Introducing a newbe

Back in 2010 we purchased a property with 17 fruit trees. Plums, Apples, Cherrys, Pears. These trees were OLD, Tall and overgrown. For the first 5 years I concentrated on knocking them back. The second 5 years I concentrated on pruning by experiment. The result is horrible. I had tons of other projects to do to bring this old house up to speed. Having done that, (with a hundred other projects) its finally time to concentrate on pruning for fruit. Luckily I didn’t kill any of the trees due to over pruning. The Plums are the best producers. The apples the worst. I suspect some of the trees are too old to produce. I look forward to learning from others about the best ways to salvage 10 years of poor choices. I do have one initial question. Can I bend water sprouts to create more of a horizontal growth? All of the apple trees are full of water sprouts popping up from the old thick scaffolds.


Yes! In fact, they make good replacement branches for the limb from which they are growing if you tie them down. You can also graft new varieties to them, or cut them off and use the as scion wood for grafting elsewhere. you can probably bend some of them to be tangential to the main branch and horizontal, too, which will encourage them to spur up and fruit.

Keep in mind that they grow most vigorously when they’re point up - once they’re bent they will slow down some. Also, as they grow the tip will try to grow towards the sky, so you’ll need to keep tying them down as they lengthen.

They aren’t as prone to fruiting while they’re growing straight up.

Lots of people here know lots more about this than I do, but this’ll do for a start.


Thanks much, I have a ton of upward growth to work with LOL. I’ll start by trying to pull one down (tangential) looked that one up : ) to each main scaffold and thin out the other vertical growth.

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By the way, welcome to the group! : -)

If they’re too stiff to bend fairly close to the branch you might want to skip those and look for more supple ones. And also, if you bend one lengthwise to the main branch you could replace the main branch in a couple of years, which can have advantages too.

Mark provides excellent advice, assuming you have more than one apple tree, you may get better pollination if you graft scions of other varieties onto the top most branch of each tree. Check you cross pollination charts to select good choices. Crabapple works for most others. The same idea for plums, the more cross pollination you provide, the more fruit you get. I can provide these scions from my mature trees if you want them. Let me know by mid Feb the best cutting time here.
Apple: Cortland, Tompkins King, Chehalis, Golden Dorset lookalike, small unnamed yellow (good storage)
Plum: Empress, Stanley, Cherry Plum (excellent early cross pollinator)
Wild Goose. Several unnamed natives.
Kent, wa

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How To Prune Fruit Trees, by R. Sanford Martin. Start with the section titled “Training of young trees” - even though your trees are old. Use a chainsaw if necessary to produce the desired structure.

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Welcome to the forum! You might enjoy this thread A lesson in pruning pears . Pruning cuts can be a big deal. Prune stone fruit like plums in the summer and pears or apples in winter. Here is some information on pruning branches Proper healing of branches and this The right way to prune pear limbs . This has some great pruning tips When Pruning Pears theres a lot to learn - Brindilla, Tira savia, Chicken Paw to name a few terms

@DaveH As a newbie you are only allowed to post one picture per post, I believe, but please do post a photo of one particular tree and see what kind of advice people give you.

FWIW, pruning has always intimidated me and I feel like I’m only just now learning how to do it.I still get fruit anyway. But there are several people here who are genuinely expert, do it for a living, and are happy to share. They get better fruit than I do, probably.

As for the age of your trees, well, you might be surprised what they can do. I have a friend with an old Wealthy that just refuses to die and has been beat up from here to breakfast - but produces generously every year. I know some trees that were planted in 1906, were severely cut back, are are coming into production again.

Also, it’s a fine plan to jump through the new member hoops and fill out a little biographical information such are where you are, what zone you’re in, what other kind of gardening you do.


Thanks for the reply. Still getting to know the site. Got to find that area where you can fill out particulars on yourself. I have to really think about my “one” photo. I have where it’s at and my finished product to think about. If I can get both in one shot it may work out and people can tell me where I went wrong. I’m sure some of these trees are at least 60+ years old.

Perfect, I’ll read these articles! Thank you

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Click on your picture. When your name comes up, click on that. Click on FAQ. Click on the three bars at the top right hand of the page right by your picture. I think.


Mark, I’m getting back out in the orchard today. I have a couple big issues. One, I discovered a major limb on an apple tree that rotted out on the side. Never saw it. The result was infestation of “potato bugs” and a water filled trunk. My initial thought is to cut off the branch and fill the remaining hole with cement hopefully keeping the main trunk of the tree from deteriorating further. The second is the way I cut these back. Stupid of me. The trees were so big I should never have tried to horn them and cultivate a good structure from that. The first idea is probably a last ditch effort to save the tree.

I don’t know how that works and I’ll leave it to somebody who does.

As to the idea of horning a tree you might get away with it, so take your time.

I’d suggest that one your first pass through an overgrown tree you simply take out all the dead, diseased, and crossing branches. Then step back and see if you can identify a skeleton of major limbs you want to keep. And gradually work towards giving those limbs all the space they need by removing smaller branches that shoot off in bad directions. Do a bit at a time, taking off smaller wood first - that way the picture will open up for you and you can gradually refine it. (Don’t take off all the small wood, though, because that’s where your fruit forms)

OK here is a photo of the nastiest damaged tree. I created 2 in 1 to try to adhere to the one photo rule. The red dashed line is where I cut it off. I am going to try the cement thing after scraping out all the rotted stuff. Actually turned to ground coffee appearance inside. I also found a odd looking bug in there. I suspect it’s a type of boring insect. About the size of an ant black and red. The small shell. back is red. I’ve never sprayed these trees. I hope all these messages aren’t a bother. If so I’ll move on. I do appreciate your feedback.

No bother at all, but I have definite limitations and there are others here a lot more experienced and better informed -I’m just wary of saying something I shouldn’t! Plus your Oregon climate is a lot different from my arid one.

That tree looks to have lots of good basic structure and is a lot more open and less cluttered than I had imagined. I envisioned very clogged and overgrown trees. . I suspect you’re going to see a good flush of new growth in a few weeks. But the idea of filling the cavity with cement makes me a little uneasy. We need to get the opinion of somebody who knows. Maybe you’d like to start a new thread?

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Mark, did some research and got this information. The recommended repair is to cover the hole after cleaning it out. If you really want to fill it use something soft like expanding foam. I think I’ll cover it until the dry months and then re inspect it for bugs or other damage. I’ll probably use the spray foam just to fill the void if nothing else and cover. The article stated the tree may grow bark over the cover. I’d be amazed if that happens.

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Dave. Don’t use concrete. I would try like you said with tin flashing for a roof. Maybe use stainless steel screws with rubber grommet washers. You could seal it with silicone to keep both bugs and rain out. I think it is generally considered good practice to remove the moss and lichens. I think copper fungicide will eliminate them.