Old apricot tree

Asked September 9, 2016, 8:02 PM EDT

My apricot tree is 40 to 50 feet tall with no low branches below about 15 feet . Is it possible to cut the tall branches and get low branches to start?

The tree has two trunks - If the tree were cut to 4 or so feet of trunk - could a high branch be grafted into one trunk and a peach branch be grafted into the other trunk?

Sanpete County Utah

1 Response

This is complicated.

Why not remove the tree and plant your desired tree, using new dwarf and semi-dwarf varieties that are available at most whole sale nurseries.

If you are adamant about keeping the tree you would need to ask yourself these questions:

• Is the trunk of the tree sound with no major holes or a rotted center?

• Does the tree appear to be healthy with minimal limb dieback or signs of disease?

• Does the tree produce a desirable variety of fruit, one that I will use?

• Will I be able to care for this large tree properly? Spraying and picking will probably need to be done from a ladder.

• Is the tree in a location that fits into my garden plan?

• Will I be more likely to keep a small tree in good shape or the large old one?

If you decide to save your old fruit tree you will have to start a program of renovation that will usually take three to four crop years. It is best to wait until your tree has dropped all it’s leaves and is dormant before doing major corrective pruning. You will want to reshape your tree over a period of several years with corrective pruning. During the first year reduce the height of the tree. If your tree is over twenty feet tall it is acceptable to shorten it by six to eight feet with the first pruning. Shorten the tree by cutting the main scaffold limbs back to a strong well positioned side shoot or riser.

In the second year during the summer inspect your pruning and remove most large vigorous new

shoots that have arisen at the top of the tree. Just leave a few minor shoots that do not shade much. If you see new shoots developing lower down in the tree especially off of the main trunk or scaffolds leave them alone. We are trying to get the tree to start producing new fruit wood in the lower canopy. During the second dormant pruning period you should decide on the desired final height for the tree. You probably won’t be able to lower the tree more than another two feet from the previous year without hurting your tree and yield potential. Continue to thin out shoots in the upper half of the tree trying to space the main limbs and distribute the new fruiting wood uniformly. Limbs around the outside of the tree should be shortened to allow better light exposure to the lowest new limbs. Help train new shoots off the trunk to go outward not straight up.

During the third year in the summer return to the top of your tree and remove about half of the new shoots that have once again arisen near your heaviest pruning cuts. Remove the most vigorous shoots first. When the third dormant period comes continue to shape your tree by shortening the outer branches by a foot or two. Spread the new fruiting wood evenly over the entire tree from the lowest limbs to the upper scaffolds. Your tree should now allow very good light and air penetration to all the limbs.

From the first year of your renovation project your tree’s recovery will be enhanced by clearing

away any tall grass or brush from around the trunk of the tree out to the dripline. You should also

check the PH of your garden or yard soil near your old tree to see how acidic your soil has become.Home owners can buy an inexpensive soil test kit at any garden supply store. If your soil has become very acidic with a PH below 5.6 you will help the nutrient uptake of your old tree by liming. Mulching under your old tree out to the drip line with aged manure or compost will also help return health to your soil and vigor to your tree. You will also want to start a regular spray program with dormant oils and fungicides every dormant season to keep your tree in top shape.