pruning apple trees on the allotment

An allotment update. We’ve managed to get up to the allotment only twice in February. Once to prune the apple trees and once to continue leveling some ground for the shed.

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I have to admit about being a little nervous of pruning the apple trees and my initial reaction to the idea is “better not” or less is more or something like that. When we took on the allotment in June 2013 the whole plot was very over grown and obviously it was way too late in the year to prune as there was already little seed apples on the tree.

I’ve spoken to a few people who profess to know more about this sort of thing than the average person (but non claim to be an expert) and various bits of advise have been followed. The first thing we did was (carefully) strim away all the vegetation around the bottom of the apple trees. I was told that removing a lot of the competing vegetation from around the trees would help as a starting point. To that end we put down weed suppressing material which we’ve had down since about July now. We also removed as much of the bramble as we could, obviously this will spring up again and always be a problem but it should be much easier to keep on top of.

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Our apple trees are very old, probably well over 50 years by my estimate (if that is possible) and they have had various levels of love. The fruit from them last year was pretty gnarled up and a bit patchy in size and quality. This is because the trees are old and have not been well kept. One of our trees however had fruit that was far superior to the other two. It is this tree that we decided to do the most pruning to.

We decided that we’d remove the dead, damaged and diseased branches and anything that was crossing over or growing right up. We also felt we’d limit this to just one big branch and a few small ones. We took off all the “water shoots” we could reach (those twigs growing straight up). The big branch we took off was one growing directly upwards, everything we read said we want to limit the height and make the tree spread low.

We had loppers, a long extendable pruning tool and a couple of pruning saws. I had to get up on a ladder to get the high up branch down and there was a bit of pulling. I really hope the work helps the tree and I don’t think we did too much. We have fairly low expectations of the yield of the trees and we’re playing a long game with them.

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The other major task I’ve been trying to get done at the allotment is leveling a bit of ground to put the shed up. The shed is huge and the ground is very sloppy because it’s on a hill. Foolishly I chose a bit of ground below a tree, so the ground I’m digging is full of roots. It being winter time it’s also full of water and very muddy and sticky. With the weather improving and a feeling of spring in the air I did manage to get a large amount of earth moved and I hope that I’ll be able to put down the blocks to stand the shed on.

We were delighted to find some snow drops growing next to the apple trees too!

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