Re: Old (60-85 yrs) apple trees
That is a good suggestion, John. I’d inherited about the same and mistakenly did all the major ‘upright limb removal’ at one time. Perhaps my biggest mistake was removing the two inch layer of moss and revealing the tops of scaffold limbs that hadn’t felt direct sun for …decades. Those limbs were severely sunburned, cracked, and have begun to rot. The good thing is the main tree salvaged was/is a Gravenstein
, perhaps the most vigorous of apple trees and apparently capable of rejuvenating itself at light-speed. But do take your time.
As you stand back (if the trees were originally cared for) their original form usually appears. You’ll likely have the ‘trees within a tree’ thing going on; that’s ‘nice formed trees’ growing off the top of its original scaffold limbs. They usually need to be removed… A chapter or perhaps an entire book could likely be written about the process, but apple trees are fairly resilient.
One thing you can do is make some of the major cuts during the summer, that would keep the tree from sending up a gazillion watershoots next spring near the major cuts – by helping limit its storage of nutrients. But old trees often become balanced so you wouldn’t want to deprive it, either. That’s what Arborist’s get the big bucks for – advising on the spot. Gosh, maybe if I had a second lifetime I could also have a second career