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Help with Apple tree

 
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Hello,

We bought a house earlier this year and the yard was fairly overgrown. We are not gardeners at all but we are trying to learn. This house came with an apple tree in the back yard. The large maple tree (I think it’s maple) behind it was growing over the apple tree, blocking most of not all of the sun. Anyway we just cut back the branches on the maple tree and I’d like to nurse this apple tree back to health. The leaves at the top look healthy but the ones toward the bottom are curling and look really unhappy. Any suggestions? Pruning? Watering? Fertilizer? Etc. I don’t know what I’m doing..so gardening for dummies for me. Thanks in advance

Also, someone cut back branches on the tree. I’m not sure when and the seller didn’t know either. He didn’t live at the house. So I’m not sure if cutting more would be healthy for the tree?
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Posts: 41
Location: Vancouver, Washington
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I am a novice when it comes to apple trees, but I have rehabed a grapefruit and an orange tree quite successfully.  They just need some love over time. It took us a few years, but our fruitless sour trees into lovely producers with care.  Your apple tree does look like it's been neglected, so it probably needs fertilizer although this may not be the best time to do it.  I have two apple trees in my woods, so I'm guessing, but not at all sure, that it doesn't need much water as well.  The one thing I am pretty sure of it is that it needs some pruning.  I would start by cutting off all the suckers, especially on that one branch you took a closeup of. They are pulling the plants energy from where it needs to be growing and from fruit production.  That branch eventually needs to go too, but you can't cut off too much at once and I don't think now is the best time of year to cut that off anyways.  Curious, do you know what kind of an apple it is?
 
Amelia Bear
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Hi Jen,

Thanks for the response!

By suckers, are you talking about ivy? We had some ivy growing up the base and roots which I removed. The rest is moss (I live in Oregon where it rains a ton). I don’t know what kind of apples it is. The tree hasn’t produced any fruit yet. I’m itching to find out though!
 
Jen Swanson
Posts: 41
Location: Vancouver, Washington
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The suckers are the new growth that is shooting straight up and they are not where you would hope new growth would be.  They grow in the lower trunk and on lower branches where injuries have occurred.  That old branch that you took a close up of that someone had cut off to the point the stump had no leaves on is full of suckers.  When you cut them off, cut them all the way back to their base. Cutting off the end of a branch and leaving no leaves on it usually results in the death of the whole branch, which is what happened to that one.  Pruning is an art, but, when done right, it will make for a heathier and prettier tree.  Done wrong, it will have the opposite effect.
The moss I expect is symbiotic.  I live in Washington and I love the moss!
There are a couple apps that can help you figure out what kind of apple tree it is.  Can I name names?  Plantnet and Picturethis are two that I use.  It's fun!
Since there isn't any fruit on your tree, I expect it really does need help.  My two apples in the woods have small apples on them.  We just moved here last fall and I discovered the trees in the winter after following the deer to where they frequented.  I think they love the fallen apples.  Our trees need a bunch of pruning and love too, and we need a long pole to get that fruit down before the deer get to them!
 
Posts: 112
Location: Dry mountains Eastern WA
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You have a lot going on that tree.  

Someone has really made a mess of it.  But!  I find that judicious pruning always helps even the most complex destruction on a tree. Pruning can be done over a number of years with good results.

Even though you are in W WA ( I am in Eastern) the fact that your tree does have that much moss does indicate a lack of sunlight...so if you can increase the sunlight even more that would certainly be an advantage.  Lots of hot sun makes fruit. Fruit trees thrive in heat.  

If you could consult a real arborist it would be a true advantage to the tree.  If you really want it to thrive.  It’s quite hard to tell you what to cut long distance.  

If you do cut as someone said; cut all the way to branch or trunk.  Cut flush.  Don’t leave stubs.  Rule of thumb is you cut anything that crosses.  So you kind of walk around a tree and you would want the branches to open like a tulip ( analogy) open in the center and unfolding to the outside.  Like your hand if you hold it palm up with the fingers up and cupped. Anything that crosses would be cut. The exception to this rule is topping trees. Topping new branches improves branching and new growth.  If you top or cut a new branch Prune to an outside bud; a 45 degree angle up to a bud or leaf bud that on the outside of the branch.

Pruning is generally done in the early early spring.  For you much earlier than me. January?  Ask a neighbor who’s savvy.

The curling leaves on the bottom?  Can’t tell.  If they are rolled unroll and look for critters, webs etc.  take them in to your local Extension Office and someone will know and advise.

Good luck!  Save those branches for smoke on your BBQ...yum.
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Amelia Bear
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Thanks Janet! That's a lot of good information. I am on the hunt for a neighbor who may know a bit about apple trees. But an Arborist may be a good idea since I want the tree to thrive. We have a pear tree next to the apple tree and it's produced a lot of fruit this year but it's branches are also all tangled together. So I'm going to have to prune that one in the winter also. I live in Portland OR, so not sure if that affects my pruning season but I'll look into it. Thanks agian!
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