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Q:How can I rejuvenate our old apple trees?
I have moved to a house where there are several Apple trees probably 10 -15 years old ,which produce a very poor crop of apples. The majority of them fall off when they are quite small and the rest having a 'blight' on them. The odd 1 or 2 which have survived and grown to a reasonable size are crisp and have a 'Worcester' taste. The trunks of the trees are knarled and the bark has some kind of mildew on them. Also I have been told that the 'white cotton wool' substance on some of the branches is caused by a 'moth.' Is there anything I can do to improve the trees? And can I use a spray to kill the moth if you agree that that is what the problem is? I really do not wish to remove the trees as they 'line' a boundary wall and give protection against the elements. Any information on maintenance and pruning of the trees will be greatly appreciated.Asked on 2/9/2005 by Mrs June Harland
A:Old apple trees can be pruned to rejuvenate them rather than having to remove them. They should be pruned in winter by cutting back a proportion of older fruited wood to a young shoot or basal bud to give room for fresh growth to develop. Top-prune branch leaders or they will be bowed down by fruits that develop at the tip, and remove larger, old branches to reduce overcrowding in the centre of the tree. By doing this pruning you will improve the fruiting ability of the tree. I would also recommend feeding and mulching the trees by sprinkling Growmore around the base of the plant of the trees in early spring and then mulching in April. The blight on the apples is more than likely apple scab. It affects the foliage and on young twigs causes lesions which may allow the canker fungus to gain entrance. The fruit may become scabbed as they develop and when the young fruits are attacked they may fall early. If they do remain on the tree they become misshapen and often cracked. Scab is first seen as dark spots consisting of radiating branched lines. Later the spots become more corky and greenish. The spots produced early often serve as sources for later infection. Scab may also develop when the fruit is stored. All varieties of apple and pear may become infected but some are more prone to infection than others. ???Cox???s Orange Pippin??? and ???Worcester Pearmain??? are particularly vulnerable to infection. The degree of infection will depend on the weather conditions at the time of fruit development. Wet cloudy weather during the blossoming period will encourage an outbreak of this disease. To keep it under control, trees should be pruned regularly so that they are kept open at the centre. This allows good air circulation and decreases humidity around the foliage, which in turn discourages scab development. Diseased twigs should be cut away and burnt before the buds burst and fallen leaves should be raked up and destroyed in order to prevent the liberation of spores. Most reliance should however be placed on spraying with myclobutanil (eg Bayer Garden Systhane Fungus Fighter and others)and difenoconazole (ie Westland Plant Rescue Fungus Control), which if carried out properly will reduce infection considerably. Spray at the first signs of symptoms and follow the instructions for repeated applications. Finally, the white cotton stuff on the branches is in fact woolly aphid, Eriosoma lanigerum which is a common pest of apple trees, living in colonies on stems and branches. The adult is purplish-brown and covered with masses of white waxy ???wool???, which is secreted from its body as a form of protection. During mid to late spring, the aphids are seen mainly around old pruning cuts and splits in older bark. Later in the summer they spread to young branches where they feed on sap causing soft, knobbly swellings to develop. The corky galls that often form may severely disfigure young trees. More seriously, should the galls split during frosty weather, the wounds can allow the entry of apple canker, which may kill the tree. The sticky masses of ???wool??? produced by the woolly aphid may contaminate foliage and developing fruits. Watch for signs of infestation during the spring as heavy infestations during the late summer are very difficult to control. There is no method of chemical control against this pest, but where possible the 'wool' should be washed off with slightly soapy water and a soft brush. Woolly aphid has a number of natural enemies which helps to keep it in check, although they are not effective against heavy infestations. Wooly aphids are eaten by some ladybirds and lacewings. These populations can be increased substantially if a lacewing chamber and/or ladybird house is installed in the garden. Just click on the following link to go to some. http://www.crocus.co.uk/search/_/search.ladybird/?s=ladybirdAnswered on 5/9/2005 by Crocus
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