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 Old (60-85 yrs) apple trees 
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Joined: Mon May 02, 2011 11:32 am
Posts: 7
Post Old (60-85 yrs) apple trees
A friend of mine has an old farm with newer orchards, but the 'back orchard' consists of apple trees that they estimate are 60-85 yrs old and haven't been pruned for at least 30 yrs. Not sure of the varieties at this time, but hope to narrow that down this year. A master gardener suggested yanking them because 'no one wants old tree apples'! We would much rather save them than turn them into firewood! So, my question for orchardists familiar with old trees...can they be somewhat rejuvenated? Any pruning considerations for trees this old?

Mon Feb 20, 2012 5:30 pm

Joined: Sun May 15, 2005 10:57 am
Posts: 1320
Location: Portland, OR
Post Re: Old (60-85 yrs) apple trees
Yes. Do 1/3 of the pruning this year, 1/3 next year, and the final 1/3 the year after that. Some old time heirloom apples are highly valued and excellent apples.
John S

Mon Feb 20, 2012 7:57 pm

Joined: Mon May 02, 2011 11:32 am
Posts: 7
Post Re: Old (60-85 yrs) apple trees
Thanks John...sounds like good advice for a worthwhile restoration project!
Steve H., north Clark County WA

Mon Feb 20, 2012 11:58 pm

Joined: Thu Jan 27, 2005 11:27 pm
Posts: 1146
Location: Yamhill County, Oregon
Post 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 :roll:

Home Orchard Society Coming Events:

Tue Feb 21, 2012 5:29 pm

Joined: Thu Dec 25, 2008 3:58 pm
Posts: 131
Location: Just east of Tacoma WA
Post Re: Old (60-85 yrs) apple trees
Some of the old timers like Gravenstein would get very big and over whelming to care for.
I would really watch the fruit quality on some of the trees this first season before you spend hours of time and labor pruning them. My guess is that about half of them will not be worth the trouble saving. The Winter Banana is one exception, being a moderate sized tree that is excellent as a pollenator, and not too bad as a keeper apple.
Watch the trees for scab and mildew. Any tree severely prone to scab may not be worth the trouble. "I make one exception for MacIntosh".
You will probably be way ahead to put most of your apples on a rtstk. like M26, and if you do save a few Old standards, keep the ones with aesthetic value as landscape specimens.

Books are better than TV

Sat Feb 25, 2012 8:35 pm

Joined: Mon May 02, 2011 11:32 am
Posts: 7
Post Re: Old (60-85 yrs) apple trees
Want to thank you guys for your insight! The owner now thinks she has one old Red Delicious and a couple of old Golden Delicious. The photo I attached shows the neglected condition they are in. I see an entertaining day or two pruning away the usual 3 D's (dead, diseased and damaged), rubbing and crossing branches, then straight up/straight down branches. I find that sometimes that's all that's needed! At least it will give me a better view for visualizing a good tree structure. I will think of your suggestions as I go! (1/3, 1/3, 1/3...). Thanks again.

File comment: 60 year old, neglected Red and Golden Delicious apple trees, ready for an entertaining weekend of pruning!
Catherines_OldApple.jpg [ 166.42 KiB | Viewed 1786 times ]
Sat Mar 03, 2012 10:51 am

Joined: Tue Jan 26, 2010 1:42 pm
Posts: 184
Post Re: Old (60-85 yrs) apple trees
Boizeau adds some words of is definitely do-able (I have done many old trees in many different scenarios) but you have to ask yourself what is worth your time and effort.

Frankly, and this is just an amateur opinion, 60 years old is not necessarily old enough to attract my interest on the basis of age alone....but there are a ton of other questions that could help to decide if it is worth it.

I work with a 120 year old a volunteer.
I also work with younger trees but they are in an interesting and/or historic setting.

Feel free to email

Everything is do-able...the trees have more years ahead if you want.

Mon Mar 05, 2012 2:04 pm
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