Country Lore: Pruning Old Fruit Trees Helps Them Bear More Fruit

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Along with a little fertilizer and mulch, you'll find pruning old fruit trees restores their vitality makes harvesting the fruit easier.

There are majestic, old fruit trees all over the United States. Although these trees are beautiful, many are not producing as much fruit as they could be. With a little fertilizer and some careful pruning, neglected fruit trees can make a full comeback and be more productive.

Late winter and early spring are the best times for pruning old fruit trees. This should be done before the new buds appear but after the temperature is above 20 degrees Fahrenheit. First, head the tree back to about 8 feet in height to make it easier to manage.

Inspect the tree for damaged, diseased, and dead branches and remove them. Also remove any branches that are weak, cross each other, grow downward, or have narrow crotches. Clip away any suckers growing from the lower portion of the trunk or up from the roots. Make all the cuts flush with the main branch without damaging the bark. Leave one major limb to serve as the central leader, and keep any nice branches that reach outward to form a scaffold.

Later in the spring, spread some compost or well-rotted manure, which will feed the tree. Apply the mulch in a thick layer under the canopy from the drip line to about 18 inches from the trunk of the tree. If you place mulch too close to the trunk, it will encourage rodents that may damage the bark. Straw or fall leaves work well as mulch for trees. After these simple steps, the tree will produce more fruit for years to come.

Holly Fuller
Bayfield, Colorado