Do you have an apple tree that looks a bit worse for wear and does not really produce fruit anymore? If the tree is very old and approaching its 100-year life expectancy, then it may not be worth trying to revive it. However, if you know for a fact that a tree has plenty of yeas left, then it is worth your while to put a little work into it to revive it and encourage it to produce again. Here's a look at four things you'll need to do in order to revive an ailing apple tree.
Have the tree properly pruned.
A lack of pruning may well be the reason your apple tree has begun to suffer. When a fruit tree is not pruned regularly, enough sun and air can't reach the inner branches. As a result, these branches stop producing fruit. A lack of exposure to sunlight and air also makes fungal infections more likely, and while these diseases may not immediately threaten the life of the tree, they will cause it to stop producing and may give it a ragged look, killing off some of the older branches.
Trees must be pruned in the late winter or early spring before any new growth appears, or you'll just be making matters worse by weakening the tree. Your tree care expert will focus on pruning away any branches that are broken, infected, or crossing over others. A primary goal will be to thin the center of the tree, increasing air flow. It's important, when trying to achieve this goal, that the "right" branches are removed. Accidentally removing too much new growth and leaving only old growth may cause the tree to die back further. Thus, a tree care expert who can easily tell the difference between new and old branches should complete this task.
Spray the tree.
Apple trees are susceptible to many fungal infections, from cedar apple rust to powdery mildew disease. If your tree has not been well cared for over the past few years, it probably has at least one of these infections, which will cause fruit and leaves to drop prematurely and may also cause lesions to form on the branches. Eradicating the fungus will allow the tree to regain its strength and hopefully start producing fruit again.
Have the tree sprayed with fungicides in the early spring, just after the buds appear. Repeat the application just before the flower buds open, and then every 10 days throughout the spring.
Fertilizing an apple tree is pretty simple, and you can likely do this part yourself, even if you hire someone to spray and prune the tree. Visit a local garden store, and purchase a fertilizer made specifically for orchard trees. This will guarantee it has the right balance of nutrients for your apple tree. A generic fertilizer may be too high in nitrogen, which can cause your tree to produce many new leaves, but not enough fruit.
Follow the instructions on the label to apply the fertilizer. Generally, you'll need to dilute the fertilizer with water and then spread it out in a large circle around the tree's trunk. Don't simply pour the fertilizer in one spot near the trunk, as it may not actually come into contact with the roots. Fertilize the tree once in the spring before the buds appear. Fertilizing later in the year is not recommended because it may cause the tree to start developing new growth rather than preparing itself for winter.
An apple tree that has become a little run down and stopped producing is not a lost cause. By following the steps above, you can revitalize it and hopefully have delicious apples again within a growing season or two. Keep in mind that you may need to adhere to these steps for several years in a row before the tree comes back to full health. For more information, contact a local tree service like Schulhoff Tree & Lawn Care, Inc.
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