On the local Freecycle cafe list a post from Leslie appeared offering his services to not just prune people’s apple trees but show the, teach them and generally discuss the ideas behind pruning and growing the trees. It is not just all about the fruit but instead there is no reason why a properly looked after fruit tree should not last for years, even hundreds of years. For those lucky trees just imagine what they have seen in their long life, the different people and methods used to look after them and the countless people getting their own enjoyment from them.
I was most interested and took him up on his offer. We have the small apple tree in the front of unknown origin and while we have had apples on it, these last years it has been more whooley aphids than apples and really a sad looking idea of a tree. I was more than interested to listen and learn from Leslie what he had to say and see just what he did and more importantly understand why.
It was soon quick to see that this apple tree was in a bad way. The cats had not helped with their years of clawing at the bark which had stripped a lot of it away near the base which really did not go well for the rest of it with a possible inlet for disease and certainly a big restriction in the trunk. The tree then was a bit of a mess, crossed over branches, branches competing with each other, and most important in the complete jumble of branches there was no air flow. He explained that these trees need air flow, part of the reason why we have suffered so badly from whooley aphids in the past was most likely due to lack of air flow.
I watched and listened and took note as he thinned out the branches, reshaping the tree removing the middle leaders and getting it into something that might have a bit more chance. It was too near the fence which was a disadvantage, so the hope would be to encourage it over the years to get over the top of the fence. He showed and made me understand the importance of cutting away the bark on a big cut in order to prevent water and disease getting in under the bark at the cut but instead to encourage over time for the bark to grow back over the top, forming a type of waterproof lip.
As the photos below show, the end result was a lot of wood removed and a much leaner, much cleaner looking tree ready for growth and a new year. Possibly still a bit unbalanced and so the recommendation of weighting down one of the branches with string for a year in order to help spread it out a bit would be good.
In all an interesting morning with an interesting bloke who certainly knows these trees and can sympathise with them. It seems everyone has an apple or pear tree in their garden, but not a lot of people know just how to handle them.