Tree pruning

imageHi, I know that we've had numerous posts on this topic in the past, but I can't glean from any of the previous what I'd like to know

This apple tree is about 40 years old.  It's about 12-14ft high and is very "busy" at the top.  In the spring it wil increase height by 2-3 feet before I do a summer prune to thin out the leafy section. It' really becoming a bit unmanageable now and I'd like to reduce the height.  However as most of the greenery is at the very top, will I end up with several "trunks" with no leaf and ultimately a dead tree?

Does anyone have any suggestions please?  Many thanks.

Last edited: 21 January 2017 16:09:29

Posts

  • pansyfacepansyface PEAK DISTRICT DerbyshirePosts: 14,864

    APPLE TREES THAT ARE SOLD ARE GRAFTED TREES. THEY HAVE AN UPPER PART WHICH IS THE VARIETY YOU BUY AND THE ROOTSTOCK WHICH IS THE PART THAT DEFINES THE SIZE, SHAPE, VIGOUR AND SUITABILITY FOR YOUR AREA.

    FORTY YEARS AGO THERE WERE NOT SO MANY DWARF TYPES OF ROOTSTOCK AS THERE ARE TODAY. SO MOST APPLE TREES OF ANY AGE THAT YOU SEE ARE LARGE TREES. HERE IS A PHOTO OF A TYPICAL OLD APPLE TREE THAT WAS GROWING ON A VIGOROUS ROOTSTOCK.

    image

    YOU COULD CUT THAT TREE DOWN TO A FOOT OFF THE GROUND BUT IT WOULD NEVER MAKE A SMALL TREE. THE ROOTSTOCK WOULD ALWAYS BE TELLING IT TO GROW INTO A BIG ONE.

    SO REALLY, YOU ARE WASTING YOUR TIME IN TRYING. HOICK THE THING OUT AND BUY ONE ON A MODERN SMALLER ROOTSTOCK. 

    Apophthegm -  a big word for a small thought.
  • ObelixxObelixx Vendée, Western FrancePosts: 17,127

    Or do what Monty did on the first programme in the BIg Dreams Small Spaces programme and take out several stems cutting them back to the trunk and then shorten the ones you keep.  However, as Pansy says, it's always going to want to be a big tree and if you want a smaller one with lower vertical ambition you need to swap.

    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • Thanks Pansyface.

    We're not so much bothered about the fruit but would like to shorten the tree to a more manageable height rather than rip it out.  That way it would still preserve some shade and a roost for the birds.

    What I was wondering is whether I would do irreparable damage to cut out most of the top.  Would new growth come from the main stems?

  • Thanks Obelixx, I'll try and watch that on Iplayer to see if I can get any tips.

  • pansyfacepansyface PEAK DISTRICT DerbyshirePosts: 14,864

    CUTTING THE BRANCHES BACK AGGRESSIVELY WILL RESULT IN AN UNHOLY MESS LIKE THIS.

    image

    THE TREE WILL GO INTO OVERDRIVE AND YOU WILL BE WORSE OFF THAN YOU ALREADY ARE.

    Apophthegm -  a big word for a small thought.
  • ObelixxObelixx Vendée, Western FrancePosts: 17,127

    The RHS has this advice for renovation pruning of old apple trees - https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/profile?PID=279

    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • Thank you both for your thoughts.

    I've looked at the RHS website and watched Monty cutting back the overgrown apple tree, and I think it will be a case of suck it and see.  I'll probably seriously cut back a couple of the main trunks now and see how it goes.  If it doesn't go too rampant then I'll repeat the process next year but with a view to replacing it in a few year's time if not successful.

    I'll continue to persevere with long loppers on the taller branches in the mean time.

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