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Restoring old and neglected apricot trees. Help!

9 years ago

We moved into a new home in the middle of last summer and feasted on an incredible amount of apricots from these two old, large and neglected apricot trees! The fruits were heavy enough that some big branches came down off the taller tree during some summer storms. I started to do some pruning/maintenance last fall, but from what I read, it was best to wait until winter to do so. So now it's February and I'm all ready to get started, but after the warmest winter I've ever experienced (we're in Reno, Nevada at 4,700ft), the trees are blooming already! Aargh! There should be snow on the ground, but instead it's been in the 60s all week (but still freezing most nights).

These trees seem to breaking all the rules but still produced more fruit than we could handle in the short harvest period. The taller tree on the right had much more fruit than it's tamer looking friend on the left and is already producing many more flowers.

I'm totally new to fruit tree care, but have trying to read up so I can take care of these and other fruits on the property. I could really use some help and here are some of my questions:

There are a lot of very large branches growing in the wrong direction or cross branching, so I'm ready to make some cuts, but I've read that in older trees with large branches, this could be dangerous for the tree. To cut or not to cut? What is the largest diameter branch I should attempt to cut?

The trees are both quite large, and yes a lot of fruit was out of reach, even on a ladder (although there was plenty down low). But they also provide lovely shade from the high desert sun. I'm not sure how to bring their height down, since some of the upper limbs are large. Where do I make the cuts at this point? Or should I just leave them tall and try to encourage more fruit growth on the lower limbs? I kind of feel like I have 3 trees in one on the wild looking tree.

These are some old trees! I have no idea how old, but I'm guessing they are more susceptible to disease after heavy pruning. There are several large spots of hardened sap (see photo) over their trunks. What precautions do I need to take, given their age? Most of what I'm reading talks about shaping the tree and cutting off new growth. I have a crazy looking tree with a lot of old growth. I'm happy to do this restoration slowly and over several years. Can anyone offer some recommendations on what to focus on first? Dead growth and cross branching seem like the obvious choice. But beyond that I'm not sure where to start?

And what about the weather? We've bee experiencing spring like temps through January & February, but a cold snap is sure to come again. And with the trees already flowering, is it still okay to go through with a massive prune now?

Any and all recommendations are greatly appreciated! Curious if anyone else has tackled a similar project before?


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