Press-Republican

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April 10, 2011

Apple trees require special care

I have an old apple tree in the yard. It bears fruit, but the apples are small, misshapen and scabby. What can I do?"

Sound familiar? If there is one thing this North Country has plenty of, it's apple trees that haven't been pruned, sprayed or maintained in any way, shape or form, for years.

If they are going to produce quality fruit, apple trees (or any other fruit trees, for that matter) require regular maintenance. Pruning is fundamental. In fact, most commercial orchard owners will tell you that no other practice will improve the health and well being of fruit trees more than proper pruning at regular intervals.

Appropriate pruning can quickly restore the vigor of an older tree or aid and support young saplings with their development. And employing proper pruning practices will increase the yield and improve the quality of the fruit that trees in all stages of growth produce.

At the same time, selectively pruning out weak limbs will enable the tree to better support more bountiful loads of fruit. Suitable pruning also reduces the likelihood of pest problems, and makes any tree easier for its owner to work with.

Rejuvenation of older, overgrown trees is accomplished by first reducing the tree's overall height. This can be achieved by removing no more than one or two of the tallest limbs. Once this is done, you can prune the rest of the tree the same way that you would any other yard or orchard tree.

Pruning of trees consists of removing dead, damaged, diseased and insect-infested limbs, as well as waterspouts (which grow quite rapidly, produce no fruit, and greatly reduce exposure to sunlight at the center of the tree) and suckers that are growing up from the roots or from the base of the tree.

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