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Anyone know about apple trees?

(25 Posts)
WhoTheFIsJeff Thu 24-Sep-15 11:24:47

We are very lucky to have some apple trees in the garden of our new house.

One of them is full of eating apples but they all covered in brown spots making the whole lot inedible, which is a real shame.

Is there some way we can prevent this from happening for next year?


shovetheholly Thu 24-Sep-15 12:14:18

There are lots of apple problems and I don't know all of them by a long way. However, some ideas:

If the spots are quite small and look like they are either pitted or sort of under the skin, it could be bitter pit, which is caused by dryness and lack of calcium.

If they are a bit larger or obviously on the surface, it could be apple scab.

If there are actual holes, then you have pests! Possibly codling moth.

shovetheholly Thu 24-Sep-15 12:15:00

BTW, several apple trees? Are you telling us you have an orchard? There is no way to make us all more ENVIOUS!! envy envy envy

WhoTheFIsJeff Thu 24-Sep-15 12:30:19

I have 3. blush

aircooled Thu 24-Sep-15 13:52:44

The new issue of The Garden, the RHS monthly magazine, has an article on apple problems with some good photos for ID. You don't have to be a member, I think you can buy it from WH Smith etc.

AncestralRhubarb Sat 26-Sep-15 09:19:07

I had bitter pit all over my Bramleys last year; it was such a shame. In the winter I got in a specialist apple pruner to thin out the (very old, large) tree, to improve ventilation. I'm pretty experienced at pruning fruit trees but this one was defeating me a bit due to age and size, and it really needed a renovation prune which I didn't want to get wrong.

Not a trace of bitter pit this year and a really excellent crop. Totally worth getting the apple expert in.

SpaghettiMeatballs Sun 27-Sep-15 08:34:47

How did you find an apple pruner ancestral? Is it a tree surgeon with a specialist interest?

I have two apple trees I haven't touched since we moved in two years ago and this year's crop definitely isn't as good as last year's so I think I need to prune.

shovetheholly Sun 27-Sep-15 15:00:30

Most apples are biennials - so they will follow a really good year with a smaller crop year, and then spring back to life - so don't assume there's a problem with your tree spaghetti. It might just be having a rest!

They do need a bit of annual care, though, esp removal of watershoots, any dead wood etc. I send DH up the Bramley apple tree and then boss him around from the ground. grin We bought an amazing Japanese saw which cuts through larger branches like butter. It was far too congested last year, but we took out about a third of the wood and it's much better. Will probably take out another third this year.

SpaghettiMeatballs Sun 27-Sep-15 16:48:00

I am sure I could assume that role shovetheholly. Last year we had a newborn and things to do in the house so the garden was left. Trying to get on it now although I do feel overwhelmed by my lack of knowledge at times.

I'll have a read up on apple tree pruning. They are 'fine' this year just not as good as last year so it's interesting to hear they are biennial.

puffylovett Sun 27-Sep-15 21:08:36

That definitely fits with my experience shovetheholly, we've been here four years now. We've had two good years and 2 mediocre. I assumed the mediocre year followed the year my trees got a really good hacking!

They're desperately in need of a prune now.

So... I have some black spots on my ancient trees apples, does that really make them inedible? They're still lovely and sweet. My younger tree has produced some ENORMOUS offerings this year! The bramleys have been a bit teeny though

bookbook Sun 27-Sep-15 22:10:41

Don't forget the weather re fruiting - on Gardeners World, Monty was going around his orchard this week. Some apple trees absolutely full, others with not a one. All depending on when they flower, and how cold it is at the time

DoreenLethal Sun 27-Sep-15 22:21:39

Totally agree with a really good prune. I had three apple trees in our community orchard which were really manky - we used them to demonstrate fruit tree pruning on a course this year, and they have all come godo with amazing clean apples this year.

Also fruit trees go fruit then root; so expecting a decent crop every two years is normal.

