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Old apple trees in the garden are a part of our history, the legacy of our grandparents who took care of them all their lives. We remember how we feasted on delicious and juicy apples in childhood, as in adulthood, after working in the garden, we rested in the shade of spreading branches. We have already grown up and must help the elderly and their favorites - garden apple trees. May they delight us with their presence for many, many years to come. If for loved ones the main thing is our care and attention, then in the old apple orchard the first and most effective help is the rejuvenating pruning of apple trees of a very old age.
Old apple tree after pruning
Let's give apple trees a second life
Wild apple trees in their natural habitat can live and bear fruit for up to 150 years, but the duration of cultivated garden apple trees is much lower, on average, such a tree lives from 50 to 70 years. The owners of apple trees grow old with them and are no longer able to do the hard work associated with constant pruning of branches, and without pruning the apple trees begin to hurt, yield decreases, but the taste of apples remains invariably excellent. For this reason, many owners of old apple orchards try not to destroy, but to revive these trees to a new life. Rejuvenating pruning of apple trees will help in this noble cause, and we will help novice gardeners with our advice and recommendations.
Pruning in spring
Pruning old apple trees for the purpose of rejuvenation can be carried out both in the spring, until the buds have blossomed, and in the fall, when the tree "goes" into hibernation.
Spring Pruning Benefits:
- there are no leaves on the tree yet, all branches are clearly visible, both thick and thin;
- there is more free access to the trunk of the apple tree, because overwintered dead grass is easy to remove;
- with the onset of warm spring days, the apple tree quickly gains strength, and in the summer it is easier for it to recover after pruning the branches;
- branches are more elastic, freely pruning, at temperatures above + 4 ° C, you can use a garden pitch to process sawn-off spots, at low temperatures the pitch will not strengthen on the cut, you will have to buy oil paint, which increases the gardener's costs;
- in spring and summer, a new growth of young branches is intensively formed, on which apples will ripen next year.
Rejuvenating apple pruning in spring
We suggest you familiarize yourself with the rules for pruning and the sequence of such work in the spring:
- Visual overview of the apple tree. Examine the tree from all sides, determine which branches you need to prune first, and in order for you to be guided in this matter, study the step-by-step pruning scheme. Old apple trees are overgrown with many branches, it will be difficult to do all the pruning in one go. The diagram shows the pruning sequence over three years.
- Preparation of tools. For thin branches, you can use a regular lopper or long-handled pruner, and thick branches are cut down with a garden hacksaw or electric saw.
- Removal of dead wood from the trunk and on the entire near-trunk circle. Chop dry grass with a hoe in a circle of about 2 meters in diameter, use a rake to move all dead wood outside this circle so that it does not interfere with your free movement near the apple tree trunk.
- Cleaning from dry branches. Dry branches can break off at any time, so it is worth getting rid of them first of all, so as not to injure yourself and not expose your assistants to such danger.
- Rejuvenating apple pruning (for three seasons). Cut the branches according to the diagram above.
- Disposal of cut waste Collect all cut branches in one heap, burn in the garden or take to the landfill. Such material should not be left on the territory of the garden, old branches can be infected with diseases, insect larvae, and adult pests can winter in them.
- Slicing processing. Immediately after pruning, process the cuts, trim them with a sharp garden knife so that no burrs and other irregularities remain, cover with garden varnish or oil paint.
Practical advice on how to properly prune in the spring, you will learn by watching a video showing ways to cut branches and explaining which method is better and why, cut "on a stump" or "on a ring". In the written guidelines, we will define these concepts a little later.
Attention! When pruning old tall trees, do not forget about safety precautions. It is advisable to have gloves and a hard hat to protect the head. Make sure that young children do not fall into the danger zone, because you may not be able to hold heavy branches due to their weight, and they will collapse from a great height.
Pruning in the fall
In the autumn period, work on the rejuvenation of old apple trees is carried out in a similar manner, which you familiarized yourself with at the beginning of the article. If this work was done in the spring, then in the fall the whole pruning process is reduced to the formation of the crown of the tree (see diagram below). Pruning should be kept to a minimum, as the apple tree recovered over the summer after spring pruning should be healthy and strong.
