Pruning old apple trees might seem like you’re wasting your time and effort, but it can make them bear new fruits. Check to see if the old apple tree in your yard can be saved, then prune it. The tree might not bear fruits for the next two years, but the effort to save it will be rewarded after.
Organizing Your Work Area
1. Make Sure the Tree is Healthy
If you prune an old apple tree, you’re helping it have new growths and bear fruits. By pruning the tree when it is dead, brittle, or has diseases, it won’t help the tree. Look for these signs to know if your tree should still be saved:
- Grey colored or crumpled branches: If you find this, it means the branches are dead or diseased. If a very large portion of the tree appears like this, then the tree is not worth saving
- Spoilt or crumbling bark: This is a sign that nutrients are not flowing through the trunks of the tree
- Fresh growth at the tip of the branch: This means the tree is still well, and it is worth saving. If this is absent, then it cannot be saved.
2. Plan to Prune in Late Winter or Early Spring
The best time to prune your apple tree is after the tree has been inactive for the winter, right before it starts growing again in the spring. If you prune the tree too early in the winter, it might be destroyed by the cold.
3. Obtain the Right Cutting Tools, Gloves, and a Ladder
A new saw with sharp cutting teeth, gloves, and a pair of clippers would be needed for this task. You’ll need a sturdy ladder if the tree is too tall for you to reach the upper branches.
- Get a pole pruner if you have a lot of trees to prune.
4. Sharpen and Clean Your Tools When Necessary
Dull tools will give the tree rough wounds that may not heal, and the dirt from the tool may infect the wound. So make sure your tools are sharp and clean.
- To clean dirty tools, make a solution containing 90% water and 10% bleach, and use it to clean the tool.
5. Lean the Ladder against the Tree, then Test the Weight
The ladder may look balanced and strong from the bottom, but it might be weak and shaky from the top. Try to test it first before climbing all the way up, or it may break. This is very vital.
- An effective way to test the ladder and see if it is strong is to step on the bottom rung of the ladder and lean against it. If you hear a creaking sound, it is not sturdy. Please don’t use it.
Pruning the Tree
1. Visualize What You Need to Cut and How Much
Don’t go pruning without having an idea of what it is. Try to imagine what should be used to cut first. Normally, the central branch should be growing upward, and some side branches coming off of that.
2. Prune the Dead or Diseased Branches as Close as Possible to the Collar
The joint between the branch and the truck is called the collar. Make sure you cut straight up to this joint; do not remove the branch flush to the trunk. To make sure the bark is not torn when you’re cutting it, hold it down.
- Remove the branch by cutting it halfway from the top and cutting it halfway from below if the branch is very thick.
3. Remove 1 or 2 of the Larger Limbs if Necessary
The branch at the center of the tree growing upwards is your leader branch, and the other branches are competing for nutrients with it. Cut off 2 of these branches or 3 of the other branches if necessary.
- If any branch is thicker than 8 inches, don’t cut it
- Be careful while trying to cut the third branch. If it’s not in the way, and it is healthy, it is advisable to leave it.
4. Cut Back Any Excess Branches that Block Light
When these branches are overgrown, they will begin to block light when the leaves start to grow. Crowded branches that are closely packed together should also be thinned. Any branch that is seen too close to the ground or is less than 24 inches to the ground should be removed as well.
5. Cut off All Water Shoots from the Top
Water shoots are slim branches that don’t bear fruits or foliage. They should not be kept because they take energy from the tree supposed to be spent on bearing fruits. Start from the top of the branches, then slowly go down when cutting the water shoots.
6. Do Not Eliminate More than One-third of the Canopy
Removing too much of the canopy will get the tree stressed. Remove the canopy in the winter if you want to remove too much of it.
- Prune your tree evenly over 2 to 3 years if you need to
7. Look for Signs of Pests and Diseases and Treat Them Accordingly
Cankers, scabs, and mildew mostly attack trees. Rosy apple aphid and woolly aphids, too, can be a problem. It is best to monitor your tree and treat these things if they’re found.
