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Orchard Restoration.

Whether you are restoring an old fruit tree or a neglected orchard it requires a commitment to a gradual, phased scheme of work. Frequently trees have been planted too close together or may have been left un-pruned for many years. As a result they end up congested producing small fruit on the outside of the tree.

Restoring a fruit tree back to a good condition which produces worthwhile crops involves a different approach than those used by many tress surgeons, who tend to reduce the height of a tree in one operation.

For a fruit tree doing this can have a harmful effect as it may produce a mass of vigorous water shoots which result in congestion in the centre of the tree. This wood is soft and sappy and liable to infection. This kind of approach really needs to be avoided.

Time has to be taken to open the canopy up to allow light in, which will develop fruit buds. With a considered plan a tree can be reduced in height and can invariably still produce a good crop of fruit. Much of this work needs to be staggered over a number of years. As a rule of thumb, you should not remove more than a third of the canopy in any one year.

Neglected trees in poor condition

The starting point here is to assess why the tree is in a poor condition in the first place and see what can be done to remedy the underlying problem. For instance, sometimes the drainage of the land can change due to a variety of reasons, which can result in adverse soil conditions such as pH or poor soil structure. Ultimately remedying underlying problems is in the trees best interest, rather than just removing the tree.

Animals, competing vegetation, shade from buildings can all be factors in tree ill health. Where a fruit tree looses its leaves early in the season, it is usually due to stress, either by water shortage or nutrient depravation, as seen in young container grown trees whose leaves turn yellow. In such instances application of organic mulch, such as composted green woody waste can be beneficial.

Fruitscape has experience in caring for old trees and offers a restoration service. If you have an old fruit tree in need of some care and attention please contact Fruitscape  .

Should you wish to undertake the work yourself, here is a six point guide

  • 1. As with any pruning remove any dead, dieing or damaged branches. Think larger branches rather than the fine growth, those that need a saw rather than secateurs. For the most part you will be cutting back to healthy growth.
  • 2. Remove branches that are growing the wrong way - they want to be going outwards not back into the crown of the tree.
  • 3. Next are the crossing branches, here you need to stand back and look at the tree from several positions to decide which branch to remove.
  • 4. Deal with branches that are too high, too low and too spreading. Having done all this you will start to have a framework to work with.
  • 5. Then it is a question of overcrowding. This is the enemy - congestion limits light and air flow.
  • 6. To help prevent fungal infections spreading, paint over large wounds with a fungicidal paint such as Medo

The best advice I can give is to take your time, follow the steps in order. Yes you are likely to go around the tree a few / several times, but by following the steps you avoid being too drastic and being left with a stump.

Winter pruning encourages growth, so don't be surprised to see lots of new growth next season. Come summer, the new growth can be thinned to select new branches.

It will probably take three to five years to get the tree back into the full swing of things.

Please remember that Fruitscape has experience in caring for old trees and offers a restoration service. If you have an old fruit tree in need of some care and attention please contact Fruitscape  .