Jeffross1968
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Apple Trees in Ground 3 Years - How to Make it Fruit?

So when we moved into our current house, we planted 2 apple trees. They are different and cross polinators. Only a month or so after they were planted, a storm hit which knocked down a big tree which fell on both of them. We cut the trees off, and staked them up and they've done very well since then. As far as growth is concerned. Providing apples...not so much.

2 years ago 1 of the trees had one flower. Last year, the other tree had one flower. That's it. They are now huge and I'd like to do whatever I can to get them to produce this year. I know nothing about pruning apple trees or fertilizer for them.

Our soil is heavy clay. As for fertilizing, I have to be careful because 20ish feet from the trees are a chicken coop, and they free range. So they have full access to the trees. I'm sure they've done some fertilizing already, LOL.

So can anyone give me some tips to get these things kicking? The single flower each year thing has been a bit perplexing...

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Re: Apple trees in ground 3 years now...

No poop, more bark mulch. By the size of them it sounds like they're getting enough N, they need more carbon.
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applestar
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Re: Apple trees in ground 3 years now...

Need to know the cultivars to accurately describe how to prune, I think. It will be time to prune apple trees around mid- February to early March assuming your weather pattern is similar to *my* Zone 6b -- though your location is further south so maybe your last average frost is earlier? (Mine is late April so by that count, apple pruning is approximately 2 months before.)

Also, when you cut and staked up the trees, you didn't cut below their grafts, right?

Are the trees getting enough sun? (I'm sure the big tree falling helped with that somewhat)
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JONA878
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Re: Apple trees in ground 3 years now...

Hi Jeff.
As Star says...are you sure that when you cut the trees after the accident you did not cut below the graft union. This is where the apple tree itself is grafted to the root system...which is not a fruiting apple at all.
If you cut above that union then a couple of things spring to mind as to why you are not getting flowerbuds forming.
Firstly your trees are growing far too strongly. If there is so much nitrogen in the soil from the chicken manure ( a source of very high nutrients) then the trees growth will rocket away.
Cutting the tree with a multitude of cuts will just accelerate the rate of growth. Growth follows the knife.
It's better to make just two or three big cuts...removing larger branches that are heading skyward.
If possible any branch that is supple enough try to tie it down to as near 45 degrees as you can. This will slow the branches growth rate and let good light fall along its length to encourage fruit bud formation.
Until the tree starts to slow down in its growth rate ..hold off fertilising.
Best of luck...
An apple a day.....keeps me in work.

Jeffross1968
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Re: Apple trees in ground 3 years now...

I made a bit of a mistake in the first post when I said I cut the trees. I meant to say that we cut the fallen tree off of the apple trees, and then staked them to stand up. I can probably use hardware cloth around the trees to cut off the nitrogen from chicken poop, but it won't cut it all off.

So with that mistake in mind...what would you suggest? I'll post a couple pics, but they aren't very good because everything is so bare right now. These trees are probably 15 feet tall at this point.

Image

Image

JONA878
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Re: Apple trees in ground 3 years now...

If they were mine Jeff I would take the leaders off them now leaving them around 12ft high. I would remove the strong branches above 10ft leaving behind the weaker ones. This would discourage the tree from drawing strength up to the top and help the lower limbs.
The lower branches still look weak enough to bend over without breaking so I would tie these down as much as possible.
Plastic bags with soil or rocks sited on the ground under the branch would do the trick...tied to the branches with string using a non-slip knot to avoid damaging the branch.. After a couple of months of growing in the spring they would stay in the position and the bags can be removed.
This would turn the trees into centre leader or spindle trees.
Keeping the topmost branches of the tree weak and not allowing any high branch to become dominant by removing strong ones each year controls the tendency of the tree to reach for the sky and keeps the main cropping down where you can reach it easily.
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Teddy12b
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Re: Apple trees in ground 3 years now...

Jeff,
I'm new to having an orchard, and my trees have only been in the ground almost a year at this point so I don't have anywhere close to the same size that you do. I've been watching you tube videos of "Dave Wilsons Nursery" long before I ever signed up on this site and I have to say that those videos are a wealth of information. The best advice I could give you is to watch some of that guys videos and I think anyone would benefit from it.

