How To Rehabilitate An Overgrown Apple Tree

If you've recently purchased a home that has apple trees in the yard and garden area, you're probably looking forward to enjoying some delicious and nutritious homegrown fruit. Although there's nothing quite like taking a bite out of one of the first ripe apples of the season just after picking it from your own tree, apple trees require a certain standard of care in order to produce good fruit. If the apple tree on your new property has been neglected for more than two years, chances are good that it's overgrown to the extent that it struggles to produce much fruit at all and that the apples that do grow on it are small and stunted.

Fortunately, there are strategies designed to rehabilitate an overgrown apple tree. The following are three of them. 

Remove Competing Vegetation

If an apple tree is overgrown, the surrounding vegetation probably is as well. This can create conditions that sap available water and nutrients from the soil as well as reduce the amount of available sunlight. Removing weeds and other nearby competing vegetation allows the apple tree to have access to the basic resources it needs to thrive.

Apply Mulch

After carefully removing the brush under the tree, be sure to apply a thick layer of organic mulch. This will protect the tree's roots from being damaged by temperature extremes in either direction, discourage the growth of weeds, help the soil retain water, and provide the soil with essential nutrients. 

Remove Dead and/or Diseased Wood

Removing dead and/or diseased wood should be done with a sharp pair of pruning sheers that have been disinfected in a solution of nine-parts lukewarm water to one-part household bleach or one of the many products on the market designed to disinfect gardening tools. You can remove dead or diseased wood at any time of the year. 

Thin the Tree's Interior 

Lightly thinning the tree's interior branches allows more sunlight to reach crucial places. It also helps promote optimal air circulation — without good air circulation, the tree runs a higher risk of developing fungal diseases. This procedure needs to be performed during winter when the tree is dormant to minimize damage to living tissues.   

Shape the Tree

The last step is to shape the tree. Although this creates a pleasing appearance, aesthetics aren't the only reason for this final touch. Shaping the tree promotes good balance — trees that are too heavy on one side, for instance, may develop a lean that eventually disturbs the roots. Rehabilitating an apple tree takes time and expertise, but the results are well worth it. A local tree trimming service can provide you with more information.