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How to prune old neglected apple tree - need advice

15 years ago

We recently moved into a new house and inherited two beautiful old apple trees. The house was built in 1950, so I'm guessing these trees could be about 50-60 years old. They appear to have been maintained at some point, but certainly not during the last 8-10+ years. Surprisingly, they yielded a nice harvest of decent eating apples this fall - 'tho they were a little small. In fact, the branches were so laiden with fruit that many tore off during summer storms.

Clearly they need serious pruning, but I'm not sure how severely to cut them back. My first thought is to take out all the verticals, but some of these are as big as 4-5" inches in diameter. If I cut them all out, I'd surely be removing about half the tree's mass - I think that's not a great idea to do all at once. Ideally, I'd like to improve the apple harvest, but not at the expense (longevity) of the trees. We love these old beauties and would hate to lose them.

Also, the low parallel branch on the second tree below looks precarious to me. Would you cut it out? The branch is huge. But I worry that, if it tore away in a storm, that it could kill the tree.

I'd really appreciate any input/advice from the Gardenweb community on how to best prune these trees.



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