How to rejuvenate an old apple tree?
The young garden, including the apple trees, pleases the eye, warms the soul, but years pass, and our apple trees grow old. The old apple tree will no longer give its former harvest, its branches are more fragile, bunches of tops are often visible - that is, vertically growing shoots that only pull nutrients on themselves, but do not bear fruit, and the tree slowly dies. Many gardeners simply make up an old apple tree and plant new varieties of seedlings on the site, forgetting about such a miracle, for example, as a real Antonovka, who now can get it, the fragrant one that was baked in the oven, which has been preserved all winter, is almost impossible.
Today we will try to explain in as much detail as possible how to rejuvenate an apple tree of old age, describe the methods of rejuvenation, tell you when and how to do it correctly. And then, it is quite possible that the apple tree will be reborn again and will please you with harvests of your favorite apples for many more years.
The main actions that will be aimed at rejuvenating the old apple tree are those associated with pruning. It is important to stock up on tools and patience, because in one season it will not only be physically difficult, but sometimes dangerous for the tree itself, to regain its former youth of a fairly aged apple tree. Instead of rejuvenating the apple tree, you spend a lot of strength and energy and just “kill” the tree, it is likely to simply die. By the way, do you really need to rejuvenate your apple tree right now, maybe it's not the time?
Signs indicating that you need to start rejuvenating the apple tree
Few people know that an apple tree can grow without rejuvenation for up to three decades. Of course, this does not mean that sanitary pruning is not necessary, it is necessary and should be annual and should be reduced first of all to the removal of dry shoots, broken, frozen and those that grow deep into the crown, which will certainly lead to its thickening. But the aging of the apple tree manifests itself in other signs. For example, a clear sign of aging is the exposure of skeletal bough knots, which, in turn, corny lose fruiting shoots, and there is exposure, from the beginning of the crown to its periphery, of course, the crop also drops.
One of the signs of aging is a small increase, it becomes minimal or the growth of the apple tree stops altogether. The shoots of fouling and fruit are massively perishing, drying up and dying. Even in this period, when it is already clear to anyone that the tree needs to be rejuvenated urgently, it can still bear fruit, but the taste of these fruits is very different from the one that was before.
Among other things, pay attention to the very top of your old apple tree: a tree requires rejuvenation if the top is almost completely dry.
How would you like to see your apple tree?
Yes, this is the question every gardener should ask himself before embarking on a cutting tool. What in the end would you like to see, what branches and skeletal branches of the apple tree do you plan to leave; than, more precisely - with which, vertically growing shoot can you replace an already dry peak? It seems that it is difficult, but this is just a banal work plan, and it needs to be kept both in mind and on paper. Just a couple of strokes, even for those who are difficult to draw, will help to cut exactly the right branch, because the incorrectly sawn can not be returned back.
We will help you a little. So, remember that ideally the apple tree should always have a fairly strong central conductor, this is a clear leader, bearing the entire load - both from the vegetative mass itself, and the load from the crop. This leader should grow as vertically as possible, preferably located in the very center of the apple tree, and the shoots should diverge from it radially, and the larger the corners of these shoots with a central conductor, the better.
And remember one more thing when rejuvenating an old apple tree, try to ensure that the upper shoots are at least slightly, but shorter than those located below (Christmas tree effect), then the upper tier will not obscure the lower tier so much, and even if the branches can be arranged radially offset, that is, not under each other, but in the free spaces between the branches, it will be just fine.
In order to make a younger and outwardly beautiful apple tree out of an old apple tree, it will take not one, not two, but three whole years. This is ideal for an apple tree, this is how it will receive moderate damage and will be able to recover after pruning.
What is the time to start pruning an apple tree?
Of course, during the rest period of the apple tree, it can be late autumn, when leaf fall will end, but there will not be severe frosts, or the spring time, for example, the end of February. The main thing is that there is no more than ten degrees of frost outside the window, and that the apple tree is not in a state of vegetation.
Pruning in the spring is highly desirable to complete completely before the period when the buds swell, their swelling indicates that the root system of the apple tree is already included in the work and nutrients begin to flow from the roots up to the crown, pruning during this period will entail the loss of nutrient juice and he, like blood from a wound on a person’s body, will flow out, weakening or even killing a plant.