Personally, I don't plan on trying to grow tall central leader types of trees. I'm going to try and keep my trees low and steady producing. If those trees were on my land I'd probably be cutting them to about half their present size and thinning them out. I think you've got a lot of things going for you with the chickens fertilizing your trees and helping them grow, but it looks like they've gotten away you because they've grown so fast.

What's your goal for these trees? Are you looking for full size standard trees, or something that'll produce apples and be easy to pick?

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Gary350
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Re: Apple trees in ground 3 years now...

I use to work in an apple orchard and I learned first hand from my own apple tree.

#1. Your apple tree needs 12 hours of full sun every day especially while apples are getting ripe. A cloudy over cast day is not full sun. If the sky is full of cumulus clouds that is probably 50% full sun. If your yard has shade trees that shade your apple tree cut them down. If your apple tree makes apples that never get ripe it needs more sun.

#2. Fertilize the tree with 15/15/15 fertilizer 1 day every week. Sprinkle the fertilizer all around the trunk of the tree in a 3 ft radius of the tree. When the tree gets larger increase the radius and increase the fertilizer. Judging by your photo I would use about 1/2 cup if fertilizer each time. Water the fertilizer with about 5 gallons of water each time.

#3. One of the biggest mistakes most people make is not pruning their tree enough. You should let your tree grow for about 5 years before you try too hard to get good apples. You want the tree to develop a very large root system. The root system should be 2 times larger than the tree. Trim the tree in freezing cold weather only Nov to Jan is best. Let the tree trunk grow straight up but not too tall, usually no taller than 15 ft. Let several large limb grow horizontal. Cut off all the vertical limbs. Cut the horizontal limbs so they are rather short about 6 feet long other wise they will get heavy with apples and it brakes the limbs off. Keep the large main limbs trimmed too don't let them become a brush pile of limbs. Trimming a tree is an art. Don't worry it is better to cut off to much than not enough. After the tree blossoms start spraying once a week with fruit tree spray.

If your soil is poor there is not a whole lot you can do. I would put peat moss all around the trees in a 5 ft radius 6" deep. Apple trees have a shallow root system the peat moss will help hold the moisture on the roots. If you trim a tree too late in the season the tree will not even try to make apples that year. A good strong 6 foot long limb 3" or 4" diameter will be 8 feet long at the end of the summer with all the new growth and have 2 bushel baskets of apples. Don't forget to prune your tree every winter. It is hard to get accustom to cutting off 60% of the new growth every winter, your doing the tree a favor. A correctly trimmed tree will produce 20 bushel baskets of apples.

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ReptileAddiction
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Re: Apple trees in ground 3 years now...

I am sorry but I strongly disagree with Gary. Fertilizing an apple tree every week is ridiculous. I recommend fertilizing once a year in the spring then using compost the rest of the year as a mulch. If you fertilize every week then 95% of it will not even be used by the tree. I also highly disagree with using peat. It is a non renewable resource that has very little nutritional value. Your tree will do much better if you use compost which will also improve your soil. Furthermore when peat dries out it is very hard to re-moisten so the water will just run off.

I do agree though with removing the central leader and just overall getting the tree size down. I also agree that the chickens need to be kept away from the trees. I would do a small fence 3 feet out from the tree in all directions. Goodluck!

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hendi_alex
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Re: Apple trees in ground 3 years now...

I planted several dwarf apple trees in containers year before last. One tree gave us two apples last year, or the second year from planting. Am optimistic that this year will give us a meaningful amount of fruit. Dwarf trees should produce in 3-5 years. Standard trees usually take much longer to fruit. It could be that your trees have developed top growth much more rapidly than the root system has expanded. If these are standard trees, maybe you are still 2-3 years away from getting a decent bloom. I agree that lower nitrogen may be in order, but perhaps boost the P and K, maybe scatter some wood ashes. Lower nitrogen and slower growth also will help reduce the risk of fire blight which can be a problem in the southeast. We have to plant resistant varieties because the blight is so bad in our planting area.
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Gary350
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Re: Apple trees in ground 3 years now...