Jux Sun 27-Sep-15 23:15:28

We inherited an apple tree when we bought this house. It was deaperately in need of a good pruning, but neither dh nor I knew how to do it, so we kept putting it off and putting it off. DH finally did a couple of years ago and the resulting change in it is amazing.

I'm sure it would be better if we got a proper apple man in, but we don't know of any. We're looking on youtube to see how to do it.

readyforflame Sun 27-Sep-15 23:52:32

I inherited two apple trees which had been neglected for several years - they were also surrounded with overgrown trees/hedges - first year the cooking apple tree was covered but with small apples and nothing on the eating apple tree -I thought it was dead and tried to was wobbly but gave up as I would need to chop the roots and never got round to it...

I got a gardener to look at the cooking apple one - and he said it needed a severe restoration prune - and maybe I would be better getting rid altogether. It would take 4 years to recover but then I would get a better crop than from a four year old tree. And definitely forget the desert one.
I went for the prune and was shocked at just how far they cut it back - it looked like a stump....and that year the eating apple tree was covered! I decided it had become a biennial - and true to form the next year absolutely nothing - but this year (the good year) it produced just two apples! One is still not ready - the other was sour... I think it does need to go!
I did prune the cooking apple tree (water shoots and shaping) last year and it needs doing again this year. And that area has been neglected again...surrounding trees need cutting back - it isn't getting enough light again. But I have my fingers crossed that next year is the year I see the value of that prune and have a bumper crop ...but at the moment it still looks a shadow of its former self. I'm not convinced. (I am starting to doubt that the gardener did know what he was doing and/or he didn't just get carried away with his chainsaw...)
The prune cost me £70 (and we live in a cheap area) so from a purely cost pov even if it suddenly does start producing lots of apples again I doubt it will recoup my investment for a good few years... probably would have been better leaving it (it was great tree for DCs to climb on if nothing else!) and getting a replacement in a better position...not so prone to being overshadowed...

shovetheholly Mon 28-Sep-15 08:00:18

ready My Dad is a conservationist and has been looking after an old orchard and a meadow for the wildlife trust in his area for about 30 years now. When he first took it over, we pruned dozens of these very old, neglected and knackered fruit trees. Some did take a while to come back- and that cut yours has sounds like it was pretty severe. But most do seem to recover eventually, and there is something very beautiful about the shape of a knarled old apple! So if you are attached to it, it might be worth remaining patient for another couple of years.

You could hedge your bets by putting in that second tree in another part of your garden which can 'take over' if this one fails (otherwise you could be waiting years for apples). Oh and unless its corner of the garden is incredibly shaded, I suspect the issue may not be shade so much as air movement - apples don't mind a bit of light shadow, provided they get half a day's worth of sun or so, but they don't like being hemmed in without moving air and will tend to get diseases if this happens.

For your new tree, there are special apple societies who will be grafting heritage varieties, often ones that are quite specific to a geographical location, so it's well worth getting one of these so that you get something really unique and special that you can't buy anywhere. A tree from them normally costs around £20.

DoreenLethal Mon 28-Sep-15 08:04:37

proper apple man

Unless he is using his penis to prune, apple women are available too. I have boobs, and also chainsaws, chippers, loppers, saws and secateurs. No penises needed.

shovetheholly Mon 28-Sep-15 08:12:00

Doreen - I have chainsaw envy. I am desperate to get one!

DoreenLethal Mon 28-Sep-15 08:19:19

I have chainsaw envy. I am desperate to get one!

