40 sad and neglected apple/pear/asian pear trees need your guidance! or should I get rid of them?

I don’t think the orchard ladder looks silly!! I want one now!!! Those are so clever!

If you want pears, plant them now. They take 3-10 years to produce fruit. My Comice in a corner of my small yard has been shaded too much by my neighbor’s having let his yard grow wild and tall since I planted it; it’s eight years old and has yet to produce a single flower.

As for peaches, I’m a regular customer at Andy Mariani’s farm in Morgan Hill, CA; Andy is famous for growing (and also developing) stone fruits that taste good. Kit Donnell is his creation, and that and the Baby Crawford that he rescued when UCDavis was going to toss it for the fruit being too small to be commercially viable are the best tasting peaches there are. (His Kit Donnells are huge.)

However. If peach leaf curl disease is a problem in your area, skip the spraying by getting a variety that isn’t susceptible to it. Indian Free is very good but needs a pollinator; I have it and Frost planted and usually they flower at the same time but sometimes they don’t. There are other resistant varieties but I’d have to go look them up.

I didn’t really have room for another peach but I planted a Baby Crawford anyway after tasting Andy’s.

I put an Erva bunny cage around the trunks of my peaches and purposely did not anchor them to the soil–I wanted them to rattle when climbed up on. The raccoons went from nightly raids to not touching a thing and even the squirrels seem to avoid them because they can’t run down the trunk to the ground without being in a cage–one they would have no problem getting out of, but it seems to mess with their little brains. I’m fine with that.

The Dave Wilson Nursery site is a good place to look up basic info on individual varieties of fruit trees.

Good luck! What a fabulous place you have!

Part two: Person with 40 trees needs guidance on pruning! - I am editing this to ask some specific questions about the trees below after @evilpaul gave me some advice.

Thank you everyone who has chimed in to help and comment. I was very worried that everyone would say these were a lost cause and I should give up! So, I am definitely going to keep them. Now, I will need help with taking care of them.

I have read as much as I could about pruning and watched videos and such. I decided to remove anything branches dead or in trouble as a start. I feel like things are going well with the two groups of trees I described and sent pics of. However, my dog and I were nosing around and I found 10 more fruit trees on my property which I believe are VERY TROUBLED. They are the furthest from the house and likely the most neglected. I will likely start a new thread for help, since some of them are so strange.

One looks like Callery pear and another tree are melded together. Another looks like an alien attacked it and something terrible is going on. A third I just have NO IDEA -how I can possibly “prune” this? it is all wrapped around itself like it’s giving itself a hug.

  1. In this picture I think the rootstock- callery? has a giant limb almost as big as the intended tree that branches out about 6in. above the ground. Do I just cut this whole tree down? Do I cut off the callery side? I have no idea.

Half callery maybe?

  1. In both of the next two, the trees are likely to be dead and the root stock seems to be going crazy. It seems like it should be worth it to save or dig up some of the rootstock. If I wanted to use it in place and graft onto it is that possible? If I wanted to dig up rootstock as suggested, how does one even go about that with a big clump like that?

I think this is a rootstock problem?

Oh dear lord what happened to this tree?

  1. I think I am going to have to put this one off until the weekend! It’s just too much for me!
    Oh dear G*d how do I prune this?
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First pic looks like one of the trunks is the rootstock as you surmised.

The second looks like rootstock suckers grew out and were left to their own devices for maybe five years?

Third is a thick mess of rootstock growth. You might be able to break off/dig up some and use them to start new trees.

The fourth/last pic I’d prune off the vertical branch that comes out of the trunk on the left and winds its way up through the tree. I assume the bark on the main trunk is split off because a branch that would have been facing the camera ripped off a couple years ago under fruit load/wind/whatever. You might cut it back to a few inches below where the bark is missing and try to get some new regrowth above that.

I’m not sure how much risk that would present of the branch I pointed at in blue also coming off on its own later with so little live trunk above it.

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Thanks! I don’t think I can face the one with all huge vertical branches until the weekend. I’ll go back to it then.

I would draw out a plot and name the trees and next summer try to figure out what is what. Every tree with a close shot looks like an Asian pear so you might not have much else. Either that or you didn’t take pictures of the other trees.

The trees definitely need a good pruning this winter, that will help them do better for you next year. If you can get someone to help you it would make a big difference, it is very hard the first year to figure how how much and what to remove.

Yes, I do think many are asian pear. The ones that had fruit that I saw last fall did look like asian pears. I was under the impression that asian pear wouldn’t grow on callery rootstock? So I do wonder if there are more things there. For the ones that are in this asian pear/maybe pear/maybe apple group, I’ll definitely do the pruning and then note each one and see what happens!!! I’m sure I’ll be sharing pictures.

