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May 18, 2009 05:57 PM

Reviving very overgrown apple trees?

Our east coast property has 2 ancient apple trees, one Mac and one Russet, that we are trying to bring back. We are organic gardeners for the vegetable plot and I would like to go the all-natural route with these trees, too. All my reading suggests "go slow". They were part of a big orchard at one point and are still producing small mis-shapen fruit.

Last fall we did the first pruning and this fall we will do a full top crop and start to shape them into vases, opening out the centres. We also did some basic fertilizing, though I haven't done the requisite removing of grass from 8-feet around the base that one book says is necessary.

Anybody ever been successful with revitalizing apple trees? is this total removal of ground cover essential? is this even doable without the pesticides and anti-fungals the books seem to think are useful in such revivals?

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  1. I moved in with an old gnarly overgrown (to 3 stories tall) apple tree - pruning has taken the fruit from small and misshapen to normal sized and fine for applesauce.

    I don't know about the ground cover but I can guess the Why of it -- wormy apples comes from a cycle of the drops getting buggy and passing something on year to year. If you happen to have a pig or goat that would like to keep that clear for you, I'm sure that would work fine. But that's about the dropped fruit. I don't know why you need to remove grass and other plants. My experience it totally limited - I haven't gone at this full tilt, and my tree is in an urban backyard...

    Good luck!

    1. Thank you for your response-just knowing that it can be done, even to applesauce standard, is gratifying. Even the oddly shaped ones we have rescued so far made some very good apple crisps.

      Yes, I get that about the buggy drops...I will try that, plus organic fertilizing and the pruning before I go so far as to remove all that grassy/ground cover (a lot of work as I don't think my Cairn Terrier can be taught to imitate the recommended pig or goat!)