ReptileAddiction wrote:I am sorry but I strongly disagree with Gary. Fertilizing an apple tree every week is ridiculous. I recommend fertilizing once a year in the spring then using compost the rest of the year as a mulch. If you fertilize every week then 95% of it will not even be used by the tree. I also highly disagree with using peat. It is a non renewable resource that has very little nutritional value. Your tree will do much better if you use compost which will also improve your soil. Furthermore when peat dries out it is very hard to re-moisten so the water will just run off.

I do agree though with removing the central leader and just overall getting the tree size down. I also agree that the chickens need to be kept away from the trees. I would do a small fence 3 feet out from the tree in all directions. Goodluck!
Jeffross1968 says he has clay soil. Where I lived in TN the soil was clay, my apple tree made no apples without fertilizer. 1/2 cup of fertilizer once a week is not a big deal for a tree that size, the plant will starve to death in poor soil. The best he can do for the tree is cover the ground with 6" peat moss and compost and fertilize so the roots will grow up into it. I almost forgot to mention not to fertilize when the summer temperature gets above 80 degrees. Fertilize in the spring starting as soon as the tree starts to make leaves then no fertilizer after it gets hot. Then fertilizes a couple of times in the fall.

JONA878
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Re: Apple trees in ground 3 years now...

Gary350 wrote:
ReptileAddiction wrote:I am sorry but I strongly disagree with Gary. Fertilizing an apple tree every week is ridiculous. I recommend fertilizing once a year in the spring then using compost the rest of the year as a mulch. If you fertilize every week then 95% of it will not even be used by the tree. I also highly disagree with using peat. It is a non renewable resource that has very little nutritional value. Your tree will do much better if you use compost which will also improve your soil. Furthermore when peat dries out it is very hard to re-moisten so the water will just run off.

I do agree though with removing the central leader and just overall getting the tree size down. I also agree that the chickens need to be kept away from the trees. I would do a small fence 3 feet out from the tree in all directions. Goodluck!
Jeffross1968 says he has clay soil. Where I lived in TN the soil was clay, my apple tree made no apples without fertilizer. 1/2 cup of fertilizer once a week is not a big deal for a tree that size, the plant will starve to death in poor soil. The best he can do for the tree is cover the ground with 6" peat moss and compost and fertilize so the roots will grow up into it. I almost forgot to mention not to fertilize when the summer temperature gets above 80 degrees. Fertilize in the spring starting as soon as the tree starts to make leaves then no fertilizer after it gets hot. Then fertilizes a couple of times in the fall.

I'm afraid its a big mistake to think that clay makes for the need for greater requirements for fertiliser.
The clay colloid is in fact one of the best types of soil for retaining fertiliser as it does not leach the nutrients out anywhere near so quickly as the lighter soils do.
Yes it will water log easier and needs more attention in the first few years of a trees growth....but once the tree is established it will make control of the growth of the tree much easier.
Also it usually is a more neutral soil as regards PH.
We grow our orchards here on the Sussex Wealden clay....and it don't get much denser than that stuff.
Providing the soil is given plenty of organic material added at planting there should be no need for fertiliser other than an annual topping up with a general mixture and a good mulching to help keep moisture in the soil.
Excess of nitrogen in the soil....and chicken manure can rapidly give this....will induce the tree to grow too strongly at the expense of producing fruit bud. Also large amounts of nitrogen in the fruit will affect the storage quality of the fruit and may well assist the cause of Bitter Pit problems in some varieties, although Calcium deficiency is the main culprit.
If a tree appears to need a rapid pick-me-up in the summer months through heavy crop etc. then a quick response can be given by a direct spray of Urea of liquefied sea weed extract.
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ReptileAddiction
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Re: Apple Trees in Ground 3 Years - How to Make it Fruit?

I also have clay soil and fruit trees do phenomenal here. I live up the street from a few orchards and I know for a fact that they do not fertilize every week. These are trees we are talking about, the same things that burst pipes. I do not think clay soil is a problem for an apple tree. Furthermore why would the tree have to grow up into the mulch? If you put 6 inches of peat moss around the base of a tree I can almost guarantee you that the tree will get phytophthora and be dead in less than three years. I also do not think that if a tree already has too much nitrogen the answer is not giving it more! Especially at such a high ratio as was suggested.

