Have you got an old fruit tree in your garden that never seems to bear fruit? Before you decide to contact your local tree services company to have this neglected, ungainly giant felled for firewood, think again. It is possible to rejuvenate old fruit trees with judicious and informed pruning:
Before you start
Before you decide whether to give your old fruit tree a chance, there are some things to consider. Is the tree structurally sound? If the trunk or main branches are misshapen or badly damaged, they'll be too weak to bear a crop of fruit and will probably just break.
Is the tree in a suitable position in your garden? If the tree is too close to your house, it could cause damage during a storm, and dead wood could encourage termites to invade your home. Perhaps the tree's roots are beginning to cause lifting to your driveway or its leaves cast too much shade over your flower beds.
Have a good look at the tree to assess its health. Is it riddled with rot, disease or insects? Look for unhealthy bark that appears orange-brown and scaly. If the tree is in very poor condition, saving it might not be an option and your local tree services company will advise you on this.
Saving your old fruit tree
Once you've decided that your tree deserves a second chance, prune out all the dead and broken branches and trim away any suckers that are growing around the base of the trunk.
You might want to reduce the overall size of the tree, but this is a process that should be carried out gradually over several seasons. If you chop away too much in one sitting, you'll shock the tree which could make it more prone to disease or damage from sunburn on exposed areas that were previously shaded. In addition, if you prune too much too soon, the tree will respond with even more vigorous growth.
You won't need to "feed" the tree with nitrogen fertiliser following this initial pruning. This is because the tree's root system will be large enough to provide it with all the nutrients it needs. Extra fertiliser will just encourage excessive growth that will complicate the following year's pruning.
Spray the tree with a good proprietary insect and disease preventative product obtainable from your local garden centre.
Water sprouts are fast-growing shoots that will appear around the pruning cuts, and they need to be removed by hand. When the tree begins to set fruit, pinch out the fruits to one per cluster to make sure the fruit grows to a good size.
In the late winter of the second year, you'll need to prune your old fruit tree again. This time you'll just need to thin out the fruit-bearing wood to allow for air to circulate through the branches and to let maximum light in.
Following this prune, you can give the tree a small 'feed' with a suitable fertiliser, scattered beneath the tree under the total spread of its branches.
Once your tree has been successfully rejuvenated, you'll just need to carry out general maintenance pruning each winter to keep it tidy and remove any dead wood.
If you can save your old fruit trees, your efforts will be rewarded with a good crop of fruit every year. Have a chat with your local tree services company for further advice. Contact a company like Clean Cut Tree Services to learn more.