I got my first one on ebay.

unlucky83 Mon 28-Sep-15 08:46:27

I bought a chainsaw two years ago...for chopping wood for woodburner. (Have an electric saw with a rough wood blade but a chainsaw would be better). I really really wanted one and research models etc. It is a powerful battery operated one (not cheap) - didn't fancy faffing with petrol ...and a helmet and gloves...
My dad gave me lecture on the his youth you had to be trained etc -they didn't have one on the farm, they got someone in - a specialist (but then I don't think chainsaws had the antikickback/autostop thing on them then - and he gave me a similar lecture before I bought an angle grinder... and in fact the electric saw hmm)
I decided I should look at advice on techniques and safety on youtube etc at least before using - a mistake - now I'm too scared to use it .... some of the horror videos ...
Have had a couple of regular users give me advice too...but I think I am going to have to go for practical training first... I think I am too nervous of it to be safe! sad

DoreenLethal Mon 28-Sep-15 08:57:45

I also have several axes which my students find hard to fathom as - you know - I might break a nail or something.

unlucky83 Mon 28-Sep-15 09:13:01

doreen I don't think my dad is being sexist ...he made sure I could change a tyre etc before I could leave home (I can -if I could be bothered - do an oil change), he used to get me to help with DIY stuff (even though I have brothers), will discuss DIY projects etc with me and ask me what I think ...etc etc. (Remember phoning my Dad to ask about a decorating thing and DP said when our DCs are older they are going to be phoning mum not dad for similar advice...)
Just I did used to be terribly accident prone and careless as a child ... and even pushing 50 I guess I am still his child - in his eyes it is like giving a 2 yo a sharp knife grin

shovetheholly Mon 28-Sep-15 09:13:26

I think it's very wise to be safe with a chainsaw unlucky - you can do handling courses for them. I'm sure this will build your confidence so that you feel safe using it very quickly!

Doreen - I hate, hate, HATE the idea that women can't wield tools unless they are some kind of bodybuilder. I'm sorry if my posts on this thread have contributed to that stereotype, which I fear they have. It was very thoughtless of me.

I am a pretty average person and not that strong but I have no difficulty in breaking concrete with a mattock, tamping down crusher run with a big iron tamper, hefting around and laying bricks, dealing with compost, manure, or sawing wood. None of it demands physical strength beyond what I have, and I am by no means the fittest woman I know (and sadly I am not muscle-bound either). I do worry that there is a massive gendered division of labour where women's work in the garden is limited to wielding secateurs in a straw hat, while men do all the heavy stuff. I think it puts many women off tackling things that are well within their capabilities. (Obviously, it is different for someone of either gender if they have physical problems).

The only reason I send DH up the tree is that I'm 5 foot 4 and I can't reach even when I climb right up, whereas he can stand on top of the trunk and saw from there. I am the one who does all the log splitting and chopping for the wood burner, though!

AncestralRhubarb Mon 28-Sep-15 11:10:35

Spaghetti I got my apple expert from a local Permaculture Trust that manages a community orchard. I just emailed them and they sent one of their experts over. He wasn't particularly expensive (they have women too - this one just happened to be male).

Tree surgeons often say they can do fruit trees. But be careful - it's quite a different skill from regular tree work and they have a tendency to take too much off, which can result in the tree sending up tonnes of water shoots.

Apple trees need light pruning every year to keep the air flowing and avoid congestion. If a tree has been left to its own devices for many years, and needs renovation pruning, this should be done over three winters, with no more than a third taken out each year.

shovetheholly Mon 28-Sep-15 12:18:47

Watershoots- I am trying a new regime with these. As rhubarb says, a prune of up to 1/3 of the wood will tend to make the tree send up loads of these twiggy, annoying, non-fruitbearing growths. Mine has been doing it every year while I have been renovating it, and I am fed up with it. So I read up on it and it turns out that it is my fault and I am doing it wrong by taking them all out over the winter. Actually the best way is to take half out in summer and half in winter. Apparently, this just calms the tree down a bit. So giving this a go and so far this year it is better. Proof of the apple pudding will be next year's growth.

SpaghettiMeatballs Mon 28-Sep-15 17:56:38

I think we might have a go ourselves. Looking at the tree today I think I can see what needs to go. Thank you for the YouTube idea. Have done so many DIY jobs after watching YouTube!

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