How to Rejuvenate Old Fruit Trees

How to Rejuvenate Old Fruit Trees


Do you have an old, neglected fruit tree in your yard and you’re not sure what to do with it? Well here’s the good news, you can renovate it and start enjoying that heirloom fruit again, I’ll show you how. Before you begin you’ll need to decide if the tree is worth saving. Does it produce fruit that you enjoyed using or would it be better to replace it with another variety. Does it have a sound trunk that is free from rot? Is it plagued by fire blight scab or other diseases. If you’re tree is hollow or severely diseased renovating it won’t help it live much longer. The major pruning involved in restoration could stress it to the point of killing it, or if successful can result in the now heavy fruit load breaking unsound branches. Keeping a disease or insect infested tree may also be a risk to nearby healthy trees. If your tree has serious problems you may want to just replace it rather than rejuvenate it. If it’s an heirloom variety that you like you may want to take some cuttings before taking the tree down and you can propagate later. The other consideration is the type of fruit tree that you want to renovate. Pears and apples can be most successfully renovated. Cherries peaches and nectarines are difficult to renovate. It’s typically easier to just replace them. Whatever kind of tree you’re working on the renovation process will take three to four years to complete. The first step is to cut off any dead wood or branches and this can be done anytime of year but in the summer it’s a little bit easier see which branches are dead and which ones are alive. You also want to cut any suckers off growing from the bottom of the trunk or up from the ground. It’s almost time to really get started pruning. The second step should be done during the winter. Before you begin reshaping and resizing your tree step back and assess what you have to work with and how you want it to look in a few years, when you’re finished with the restoration. You might want to mark the branches you want to keep with weather resistant tags so you won’t get carried away or forget the plan later in the process. In the first year you will focus on removing up to one-third of the branches. Focusing on the branches that give too much height to the tree and to branches that are growing downwards or in towards the trunk. You should also remove the crossing and rubbing branches. When pruning for restoration, prune the branches all the way to their point of origin, not halfway along the branch. Remove any water sprouts that have grown in the upper level of the canopy, lower water sprouts can be thinned if needed, but otherwise left alone to become fruit- bearing branches in a few years. If these branches are growing upwards use limb spreaders to train them to grow at a 60 to 90 degree angle. You should also thin out the smaller branches to increase air circulation and sunlight within the canopy. Always select for horizontal or upward angle branches that are growing away from the trunk. The best fruit production will come from branches younger than 4 years old, so when deciding between two similar branches choose the younger. The final thinned spacing should have about one and a half to two feet between branches. Never cut more than one third of the canopy of the tree. That won’t help you renovate any faster, in fact cutting too much will actually make the tree re-grow faster and too much. So here in the first winter we’ve controlled the height of the tree by pruning a lot of the taller branches. We’ve cut all the dead branches off. We’re going to continue to prune a little bit more with crossover branches and branches growing into the tree but no more than one-third of the canopy. For the removal of a very large branch or very tall branches, you should get the help of a Certified Arborist. Stay tuned to next summer’s video where we continue the restoration of this mature fruit tree and grow organic for life! you

11 thoughts on “How to Rejuvenate Old Fruit Trees

  • We have an old apple tree on our property. Although we have planted around 55-60 new fruit trees (plum, apple, cherry, wild cherry, hazelnut, chestnut, mulberry, apricot, quince, plumcot) we have renovated the old tree as it still produces a good crop bi-annually. I am thinking about buying a fruit press to make apple juice, maybe cider.

  • I have been an arborist since the 1980s. This is an unusually good pruning video, for Youtube.

    I wish to remind people of good tools, used to make proper cuts. No stubs.

    Thanks,
    Michael.

  • Every video you have made you have taught so much and with such grace and humility. You are a classy lady. Thank you so much for your teaching.

  • I have a Question ?! I have bought some acherage that has a 30' pear tree and several peacon trees about the same height. Is it alright to cut a third of the tree off? IE from 30' to 20' ? Also the pear tree had some young suckers many years ago and now it looks like a companion tree. Is it alright to cut that sucker down now ??

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