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Pruning a neglated orchard.

 
Kevin MacBearach
Posts: 213
Location: Beavercreek, Oregon
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I don't know much about fruit trees but the house we bought last May has many apples, pears, and a couple chestnuts. The apples and pears are in bad shape. Some produced very unattractive fruit last summer, while others produced some nice fruit. All of them are very overgrown and crowding each other.

Can anyone post a link to an article, video, or give advice for when and how much to prune? I'm in Western Oregon.
 
S Bengi
Posts: 1355
Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even distribution
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If they had never been pruned let them stay un-pruned.
I think it would be better for you to kill the ones that are un-acceptable to you and replace them or get some new trees(shorter edible n-fixer like seaberry, silverberry, autumn olive, goumi, etc)
 
Kevin MacBearach
Posts: 213
Location: Beavercreek, Oregon
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They were originally pruned but than the previous owner of the house got too old and quite doing it for 10 - 15 years I'm guessing. They all have shoots stretching way up out the tops.
 
S Bengi
Posts: 1355
Location: Massachusetts, Zone:6/7, AHS:4, Rainfall:48in even distribution
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I hope someone else chimes in, but I think that pruning a tree that has not been prune for 10-15yrs is going to be much stress for the tree.
Cutting off branches thicker than my arm not pruning.
And I am assuming that these trees are 20-30 years old. So they are close to the end of their productive "orchard" life.

I live in the city and all my plants (4 dozen species) have a mature height of just 10ft because I dont want to prune/climb/ work unnecessarily.
The trade off is that you will have to replace more often, due to a shorter lifespan. https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AjpWBJwPQ0nMdEpjV1AwcVJ0dGFZbnVpVEw0RlFQR0E

Here is some of the info that you did ask for though. It is going to take 3-4 years (3-4pruning), you cant do it all in one year.
http://extension.oregonstate.edu/catalog/pdf/pnw/pnw400.pdf
 
Jeff McLeod
Posts: 95
Location: New Hampshire
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I'd probably post the same question up on orange pippin since those folks limit their forum to orchards.





I meant to add that there is a pretty good section about resurrecting an orchard in the book "Five Acres and Independence"



 
Richard Delvers
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Older trees can be pruned, and even have new scions grafted onto them, but it is multi year project. My brother is in the midst of just such a project. He has some successful grafts of honey crisp apples onto a crabapple.

He told me this summer that you should prune early, and if you are cutting bigger branches, not to cut more than 1/3 of them in a year. There are probably some You Tube videos that could give you some better, more detailed instructions. Good luck

Rune

 
Richard Delvers
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Here are some links: http://m.youtube.com/results?q=pruning%20old%20apple%20trees
 
Alder Burns
pollinator
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Location: northern California
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My new site is teaching me lessons counter to the conventional wisdom around here, in which most fruits are pruned to control their height, so as to make harvest and spraying and so on easier. But both grasshoppers and deer prefer lower branches to high, so I'm letting my trees go up out of their way! If I have to get out a ladder to pick apricots, so be it....at least I'll have a chance of apricots to pick. After 30 years of pruning and not pruning in three or four different climates I'm becoming more and more of a minimalist pruner. With those trees that are actually bearing, I'd restrict attention to removing dead and damaged/rotten/ half broken branches, and a significant portion of the suckers/water sprouts/long straight shoots growing up through. Then see what they do. The ones that are not producing well...I would guess that the primary reason has to do with something other than pruning.
 
Craig Dobbelyu
pollinator
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Location: Maine (zone 5)
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forest garden hugelkultur
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I've got a few really old apples (24"+ trunks) that were in pretty bad shape from the previous owners. There were a lot of rotted branches and one was rotted clear through the trunk. There was heavy insect damage because the fruit was left to rot on the ground for years before we moved here. The branches were all grown together and really long and frail. They were mostly supported but the root suckers, which in some cases were 4 inches thick.

I started by untangling them and cutting out anything that was more than 30% rotted or damaged. I also cut out the suckers and any really weak branches that would break in a stiff wind. I cleared up all the apple debris and mulched the trees well.

The first year, there was a lot of new vegetative growth. Tons of new leaves but no flowers. I expected that would happen due to the stress of being chopped up so severely. On the second year we had a moderate flower set but a late frost ended the apple season early. This will be the third spring, so with some luck I'll have a harvest to speak of in the fall. Either way, I have started a whole separate orchard with wild trees and I'll be planting a half dozen known varieties in the spring as insurance as well.

This way I have a lot of grafting options and a ton of variety to work with.

I suspect my trees would have hung on for a few years but they would not have done well. At least this way they have a chance to recover. If not... oh well.

 
richard valley
Posts: 240
Location: Sierra Nevada mountain valley CA, & Nevada high desert
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I haven't read all the posts, you may have already gotten answers. Prune them, pick 3 or for main arms as long as your body, not sure how tall the trees are, at the hight you want. Clean out the center so it's open and light can get in. You can leave 2 or 3 branches a foot or two long as you decide, on the arm you have choosen. Do it now before they get this years leaves. Paint or tar the cut ends of the larger cuts. Good luck, lots of fruit.
 
Joe Hoffman
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Location: Shenandoah Co., VA USA
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The expert is Jean Richard in Québec. The trick is to cut the strongest branches to inspire new growth from the weaker ones. If you speak French, he calls it "la Taille Suisse", which gets lots of hits on a web search. If you prefer English, best I find quickly is a newspaper article.
 
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