Full Member
Posts: 13
Joined: Sun May 11, 2008 9:38 pm
Location: fingerlakes, ny

Pruning a LARGE, OLD Wild/Crab apple ??

We have two or three (they are all very close and twisted around so it's hard to tell) very LARGE, old apple trees in our yard..

They are currently blooming with their beautiful reddish pink flowers.. I noticed last week as my family and I were wandering around under them (my daughter LOVES to climb them) there is a lot of old dead branches..

Many of the branches have small new green leaves and then 6+ inches of dead twig that sticks out past the green leaves. Most times this extra length is dead and snaps loud and brittle.. (it's also brown and white in color inside)

I am curious as to:
how to go about pruning out this dead wood (can I get a ladder?)
Should I cut back anything that's alive?

Thanks so much for your help,
I can/will post pictures of them if anyone would like..
(they are really beautiful and strange w/ their contortions)
Thanks again,

Green Thumb
Posts: 439
Joined: Thu Nov 09, 2006 11:17 am
Location: Midcoast Maine, Zone 5b

Elle, please do post photos!

Generally, you can prune dead wood out of just about any woody plant at almost anytime. If you intend to cut into live wood the best time to prune apples in the Northeast and North Central U.S. (and proximate regions of Canada) tends to be March through mid to late April. August is also a good time if the tree is vigorous but don't summer prune a tree in poor health.

Usually apples develop quite congested growth and benefit from opening them up so if you're willing to wait until August, have good quality, sharp tools, and a reasonably good sense of what you are doing it might benefit the tree to thin it a bit. If you don't know what you are doing please hire someone who does as bad pruning is usually worse than no pruning.

For a ladder the best option is a tripod orchard ladder. These are far safer than step ladders which are meant for flat, level surfaces.

Full Member
Posts: 13
Joined: Sun May 11, 2008 9:38 pm
Location: fingerlakes, ny

Hopefully you can see how twisted their trunks are, and how much they must have had to fight to survive..
From across the yard

Tree (the one on the left in above pictures)

Other 2 trees (if you stand behind them and look between you can see the first tree, not even 5 feet away)

Close up of flowers

Super Green Thumb
Posts: 4659
Joined: Thu Oct 21, 2004 5:58 pm
Location: Victoria, BC

Lovely old tree! What you do with pruning is get a saw and a good pair of loppers and cut off any branches that cross one another to let in the light.

When you finished the tree will look a little bare for the first little while then it will start to fill in again.

There are a lot of good VR tutorials on the web you can look at.

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