Proper Care & Maintenance for an Apple Tree

climbingmonkey24

Branched out member
Location
United States
My Questions:

1. Aside from general pruning, what are some other types of care apple trees that produce edible fruit need?

2. What are some reasons an apple tree may bear edible fruit only a few times and then stop?
 
Apples fruit on 2+ year old wood, depending on variety. Sometimes pruning too heavily removes all your fruit wood. Also, some varieties are prone to over bearing and can break that valuable fruit wood for next year. Every consult I've given on non producing apple trees has been after the customer pruned it the year before and "it was producing the previous years!"
 

Jonny

Been here a while
Location
Buffalo
Haven’t read @JeffGu in a while. I think he has an apple orchard, not positive.

Driving by the orchards around here, I always think how terrible the trees look. I’m sure they’re pruned just how they’re supposed to be to produce more fruit, they aren’t pruned to be aesthetically pleasing to the eye.
 

evo

Been here a while
Location
My Island, WA
As pruning goes, if you don’t over prune or prune heavy every year they will produce. There is two basic ‘proper’ pruning, open center or central leader. It’s also very important to know if it’s a dwarf, semi dwarf, or standard as this will dramatically alter pruning styles.

somehwere I have a photo of the only true pollard I’ve seen on the island. It was a espalier apple, the owners know it all brother prunes it every year. The call was for a consultation because the owner was concerned and wanted to know if she had a broken tree and if it should be replaced. I couldn’t help but to laugh soon as I saw it from across the yard. Told her to plant a new tree, let her brother keep doing exactly what he was doing to the old one, but don’t let him touch the new one! (Of course told her why)
 

moss

Been here a while
In Massachusetts the production orchards generally have an extremely aggressive pruning approach. The trees are expendable and they cycle through them quickly. The idea of an “old orchard” is more romantic/sentimental than real.

There are general principles but the goals of the tree owner should be clarified and considered. I’ve seen plenty of wild crabapples that produce massive quantities of fruit, established principles of fruit tree pruning have a lot to do with maximizing production and keeping fruit low for efficient harvesting. If it is not an orchard “production” environment, everything you already know about tree pruning in general is highly applicable.
-AJ
 

evo

Been here a while
Location
My Island, WA
In Massachusetts the production orchards generally have an extremely aggressive pruning approach. The trees are expendable and they cycle through them quickly. The idea of an “old orchard” is more romantic/sentimental than real.

There are general principles but the goals of the tree owner should be clarified and considered. I’ve seen plenty of wild crabapples that produce massive quantities of fruit, established principles of fruit tree pruning have a lot to do with maximizing production and keeping fruit low for efficient harvesting. If it is not an orchard “production” environment, everything you already know about tree pruning in general is highly applicable.
-AJ
Here in the Apple state they are now planting their orchards in rows and using tractor mounted hedging shears for pruning. It’s all about economics. Many orchards were leveled and replaced with ‘money’ crips aka honey crisp and shortly after cosmic crisp.
There is a movement in the state which on the surface seems very cool. They are going out to old farms and the like looking for extinct varieties, and propagating them. The not cool part is that the universities sponsoring this are patenting these relic strains!
 

JeffGu

Been here a while
Pruning fruit trees is like woodworking... you can build a table using all manner of joinery and techniques. Mortise and tenon, sliding dovetails, halflap and bridle joint, and all kinds of stuff that takes all day. It all works, some techniques work better for structural integrity, some are austhetically more pleasing, some are faster and easier. Fruit trees are like shrubs, in that they can handle severe pruning and snap back the next year like a weed. But, they're subject to a lot of pests and problems. I prune mostly to open up the form for better light and airflow and to limit production. They will produce so much fruit once they get going, the weight of it will do more damage than any pruning you do. In the wild, this feeds the critters and insures more trees, but they get all broken down and don't live long. When you see a nice looking fruit tree in the wild, it's a variety that isn't suited for commercial production. If it's all broken down and gnarly looking, it's probably a variety that's now been hybridized for orchards.

I'd rather have a reasonable amount of nice fruit than bushels of barely usable fruit. Apples, pears and peaches I mostly concentrate on an open form and good structure to support the fruit. Plums are a different animal altogether. They're extremely prolific producers and only need the occasional pruning when you get stems that form very shallow crotch angles.

The easiest way to figure it out is to find an orchard and ask them if you can follow them around and observe while they prune. Then scale back their harsh methods a bit if you're not trying to mass produce fruit. As others have said, commercial fruit trees are usually replaced often and the high cost of labor means that a lot of them don't want the trees getting over a certain height and diameter. It looks brutal and ain't pretty. You don't need to do that if you have a small number of trees and aren't trying to make a living off of them.
 

moss

Been here a while
The hard part for customers with a couple of fruit trees in their yard is explaining to them that you can have nice fruit or you can have a tree that still looks good in the winter. You can't have both, unless you like climbing trees or tall ladders and fighting with the bees and raccoons for the fruit.
Fighting raccoons for apples, yeah!!!
-AJ
 

Reach

Been here a while
Location
Atglen, PA
The hard part for customers with a couple of fruit trees in their yard is explaining to them that you can have nice fruit or you can have a tree that still looks good in the winter. You can't have both, unless you like climbing trees or tall ladders and fighting with the bees and raccoons for the fruit.
Would somebody PLEASE explain that to my mother!?
 

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