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Ailing apple trees

I HAVE a problem with our apple trees. We bought a property which already had two old apple trees. The apple trees had already flowered when we moved in, and within a short space of time it became apparent that they weren't in the best condition, with only one tree bearing one apple of poor quality. In August, I pruned the tree back lightly, in hopes of obtaining more growth. But I'm wondering if I should I have given it a harder prune. I should also mention that we have poplars which are only within a few metres of the trees. Someone recently said that these leach all the nutrients from the soil and should not be planted within 30m of fruit trees. Are the apple trees resurrectable or should we give up the fight?


THE poplars will certainly compete aggressively with your apple trees for water and nutrients and will probably shade them also. Any watering and feeding you do to the apple tress will also benefit the poplars.

If you can't get rid of the poplars I suggest you plant some more apple trees as far away from them as possible. But don't give up on the old ones just yet - give them another year or two.

Don't worry about pruning the apple trees until this summer has passed, but if practicable cut the poplars back to let as much light into the apples as possible.

Observe how well the apple trees flower this spring and whether the number of fruit produced is in proportion to the number of flowers. If they flower well but produce few fruit then you may have a pollination problem, which could be the result of cold spring weather affecting bee activity or few bees in the area. Or it could be there is no suitable pollinating apple variety in the near vicinity. Most apples need to be pollinated with pollen from another variety of apple to produce good crops of fruit. See what happens this season and get back to me in autumn for further advice.

Weekend Gardener, Issue 158, 2004, Page 26

Reproduced with permission from the former Weekend Gardener magazine. The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the RNZIH.

Andrew Maloy Weekend Gardener

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