With this tree I do not think you want more growth. That is most likely why it is not fruiting. It has grown to fast to have time to develop spur wood to fruit on. I definitely think that pruning it hard and removing the chickens will give you fruit 1-2 years down the line.

Jeffross1968
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Re: Apple trees in ground 3 years now...

Teddy12b wrote:Jeff,
I'm new to having an orchard, and my trees have only been in the ground almost a year at this point so I don't have anywhere close to the same size that you do. I've been watching you tube videos of "Dave Wilsons Nursery" long before I ever signed up on this site and I have to say that those videos are a wealth of information. The best advice I could give you is to watch some of that guys videos and I think anyone would benefit from it.

Personally, I don't plan on trying to grow tall central leader types of trees. I'm going to try and keep my trees low and steady producing. If those trees were on my land I'd probably be cutting them to about half their present size and thinning them out. I think you've got a lot of things going for you with the chickens fertilizing your trees and helping them grow, but it looks like they've gotten away you because they've grown so fast.

What's your goal for these trees? Are you looking for full size standard trees, or something that'll produce apples and be easy to pick?
I literally just want some apples. I'm not picky. To have some apples to eat, and maybe some to can...that's my goal.

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ReptileAddiction
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Re: Apple Trees in Ground 3 Years - How to Make it Fruit?

I do recommend pruning them though. A tree that size will be extremely hard to spray, prune, and harvest from.

Teddy12b
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Re: Apple trees in ground 3 years now...

Jeffross1968 wrote:I literally just want some apples. I'm not picky. To have some apples to eat, and maybe some to can...that's my goal.

I know where you're coming from. My goals are to just have some healthy pesticide free apples that I can pick in my own backyard. I don't expect high production from any of the trees and I've tried to make up for that by adding more trees. Right now I've got a dozen apple trees in the ground right now of different varieties. I'm hoping the varieties will cross pollinate and produce apples over a longer duration of the year.

Unfortunately for me, I've got a long time to go before I can catch up to where you and your tree are. Mine are about 6' trees that have been in the ground only almost a year in some cases. You're trees are huge compared to mine, let alone where they're going to be after I prune them and hack some of them in half.

As big as your trees are I would think you'd be able to prune and them and fertilize them with something and get apples this year. For as big as they are, I don't see why you wouldn't have already had apples. Are you getting any flowers blooming on the trees at all? Could pollination be the issue?

I'm a firm believer that plants, animals and humans can reach an understanding. I would go put a hand on these trees and have a little pep talk while running a chainsaw in the other.

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Re: Apple Trees in Ground 3 Years - How to Make it Fruit?

Frustrating isn't it Jeff.
I still think the major problem that you have got with your trees is that they are just too vigorous at the moment.
An apple tree will quite willingly grow rather than fruit in its younger years. It then has to be persuaded to produce fruit bud and slow down its upright growth rate. The best way of doing that is to get those lower branches into as near horizontal as possible so that the sap run is slowed down and they receive good light along their length to promote fruit bud formation. Anything higher up the tree ( other than the main centre leader ) should be removed if it has grown as thick or thicker than those lower branches. Leaving weaker growth at the top of the tree.
If this is not done then the tree will continue to push its growth into the higher branches and the base will get progressively weaker.
You finish up with what is called a 'Bottle Brush' effect.
This applies to any centre leader tree and yours have been allowed to grow as centre leaders.
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Re: Apple Trees in Ground 3 Years - How to Make it Fruit?

FWIW here are some examples from my garden of what JONA is talking about --
These trees are being trained to Belgian Fence style inspired espalier -- bending the branches to 30-45° angle. You can see how they get loaded with fruits despite the small size of the trees -- the fence behind them is 5 FT tall. They were planted as whips and feathered (I think is the right term -- a year older than whip) saplings 4-5 yrs ago after I became a member of this forum. (I've posted threads about them over the years)
:arrow: https://www.helpfulgardener.com/forum/vi ... 42#p131442
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ReptileAddiction
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Re: Apple Trees in Ground 3 Years - How to Make it Fruit?

I agree with Jona 100%

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