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Very tall neglected pear and apple trees






1st time post here - so thank you in anticipation of your help and patience!

We have moved and the house has lot of very neglected fruit trees ( see attached pear tree and apple tree photos) amongst other problem areas .....

I would like some advice as to whether I can top either of the trees to encourage the lower branches to thicken out. They fruited last year - the only problem being we could only get the windfalls and the birds and the insects had the rest! image

I was thinking we could cut the pear tree level with the lowest branch, removing all the growth above it? ( we have already ringed the tree to get rid of the ivy).

With the apple tree - no ideas at all other than ringing the ivy ....

Any advice is gratefully received.







  • Patience. As a start I would carefully remove all the ivy from these trees to ground level and treat the cut stumps with a strongish mix of glyphosate or other suitable treatment. Be careful not to damage the tree bark with your tools or the ladder.

    Next winter you will be able to see the shapes of the trees and start to cut out dead, crossing, weak or misshapen branches. But don't try to do much shaping per year or the trees will throw out loads of water shoots. You will probably have decided by winter which trees you want to keep (what varieties do you have?) and which others are not really worth the space they're taking up. Then you can look at planting some new trees which will crop much better and you won't have trouble picking them.

    In the meantime, I'm sure you've got lots of other jobs in your new garden - you seem to have a lot of leylandii!

  • Steve 309Steve 309 Posts: 2,753

    Definitely get rid of the ivy, definitely without damaging the trees....IF you're going to keep them.

    BUT it looks to me as if those are old-fashioned trees, probably on their own roots, which is why they're so big.  I think you need to apply a sharp saw to the main trunk below the branches and then dig, winch or otherwise take out the stump and roots.  And plant (not in the same places) several new trees of known variety (there are some great old ones coming back into availability) on modern dwarfing rootstocks.  then train them as what are known as bushes, which have their branches at an easily prunable and pickable height.

    What do other people think?

  • BimbsBimbs Posts: 3

    Thank you Joe and Steve,

    I've ringed the ivy to start with ( leaving a good 6 inch gap - apparently they can rejoin??) and the ivy is slowly starting to wither will relish getting rid of it - if you think these are bad - you should see the other trees in the garden that are covered as well as the masses of leylandi!

    I have no idea of what varieties we have... (novice fruit tree owner!) - the pears looked/tasted like traditional conference pears - as for the apples - definitely eating apples but NO idea which variety.

    I wanted to save the trees, purely on the basis that they have had a good life and it seems a crime to fell them because they are out of control....  but  I have about a 1/5 of acre that I want to dig over (its currently grass and weeds) and then plant a variety of apple, pear and cherry trees, then have wild grasses/wild flower grasses around them , so I may well bite the bullet and take your advice at least knowing I'll be replanting new trees!

    so thank you for your constructive and helpful comments .... any other comments welcomed if anyone else has any thoughts!!




  • ReedReed Posts: 42

    Id agree that its too late to do much in the way of pruning for now. Winter pruning encourages new growth and better fruiting but in the summer you could take a third of the growth off. this pruning will help to restrict growth next year and removing a 3rd shouldn't encourage too many water shoots. If you do decide to keep them then as previously said Patience Patience Patience. you should be able to take another third off again the following year but it may take several seasons to get a tree you are happy with.

  • fidgetbonesfidgetbones Posts: 17,433

    RHS advice

    Main thing is to get rid of the ivy this year, without damaging the bark of the fruit tree. Next winter, take out a third of the largest branches, and repeat following 2 years, thus not shocking it too much.  If you can get some good fruit off, the RHS has apple days at which it can be identified.

  • Steve 309Steve 309 Posts: 2,753

    Most likely varieties are indeed Conference pear and probably Cox's Orange Pippin apple, simply on grounds of popularity. Cox's OP is reputed to be difficut to grow well, but I've never tried it m'self.

    If you have the space I'd certainly recommend a small orchard of bush trees.  My friend (who has a lot more space that that!) has about 30 trees, 5 - 10 years old which are mostly fruiting well.  We made cider with the leftovers last autumn, which seems to have turned into apple wine.  Shame image

  • BimbsBimbs Posts: 3

    Thank you for your advice and comments  ....I think we will have to try and employ some patience  - just tackle the ivy and gently shape the trees this year and then focus on the planting and selection of new trees ( so I don't feel guilty if I loose patience and then decide to remove them as I look out of my kitchen window and look at them everyday!) 

  • I think that when we move into a new house the temptation is to adopt the garden the previous owners have left us. Then after a few months or years we wish we'd got stuck in to the job of changing things a bit sooner! Clearly we should retain things of real value or that are quirkily interesting, but equally there are other features which are bad and can only get worse. I don't think that the fruit trees you have inherited owe you anything; trying to reshape them to encourage fruiting will take a long time to work, if it succeeds at all. By then your new fruit trees will be cropping merrily.

    I think the other posters are suggesting that there may be a lot in your new garden which is not worth preserving, and it may be worth going for a radical approach. For instance, will any fruit trees you plant be heavily shaded and therefore not do very well? And if you start to tidy and plant up the garden and then decide to get rid of these large fruit trees and leylandiis, will your work get trashed in the process? As Steve says, removal of large trees and stumps can be a little disruptive. I think your good-sized garden could look twice as big if you let the light in.

  • Steve 309Steve 309 Posts: 2,753

    Yeah.  Bite the bullet and get rid of what you don't want.  In three years you could be harvesting fruit from your own trees.

    ...although (he said, backtracking somewhat) they do say you should live with a new garden for a year before doing anything drastic.....

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