Scheme of autumn pruning of an old apple tree
After the rejuvenating pruning in the fall and the formation of the crown of the tree, you should make sure that our apple tree overwinters well. To do this, we wrap the trunk, starting from the ground itself, and the lower branches with insulating material, and subject the entire apple tree to treatment for diseases and harmful insects. You can watch an educational video for novice gardeners below.
In this section, we will tell you why it is better to cut branches “into a ring” rather than “into a tree stump”. Look at the photo first. You can see the trunk of an apple tree with long branches of already cut branches (stumps). Such cuts are called stump cuts.
Pruning "on a stump"
Making rejuvenating apple pruning in this way is easy, simple and quick. But there are very significant disadvantages of using this method:
- On such pruning, many tops can grow in one season - shoots that grow in height along the trunk of the apple tree and never bear fruit. They take nutrients from the tree, but they do not produce fruit. Thicken the crown of the apple tree, shading fruiting shoots from the sun.
- Hemp is an additional habitat for pests to lay eggs.
- Cuts of hemp, if you do not monitor them constantly, are a source of infection of the tree with fungal diseases, from which they quickly rot, and the disease gradually passes to the healthy parts of the apple tree.
- Under the influence of unfavorable weather conditions, it is the hemp that first of all collapses, rainwater or snow penetrates through the damaged structure into the branch, and then into the main trunk, forming holes. Small rodents, squirrels and mice settle in the hollows, gnawing their holes in soft wood.
The benefits of such hemp are small, but they are; if you want to graft a new stalk onto an old apple tree, then do it on just such a branch from the old pruned branch. In this case, he will help you, only you need to make the stock competently, otherwise nothing will work. Let an experienced gardener who knows all the tricks of this process come to your aid.
At the junctions of the branches, all trees have a kind of inflow in the form of a ring. It is clearly visible in old trees. With rejuvenating pruning of an apple tree, this ring must be left intact and undamaged, there are substances in the wood tissues of the ring that help the tree quickly recover after pruning. If the branch that you are ready to cut is very large and thick, you need to cut it in two steps. Cut off most of the branch at a distance of 20-30 cm from the ring, as is done when pruning "on a stump", then remove the rest of the branch, retreating from the main trunk by 1-2 cm (see photo).
Cutting "to the ring"
The cut should be close to the trunk, almost merge with it, but you should not go deep into the tree or leave an extra part of the cut off branch. On the resulting cut, you need to remove all irregularities and burrs, use a sharp garden knife for this. Then the cutting site is treated with disinfectants: brilliant green, potassium permanganate, hydrogen peroxide, and completely coated with protective agents, garden varnish or special oil paint.
For such processing, there are also old folk methods:
- take 3 parts cow dung, 1 part plain clay, 1 part ash;
- carefully move all components;
- gradually, constantly stirring the mixture, add water until you get the consistency of a thick porridge;
- with a thick layer (2-3 cm), coat the cut site, let it dry a little and repeat the procedure again.
Many gardeners, who have accumulated experience in rejuvenating pruning of apple trees, advise using just this method of pruning - “on the ring”, it will injure the apple tree less and will not harm the tree in the future.
Advice! The heavy branches of older apple trees can break off when pruned, tearing off the bottom of the bark. To prevent this from happening, we advise you to make a small safety cut from the bottom with a depth of 2-3 cm, in this case the sawn branch will fall without damaging the bark.
Barrel cleaning and processing
Over time, the trunks of old trees are covered with pieces of bark, which has already dried up, but has not yet fallen. Beetles-spiders, harmful and useful, hide under them, branches overgrow with moss and lichen, which blocks access to the plant of life-giving sun rays. The final chord of rejuvenating old apple trees will be the healing and restoration of the bark, which should also be taken care of. Do it this way:
- at the height of your growth, clean the trunk of the apple tree and the branches adjacent to it that you can reach, you do not need to make great efforts and literally scrape the trunk, it will be enough to clean off the freely falling dead bark;
- treat all cleaned areas with disinfectants, wiping them with a damp sponge or soft brush;
- to restore and renew the bark, apply a mullein solution with clay and ash to these surfaces, we wrote about it at the beginning of the article, after a while repeat the procedure.
The process of rejuvenating old apple trees is a work of more than one season, it will take at least 2-3 years, and only after that you will see a beautiful tree in your garden, which, through your efforts, has been revived to a new life.