back onto the stump using the bark graft method.

    After 2 years, it started to fruit again. This time it was a shorter tree (about 2.5m) and now is predominantly a spurr bearer with clusters of apples along the branches and much easier to pick.

    It is perfectly feasible to control the size and shape of a tree simply pruning. The problem is that most ordinary people are not bold enough to do it.

    OP, if that old apple tree were mine then I would make clones of it as backup and then proceed to do some harsh corrective work.

    You can make backups by air-layering some of the branches in spring and/or, if you have another apple tree known to have a dwarfing rootstock, graft a scion or two from the old tree onto that. Better yet, graft the scions onto the dwarfing rootstock sucker branches then air-layer it.

    In general, prune in spring to encourage growth in the way that you want, prune in summer to stop the growth that you don't want.

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