Providing Proper Aftercare
1. Get a 6-24-24 Fertilizer
The size of your tree will tell you the quantity of the fertilizer you need. The label on the back of the fertilizer explains how the fertilizer should be used.
- You can use organic fertilizer if it contains blood meal, compost chicken manure, soybean meal, etc.
2. Apply Fertilizer in a Ring 12 Inches Away from the Trunk
Don’t apply the fertilizer too close to the trunk. You can apply it 12 inches away from the trunk, and the fertilizer should be applied 12 inches around the trunk.
3. Rake the Fertilizer Towards the Drip Line
Start raking the fertilizer 12 inches from the trunk away from the drip line. Ensure you rake all the fertilizer around the trunk away.
- The area around which water from the tip of the branches falls is called the drip line.
4. Cover the Raked Area around the Tree with 1 Inch of Compost
The compost should be applied 12 inches away from the trunk and stop at the drip line. Compost that is 2.5 cm deep will give your tree plenty of nutrients.
5. Trim Away the Water Shoots Growing from the Trunk the First Year After Pruning
If you can’t find any water shoots, look for them under the main branches, and then remove anyone you find by cutting. It is nicer to trim only half of the water shoots remaining all the way down to the bottom and leave the other half.
8. Perform a Follow up Pruning for the Next 2 Years
Cut any branch you didn’t cut in the previous year if you are pruning over two years. Cut the toughest shoots growing at the top of the tree, where you made big cuts the year before.
You have an old apple tree in your yard, and you don’t know whether it is still useful or not. This review also talks about how to take care of your old apple tree, how to prune it, how to resist pests and diseases.
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Pruning is green and silvicultural, including the specific liberating from express bits of a plant, for instance, branches, buds, or roots. The arranging fuses zeroed in on the liberating from got out, hurt, dead, non-helpful, fundamentally unsure, or despite horrible tissue from collect and scene plants. Thanks for this article!!
Thank you so much for reading my work, and I appreciate your thoughtfulness.
Thank you so much,
Just what I was looking for. We have apple orchards up in the hills, and I wanted to know how we can get a better crop. Now, after reading your article, I realize that we may have been ignoring certain key factors for the pruning of trees, which have led to crop reduction over the years.
I will borrow some ideas from here, and let you know if your suggestions have been fruitful 🙂
Thank u for such a great article.
Thank you so much for visiting and reading my work. Thank you that you find this helpful for your own use and guides. Just follow the recommended procedure for pruning your trees and care. Thank you so much.
We have a small backyard and do not have an apple tree. But we always enjoy going to an apple farm and do apple picking. We are always amazed at how these trees keep on yielding fruits year after year during these trips. Indeed, pruning is key. And as you point out, it helps the tree resist pests and diseases. Thank you for this informative article. It would surely help those who are lucky enough to have apple trees in their backyard.
Thank you so much for your kind appreciation of my articles. I much appreciate it. Yes, I agree, and you are right pruning is the key, to avoid pests and diseases, plus adding good looking in your backyard and your surrounding to looking neat.
Thank you so much and best wishes,
We have some old apple trees that are also old varieties and therefore very valuable.
These tips in the article How to prune an old apple tree are very useful. We also prune in early spring and follow the basic rules of proper pruning.
Our old apple trees bear abundant fruit every other year, and every other year they have only a few fruits.
For the next pruning season, I will follow your instructions in the section – providing proper aftercare.
Thanks for this great article with these tips!
Welcome to My Amazing Garden, and thank you for reading my articles about How to Prune Old Apple Trees and thanks to that, you found this article more helpful for you and the future pruning of your apple tree. By following all of these steps and providing proper care right after the pruning, I’m sure you will have plenty of fruits to harvest for the next season.
All the best to you, and Merry Christmas!