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Our new house has 2 apple trees that have obviously seen better days. They appear to never have been properly pruned and are now scraggly and about 30' tall.

In addition, one of the two trees didn't produce apples this year. Is there a reason an tree would skip a season of making apples? Diseased?

I'm debating if it's worth saving these two trees at all. I doubt I can prune back into any salvageable form but am willing to try. But if the tree isn't producing apples anyways, I'm thinking it might be better off as firewood and we start over with a new tree (and properly take care of it).

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Apples will produce much less fruit when:

  • rainfall when the tree was in bloom to prevent bee pollination,
  • no Apple tree nearby to aid in pollination
  • a severe pruning to force out too much new growth
  • for spur type Apples the cutting off of the spurs
  • too much Nitrogen which can cause too much vegetative growth at the expense of flower production
  • a growth regulator applied when the trees were in bloom,
  • an herbicide applied to the ground when the tree was about to bloom which can make the flowers fall off the tree.

There are other aspects to your choice of rejuvenate the existing trees or plant new.

  • newer varieties might have resistance to pests and diseases that older ones do not
  • you can prune a 30' tall tree down to 15 or 20' feet. You still need a ladder to harvest. Or you can plant a fully dwarf tree which will grow 6 to 10' tall. Less ladder work, easier to net and prevent bird damage, easier to apply control measures.
  • the existing location might not be optimal anymore if other plants have grown up that will shade it
  • Thanks Kevinsky. I think we have a number of those symptoms. The trees are definitely 'highly vegetative' so it could be nitrogen. They were also planted in the shade of some cedars (which doesn't make much sense either). Might have a go at one major prune this fall and see what happens. Otherwise, come spring I think we replant. – DA. Aug 11 '13 at 17:14

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