Apple tree broke

Asked July 8, 2018, 12:53 PM EDT

We recently purchased a house with a well established apple tree that hasn't been maintained in several years. Last night one of the main limbs broke. It looks too sever to try to save the limb. What should we do for the tree to make sure it stays healthy and is it possible to put a new graft where the limb broke?

Washington County Oregon

1 Response

Thanks for your broken apple tree limb question. Your photos are greatly appreciated. Your assessment that the limb cannot be saved is correct as it appears fully severed from the trunk. The wound area over time will heal itself and it appears at an angle that will discourage retaining rain that could foster moisture deterioration. As to a graft, the grafting process is specific, so it is likely your tree’s wound area is not a successful graft location.

Pruning guidelines suggest that a tree be structurally pruned not more than about 1/3 of the total tree mass. So going forward, wait on further structural pruning, follow good summer tree care guidelines by deep watering regularly during summer heat, do prune out water sprouts at tree base and monitor tree for any pests or disease symptoms. Do harvest and give your apples the taste test.

Winter dormancy is the optimal pruning and dormant spray time and Presidents’ Day is a good target date. Below are 2 guides to home orchard care available from

Training and Pruning Your Home Orchard by Jeff L. Olsen PNW 400

Provides general rules for training, pruning, and limb bending, and explains open-center, central-leader, and espalier training. Outlines specific guidelines for training and pruning apple, pear, sweet cherry, sour cherry, peach, prune, plum, apricot, fig, persimmon, walnut, hazelnut, and chestnut trees. Includes 17 figures that illustrate various techniques.

Growing Tree Fruits and Nuts in the Home Orchard by Jeff L. Olsen EC 819

This publication will help you decide if a home orchard is right for you. It also gives guidelines for growers and describes how to plan your home orchard, planting and early care, care of bearing trees, and harvesting and storage.

Growing your own delicious fruit is worth the proper care you give.