Renovation Of Old Apple Trees
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
Many old apple orchards have declined in bearing because they have not been properly managed. Usually such trees are full of dead wood, water sprouts and interfering limbs which later bear fruit in small amount and of poor quality. Too often such trees are cut down as unprofitable without first giving them an opportunity to redeem them-selves. It is impossible to say how each tree should be handled to bring it into profitable bearing again, but whatever is done should not be done suddenly. It should be taken by degrees.
First, in the renovation of the old orchard, the dead wood should be cutout. If large limbs must be removed, they should be taken out part at a time; that is, the limb should be sawed from beneath 18 inches or 2 feet from the main trunk. When the saw begins to stick, it should be withdrawn and the final cut made from above. This will prevent all possibility of splitting down the main trunk. When the limb has fallen, the stub may be removed close to the main trunk. The closer it is the better, since the healing of the wound is much quicker. It is always desirable to paint over wounds larger than an inch in diameter so as to protect the main trunk from decay. Good white lead and linseed oil is satisfactory paint for this purpose.
After dead wood has been removed, the water sprouts should be taken. If there are a great many of these it is desirable to remove only about a third to a half the first year. This will prevent the appearance of new water sprouts at least to a large extent, and the tree will be encouraged to bear earlier than if it is exerting its energy to produce new wood. None of the gnarly living twigs on the branches should be removed, because these are the ones that bear the fruit.
Frequently old orchards do not get sufficient moisture in the summer. It is not usually safe to plow deeply, because too many of the roots might be injured. A shallow surface cultivation after turning the sod is better than deeper stirring. After the ground has been worked, applications of stable manure and fertilizer may be given and cover crops such as crimson clover sown toward midsummer. The management of the orchard from then forward will be the same as for trees that have been properly managed from the start.
If the trees are of undesirable varieties, or if for any other reason the owner wishes to have different varieties, it is easier to use them as stocks for grafting the desired kinds than it is to plant and care for the new trees. Old trees cleft grafted will begin to ii bear in three or four years, whereas even the quickest maturing varieties of young trees rarely bear at all before five years. The grafting is a simple process which anyone can produce by following the directions given elsewhere. If space is limited and if only a few trees can be grown, two, three, or more varieties may be grown on the one tree. In fact, as curiosities, trees have been grown with even more than 5o varieties upon the one trunk.
Details of orchard management will be found under their various headings.