I recently bought a home in the Shenandoah Valley. There are several old
fruit trees on the property. Most have been neglected for many years. I
want to start trying to restore them a bit. The apple trees are first on
my list. One is a bit over 20 foot high. I don't think they've been
pruned for decades. How should I start with these trees? Can someone
point me to a source online that would help me with pruning them? It's
been 20 years since I lived in a house with enough yard to have any trees
so what little experience I've had is nearly gone from my memory.
Next project will be the mulberries. There are even a couple of white
ones that have been going wild for a long time. I'm told they were
planted in this area way back in an attempt to raise silk worms.
Thanks for any help
There is an abundance of articles on pruning. In your case, sounds like you
do a lot of it. Don't make the mistake of trying to correct everything in one
Don't remove more than 1/3 of the tree in any season, and even that is pushing
things, a bit. You want to get rid of any inward growing branches. Perhaps
the insides so that air and sunshine can penetrate more easily. Branches
bumping into other branches should also be removed. I would recommend doing
this while the trees are dormant, say in very early spring. Summer pruning
encourages growth at the wrong time and weakens the tree for the Winter
In any case, here are some references:
These should keep you busy for a while, and hopefully you will find
what you are looking for.
You can take out all the dead wood now, plus as Sherwin says, up to 1/3
of the live wood. The mulberries weep a lot from cuts, and besides
taking out the dead wood, prune them only in november, so they have
time to close the wound. Mulberries typically need very little pruning.
Do try the berries in june-july, if they are good they are a great
thing to have (no spray, early fruit, shade tree, and all it takes to
get a gallon of them is spread a clean tarp and shake the tree).
If they have not been pruned in decades, it might take you 3 years to
get the apples back in shape. When they start fruiting (which might be
this year, given the stimulation of a hard pruning), prune the immature
apples mercilessly. You should leave no more than a young apple for
every 30 leaves. Obviously, the trees will be Pestville after so many
years so you will have to start spraying right away if you want apples.
We did get a lot of mulberries in the summer. The white ones had very
little taste but the red/black ones were great. The apples might have
been neglected longer than I first thought. The rusted up pump mounted
near them has a 1902 patent engraved on it. We moved in last winter but
I'm only now getting the chance to work on things outside the house. The
few apples that we saw on the trees this year were in very bad shape. It
sounds as if it will take a few years to get them back in decent shape.
It will give me something to keep me out of trouble on my days off I
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