Remember that during the rejuvenation process the apple tree will need additional nutrition and watering, so always loosen the near-stem zone, remove weeds, apply complex mineral fertilizer in the spring, water the plant more often, preventing the soil from drying out, and in the autumn, apply potassium and phosphorus fertilizing and carry out moisture recharge watering.
We go further and let's talk about the trimmer tools, which will have to be stocked.
Tools necessary for trimming
There must be at least two hacksaws, one with small teeth and the other large ones, also do the pruning shears in terms of quantity - take two, sharper and more expensive, otherwise the pruning shear will break in the first or second knot, which already repeatedly verified in practice. The price of a good secateurs now starts at 3,000 rubles, and if this is not a fake, then this is definitely a good secateurs.
You can also get gloves, you can use simple garden gloves, but it is better with leather inserts on the palms, so the risk of injuring your hands on clumsy twigs will be minimized. And of course, if your trees are real giants, you will have to buy a ladder or stepladder and go broke into a safety belt - believe me, there are times when you cross yourself a hundred times and thank God for fastening it (attached) and tied to a branch.
In the event that there are two, three or more old apple trees on the site, it is advisable to acquire either smart and dexterous, well-trained assistants or an electric cutter - remember this is a dangerous thing, it can cut off your finger or severely damage your hand, but when working with it you don’t feel tired and if you do not get distracted, but do everything in stages and systematically, choosing a sunny day without snow and rain, then no harm should happen. Often such secateurs are mounted on long poles, wires (from secateurs) come from them and there is something like a control panel, and you can cut shoots directly from the ground.
Important! Never save on a tool, if you decide to do gardening, save up money on quality saws, hacksaws, pruning shears, garden knives, durable ladders, stepladders and good gloves. It is when everything is at hand that gardening is easier and more interesting. Even a simple shovel can bend, delivering a lot of negative emotions, and maybe, bought 4-5 times more expensive, last for decades, literally passed from father to son. Among other things, a poor-quality garden tool dies extremely quickly and without permanent grueling grinding and editing will destroy trees. Using such a tool, it is possible to make only shredded sections, which even if subsequently insulated with garden paint or garden varnish, will heal for a long period, which can negatively affect the general condition of the tree, because through poorly healing sections, as through a half-open gate, it can freely get into tree is any infection.
In addition, do not forget, when moving from tree to tree, wash the working bodies of tools with 12% bleach or wipe them with a rag soaked in alcohol, as the risk of transmission of the infection from a diseased tree to a healthy one will be either completely eliminated or minimized.
We begin to describe the process of rejuvenation itself, describe the simplest, but extremely effective three-year cropping scheme.
The first season and autumn pruning of the apple tree
So, before you is an old apple tree. All the signs described at the very beginning of the material are present, and all the tools you have. Do not forget that without the risk of losing a tree, we can at one time remove about a third of the total above-ground mass of the tree. So, first of all, of course, we cut into a ring (with mandatory isolation cut or cut with garden paint or garden var) all dead shoots with bark, those that are badly damaged or completely dry and devoid of bark.
Next, carefully inspect the crown of the apple tree and if the limit on remote shoots has not yet been exhausted (one third), then it is worth removing all shoots that have modifications on the bark, for example, black spots or spots of a different color, shoots with very wrinkled areas of the bark, from which the bark literally falls off in rags, exposing the dead tissue of twigs, as well as shoots located near the bare twigs.
Cut such areas very carefully, cutting exclusively to healthy tissue and making as smooth as possible cuts, in no case leaving even small stumps. A stump, even insulated with garden varnish or covered with garden paint, will subsequently begin to rot anyway, and the foci of decay are actually a slow death of the plant.
I would also like to say about cutting down large branches. Some put a stepladder, and let's cut it from above the trunk, as a result, the branch breaks off, crawls down, ripping off the bark almost to the base of the apple tree. This is a real disaster and it will be very difficult to heal such a scuffing of the bark, it’s probably easier to cut down the whole apple tree.
A large branch needs to be cut in parts - first lightening it as much as possible - that is, cutting down all the shoots on it, thereby drastically reducing its weight, and then sawing a third of its thickness away from the trunk by a centimeter, and only then cut it from the bottom into a ring. Such a saw cut is best done together - one holds a branch, and the other cuts it.
