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Pruning a neglected apple tree

16 years ago

I know this question has been asked before. I looked at the answers but basically I'm too insecure to cut major limbs off a tree, so I'm asking for some advice and moral support. We have a 15 year old Liberty apple tree that has been neglected for the last 10 years, when my husband got sick of spraying it. I'd like to try to rehabilitate it and use less toxic insect controls like sticky balls or bagging. But first, we need to prune so it's accessible. It's now about 18-20 feet high with a fairly clear leader. There are some lower branches that are more horizontal, probably dating back to its infancy when my husband gave it some initial shaping. Should we try to remove that leader in all or in part? That would take away most of the tree, so I would be very hesitant. Is there some partial strategy we should try? The tree appears to be in good health, and had 100-200 apples this year, all of them inedible due to codling moth and apple maggot damage. Any advice would be appreciated.

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