I also have some peach and a few mysteries. My understanding is that peach trees don’t last that long and if they’re 20 years old it’s better to get new trees. I AM going to see what they do this spring/summer before touching the peach trees or the mystery trees.

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There are many types of callery and callery hybrids. Years ago like you i thought most asian pears would not grow on callery. That was my experience at that time. I was mistaken, later finding out that they would not grow well on certain callery. The callery i originally used for rootstock were not fully compatible with asian pears. The majority of wild callery and domestic callery that are sold now asian pears grow very well on them. Wild callery are no longer just callery genetics and some unique crosses with other types of pears and pear rootstocks exist.

I wanted to update with my progress and thank everyone who helped me and gave advice. I would have had no idea what to do without all of you!

I continue to uncover fruit trees on my property. I am up to 53 fruit trees and a few “maybe a fruit tree” trees! I took advice and made a map and started recording each tree so I can track them. I had to give them numbers and tags!!! Even yesterday, I found a peach tree buried under a giant pile of invasive jasmine and behind an arborvitae. Two weeks, ago I found two peach trees completely surrounded by the most enormous autumn olive “trees” I have ever seen. They were in a “row” with some pear trees that I didn’t realize was a row because of the autumn olives.

The “maybe a fruit tree” trees are ones where I can’t tell if they’re ornamental or fruiting. The original owners of my property had interesting ideas about tree placement so sometimes that isn’t very telling and with all the neglect, sometimes it’s hard to tell if trees are actually in a grid or row or a garden area or just… there.

I have spent the last two months pruning every day after work. I have only taken down dead branches and things that are obviously awful (rubbing and shoots that grow straight up from obvious places). I am sure more could be pruned, but I’m not even completely done with the obvious stuff, so pruning will be just that this year.

I have taken advice from @clarkinks and gotten a very long extension pole and very long pole saw for my enormous pear trees. Even my peach trees are quite tall. The deer here are aggressive and so it is probably good the trees are so tall, but still I’m learning to cope with it. An arborist came out and gave me a lesson in pruning and also in tree climbing! Several of my apple/pear trees are large enough (or near enough to a large tree), that using arborist climbing equipment is reasonable. I was worried about hurting the trees, but after I saw how it worked, I am more confident and I do feel safer in a harness than I do on a ladder. The arborist does furniture wood, but at least could help me to learn about healthy strong branches vs not and check on my basic pruning technique.

After consulting with people in the area and reading this forum, I am spraying my trees. I have done 1 horticultural oil spray on some trees so far, with varying success. It is hard to spray very large trees. I have a backpack sprayer (battery powered) which I have attached a long tube to and I’ve stuck the sprayer end on one of my long poles. Plans for a fungicide (non-organic type) next. After my soil test I have put down a small amount of nitrogen only fertilizer - and I’m trying to figure out how to use elemental sulfur.

Most of the pears are still in bud stages but a few have tight clusters of green. A couple of the peaches have some blooms (mostly still buds). I hope they keep not blooming because we’re supposed have some nights with temps in the 22-25 range.

Thanks again and I’m happy to receive any advice on anything you want to tell me but especially:

  1. How to spray enormous trees. I have a respirator with VOC cartridge on it and I fully cover myself, but it still seems like I’m doing this wrong.

  2. How to tell if a tree is ornamental or fruiting without waiting to see if it produces fruit.

  3. What to do with elemental sulfur (recommended by extension). High pH (due to limestone). I understand how it works when planting new trees/garden bed but confused about how they want me to use it on established trees. Do I just sprinkle it around the base like you do for the fertilizer?


I have high pH also, just broadcast sulphur over established areas or use gypsum if I’m also battling clay.

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Would recommend adding some copper spray in the future while applying other sprays. Would only spray it once or twice a year. Early spring and late fall are ideal times to spray copper. It helps with various bacterial problems.


Do you have plans to sell the huge harvests that are likely coming?

I hope I have huge harvests!!! If I do have huge harvests, I will definitely be driving some of it up to my friends in MD! :wink: My parents are there so I can visit them and deliver fruit!

I bought this house over a year ago but last summer I was so busy dealing with things like the roof and plumbing, I barely got a chance to look at the fruit trees. I did take some pictures of a few of the trees when they had fruit on them. However, I had only found ~20 of the fruit trees at that point! So many are mysteries.

However, I tasted and picked zero of this fruit. =( All the peaches except 3 disappeared while I wasn’t looking (did they drop? were they eaten?) Then, I decided to wait one more day to pick the 3 peaches that stayed on this tree and they were GONE. I’m pretty sure they were eaten by wildlife because they looked perfect. By the time I got around to looking at the apples and pears, there were no fruits on those trees either. I will obviously be paying better attention this year!

Also, I’ve found more trees!

Wow this tree looks so much better since I trimmed all the dead branches off:

Look- apples- way way up high:

An Asian pear?