The Accidental Smallholder Forum

Growing => Fruit => Topic started by: doganjo on October 04, 2013, 11:23:15 am

Title: Apples
Post by: doganjo on October 04, 2013, 11:23:15 am
I have 6 or 7 apple trees of varying varieties, all planted when i moved here 5 years ago - unlabeled Morrison's is the common factor. :innocent:  My crab apple produced loads of tiny fruit two years ago, very few last year and none this year, although there was blossom; and has a lovely red glow most of the year but this year and last it has been covered in mildew.

Should I cut it down or can I save it.

The trees at the back are in grass and it gets very wet over the winter - there is a lot more fruit than last year but mostly have scab. 

What do i do with those trees.

At the front I have four more and a plum (absolutely super crop and delicious red plums in August - all eaten with fervour. :excited:)  Two apple trees split in the winds two years ago so are growing from the root stock only - I decided to leave them to see what happened.  One has no fruit but seems healthy enough, another has pale green apples with a pink blush that aren't ready yet, and again some of those have scab. 

Another tree has absolutely loads of lovely red apples but aren't ready to come off yet and a tested one is still hard, sharp and pale pips.  Windfall has been gathered and made into crumbles and frozen.

How can I improve things with these?
Title: Re: Apples
Post by: HesterF on October 04, 2013, 08:49:40 pm
Weird about the crab apple - normally quite vigorous. Have you got pictures? What form are you pruning them to? Did you keep the bases free of weeds for the first few years? Personally I wouldn't bother with the two that had split and are on root stock only.

Not really sure about mildew although I think if they're pruned properly, there should be lots of air circulating through the tree which should help sort that.

Title: Re: Apples
Post by: doganjo on October 04, 2013, 09:00:58 pm
I'll try to take photos tomorrow.

No idea how to prune except to try to make them goblet shaped.  The crab is very small - I just don't think it's thriving.  Pity as it's a pretty colour.  Never pruned it. It's the only one with mildew though, so maybe that's teh answer.  Could I feed it? And what with?

One of the root stock ones is a good fruiter normally - just got scab this year.  Apples taste fine when skin is off. It fruited a lot better last year but the apples were stolen -  well one was half eaten and discarded, they weren't ripe so the rest were removed and thrown all over the garden - I made chutney with those  :innocent:

All of them had a metre square of grass sod cut out, compost added, planted, well watered in, then gravel put round base.  I must admit with being unwell/unfit the grass hasn't been removed from the bases as much as usual in the last two years.. But there's no weeds there.

Title: Re: Apples
Post by: HesterF on October 04, 2013, 09:39:19 pm
There are some useful pruning clips on you tube - there's one series on renovating old apple trees (which is not what you've got but he knows what he's doing and gives you a lot of good info that can apply to all trees). My trees are all going to be half standard so just over a metre of trunk and then the idea is to get a wheel effect of branches going out. You want to take out any branches that point in towards the centre of the tree - you should be able to throw your hat up through it (apparently). You also don't want any that go straight up in general - except the trunk obviously and some styles have a central leader. If they go straight up, they're more likely to put the energy into growing those length wise rather than setting fruit. So for fruit you want branches going out horizontally. Generally if a tree is lacking vigour, giving it a strong prune back should prompt some reaction! But it is best to know roughly what you're doing otherwise you might end up with a lot of random growth which you then end up having to cut back again and so you enter a vicious cycle.

It's hard to know how big to expect them to be unless you know what root stocks they're on. Dwarfing root stocks will never make a big tree so it could be your crab apple is just on a small root stock. Also if they're not thriving, it's best to clear the whole ground around them - of grass as well (it still sucks up the water). I think it's more important in the first two or three years while they get their feet down but if yours are not happy, I'd give it a go (if you're not anti chemicals, the quickest way is weedkillers - that's how the commercial orchards do it).

No use on scab. I'll read up on it later! For feed, I guess you could just put some bonemeal around the base and then mulch with rotted manure (although on the top of the gravel, this might not work),

Title: Re: Apples
Post by: ellied on October 05, 2013, 10:23:55 am
OK, from limited experience but a lot of recent advice from experts, my interpretation is that pruning like a solid goblet is the opposite of what apples need, you want more of a bowl with space in the centre to let light in to the fruit and space for it all to hang.  Also, you don't do it all at once, use a 3 year cycle to shape a tree so it has a chance to adjust AND keep producing fruit, otherwise it's recovering instead of producing.  Too much foliage in the centre blocks light and warmth and I would say might contribute to the mildew issue tho other problems might be too close to other heavy hedging or dark damp spaces?

The previous description of pruning is better than mine but I'd suggest you leave the outside edges of the trees this year and take out a couple of central pieces, ideally ones that cross others or the centre, not all of it, just make a start.  And cut back taller leaders of this year's growth by a third to a half max.  Feed with manure and mulch after rain so it's trapping water in the soil rather than dry, and apparently what you put on this winter/spring will feed the following year's fruit not the same year.

The ones back to rootstock can possibly be regrafted, I've not learned that yet but it would be my intention to find out.  On its own the rootstock variety won't have the qualities you wanted in the fruit, that's why it's just rootstock, for its size rather than its produce.  I've been offered training in grafting by the orchard group secretary who is an expert grafter, but it's too soon yet, early next year.  I'll ask him next time I see him if regrafting to the same rootstock again would work or if it's better to start over.