After the bulk of the sick, dry and simply suspicious branches of the apple tree are sawn off, you need to identify a new leading branch, because the old, as we can see, is already dried up or close to it, that is, it has exhausted its life potential. There is nothing complicated here, it’s enough just to find one vertical shoot-competitor, and cut out the old shoot, thus replacing them.
In the event that neither the saw nor the pruning sheath touched the apple tree for a long time, and there may be several such “leaders”, select one that is most well located and in the first year also delete one that is most badly located, do not forget about the rule of removing a third of the aerial mass, do not cut all competitors at once.
In general, massive, large skeletal knots in a season can cut no more than three pieces, in fact, this will be the third part, removing so many shoots should not harm the tree.
When the bulk of the work is done in the first fall, examine the results of your work, evaluate the height of the tree. From my own experience I can say that it will be more difficult to “maintain” trees higher than five meters, therefore, if there is still a choice between conductors, then leave the one that is shorter.
The second season of pruning apple trees, the first term is the end of February
The so-called velvet winter season, when the sun is already warming and the day is quite long, you can work longer in the garden, and the temperature rarely drops below ten degrees of frost. What to pay first of all to your attention in this period? We would advise on tops - long and thick vertical shoots.
Yes, they are of no use, but only when they are vertical, it is worth bending them and giving them an inclined arrangement, how can they begin to bring benefits in the form of fruits. Therefore, on each most well-developed branch of the apple tree, you can leave one spinning top, also very well developed, removing all the others with a cut “on the ring” and bend the shoot (spinning top) as accurately and strongly as possible from the center of the trunk to an angle close to 90 °.
Most often, a strong steel wire is used for bending the top, less often - twine, because it (twine) is still destroyed by the sun and can break even before the desired effect appears in the form of a constantly changed direction of growth of the top.
By the way, if you are new to bending tops, then first achieve the desired result, that is, bend the top, fix it, and then delete all the others. You don’t need to leave one and, having broken it, sin on your not very skillful hands, and so you will have many attempts, which is called in order to gain experience. In principle, it is possible to finish the pre-spring work in the garden and wait for the fall.
The second season - autumn work to rejuvenate the apple tree
Here you can continue pruning, which is often aimed at reducing its growth (if necessary, of course). In low apple trees, skeletal shoots can be shortened so that those branches located below them receive maximum light. It is desirable to shorten by a third, no more. Here, in principle, on this you can finish pruning and let the apple tree sleep peacefully all winter. Thus, we have already cut off two-thirds of the "unnecessary" shoots.
Third season - pre-spring work with an old apple tree
Again, the end of February, and you can return to our apple tree, which we rejuvenate. Here it’s already possible to safely proceed to the removal of the third part of the shoots, which interferes with us, that is, cutting another third, the final part, which usually consists of massive tops that we did not bend, as well as vertical competitor shoots.
By the way, it would be possible to remove them in the fall, but the tree doesn’t always manage to come to its senses in a rather short period of time, but if you fed and watered it well, you can try to remove two-thirds of the shoots last fall, and Now carry out something like sanitary pruning and re-examine the new tops and do their folding, doing this and completing operations with the apple tree, and in the autumn cut out the undetected minor parts of old wood.
And finally, the third season is autumn
The remains of old branches, sick, dry and the like can be safely removed. Before you should be the result of the plan that was deposited in your head or was drawn on paper, the apple tree has rejuvenated and is ready to give you new crops for a long period of time.
In conclusion, I would like to tell you about another version of the "rejuvenation of the apple tree" - by pruning the branch-plodushki.
How is it that the reader will be indignant, because the fruit is the most significant branch of the tree, you need to grow a twig for two years, so that it forms pies and the first fruits appear? But you should not be scared, such pruning will allow you to get even more number of plugs.
How can we stimulate the formation of new pads? Right! Removal of buds located on the tops of annual shoots. In the first season, lateral shoots will appear, and in the second year buds with flowers will form on them, therefore, with fruits - in summer or autumn. Years will go by and such branches will literally grow into small sprigs, and so it will be five or six years, after which the fruit links, without a twinge of conscience, will need to be completely removed, transferring to any shoot that can replace the deleted one and so on to infinity.
That's all we wanted to tell about the rejuvenation of the apple tree. In this article we tried to convey everything as accessible and understandable as possible. But if you still have questions - feel free to write about them in the comments, we will be happy to answer!