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Apple tree - when and how to prune out water shoots

Pete.8Pete.8 Billericay, EssexPosts: 9,088
I have a Katy apple tree on dwarf rootstock that this year produced just 3 diseased apples and masses of water shoots. I've not had a single edible apple in years from this tree.
The inside of the tree is a thicket of water shoots (many with wooly aphids) that I can't even get to with my secateurs.
Every summer in August I prune out lots of them and even more appear the following year.
How can I get this tree back into productivity again?
Thanks



Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit.
Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.

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  • steephillsteephill Posts: 2,483
    The common advice is to do what you have been doing - completely remove the watershoots in August. You might try leaving just a few of the strongest ones cut back by 2/3rds to encourage growth into those. Also check again in September to remove any re-growth from those you have cut right back.
  • Pete.8Pete.8 Billericay, EssexPosts: 9,088
    Thanks @steephill - that's what I've been doing for the last 4-5 years.
    But I just keep getting more of them - I must be doing something wrong, I just don't know what.
    The tree is about 30 years old.

    Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit.
    Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
  • pinutpinut Posts: 83
    edited 5 August
    Try hard pruning back to the basic structure in mid February.

    Katy is supposed to be a spur bearer so there are no special considerations that need to be taken into account when pruning.

    If a primary branch is branch that grows out from the main trunk then a secondary branch is a branch that grows out from the primary. Prune to secondaries and remove all other branches.

    Keep the height of the whole tree up to a maximum of 1.5m with 50cm leeway for new growth. That will make it easier for harvesting.

    Guesstimate whether a particular thickness of branch can support the weight of the fruit all along the branch - if it can't then prune the branch to make it shorter. In this way, you should get a tree with longer thick primary branches than thinner secondaries.

    The next step is to force the fruit bearing spurs to develop along the primaries and secondaries. You do that by tipping (prune off the growing tip of the branch).

    Then remove any new shoots that appear on the main trunk, primary and secondary branches. This part is usually done in summer because the spurs will have become obvious by then.



  • Pete.8Pete.8 Billericay, EssexPosts: 9,088
    Thanks for your advice @pinut
    I did the deed yesterday...

    Back in 2020 the thicket of water shoots was so bad I couldn't even harvest what apples there were, so done some very drastic pruning in August - I hadn't intended to be so brutal, but there were so many shoots I couldn't even get secateurs to them.


    Last year I pruned out the new water shoots in August and the result this year was-


    Yesterday I pruned out the water shoots, but not right back to the tree.
    I cut the water shoots back to leave about 1" of this years growth, so the tree now looks like-

    Even so the inside of the tree is still a mass of branches and shoots

    I don't seem to have much success with apples.
    7 years ago I planted a Hereford Russett and that's never even had a flower on it, so I'm going to remove it completely and plant a new one this winter.
    Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit.
    Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
  • pinutpinut Posts: 83
    No, don't remove it, if the rootstock of the tree is established and healthy then just graft on your desired varieties of apple scions and even a Katy scion instead.

    If the tree forks like a "Y" then keep Hereford Russett on one of the tangs and graft a different variety onto the other. Grafting of apples can usually be done between mid February and early April at the same time as doing hard structural pruning.

    Regarding Katy, I agree, it is still too congested but you can leave it till next mid February to do corrective pruning to thin out the branches. You will be able to see the structure more clearly then since there will be no leaves to obscure the view of the branches.


  • Pete.8Pete.8 Billericay, EssexPosts: 9,088
    Thanks @pinut
    I do want a Hereford Russett, just not the one I've got.
    I planted it as a maiden 7 years ago and although it's grown ok, it has never even had a flower on it yet.
    So I was going to remove it and plant another Hereford Russett.
    Not ideal, due to replant disease, but I'll try and swap a lot of the existing soil out before planting the new one

    I'll take your advice and thin out Katy in the middle a bit in early Spring. I'm trying to keep the middle open as possible

    Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit.
    Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
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