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Transitioning Old Apple Trees to Permaculture

 
Topher Belknap
Posts: 205
Location: Midcoast Maine (zone 5b)
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Greetings,

I have a number of old apple trees (perhaps 100 years old). Many of them are still producing fruit, (some massively) and I want to keep them. I am putting in permaculture forest in other places on the property. I would like to incorporate those old trees into this system. What would you recommend to keep the existing trees healthy, and to transition them into a permaculture system.

Thank You Kindly,
Topher
 
Stefan Sobkowiak
permaculture orchardist
Posts: 118
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100 year old trees were planted before the onslaught of chemical sprays. They chose disease resistant cultivars for the most part. KEEP THEM. Work around them with your new plantings. Use nitrogen fixing shrubs and vary the fruit trees species. For example if you have old apple trees add plum nearby NOT another apple tree. We detail the idea very well in the film and call it TRIOS. N-A-P (nitrogen fixer, apple, pear or plum) then repeat this pattern. You must change the DESIGN of the orchard.
 
Rob Read
Posts: 86
Location: Poplar Hill, Ontario (near London) - Zone 6a
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Hi Topher,

For the trees themselves, often fruit trees that old can be 'renovated' with pruning. Prune any dead or diseased branches (any time of year). In the dormant season (I prefer late winter), selectively prune the tree, especially up near the top. Prune to let more light and air in, but also keep balance in mind. You can be more severe than you might think, but don't take off more than 1/3 of the tree in one year, or you will stress the tree. What you're trying to stimulate is for the tree to put on vegetative growth near the bottom of the tree. This new growth will be where within a few years, you will get your new crops of apples. Apples fruit best on branches that are at least a couple of years old, but not really old - look for fruiting spurs to indicate whether you'll get fruits from a branch (a different kind of bud than the ones that make vegetative growth - see picture below). At the same time, you want to balance leaving enough of the older branches for the tree to photosynthesize and be healthy.



This site has lots more details: http://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/profile?PID=279

Good luck!
 
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