Friday, January 26, 2024

More tree trimming

Last January, we hired some professional arborists to see if they could salvage some old (about 75 years) and shaggy apple trees we have on our property. We knew this would be a multi-year project.

These stately trees were wildly overgrown. As a result, they produced scads of little bitty apples. The arborists promised to bring them back into production. In the span of one day, the team did what they could, which was quite dramatic.

The result last summer was larger apples, though still too much fruit on the tree to produce anything bigger. The head arborist warned us the trees would "sucker like crazy" the following summer, and he was right.

The team came back yesterday and did some follow-up work. Their goal was to trim suckers off the two trees they worked on the most last year, as well as to tackle some of the other smaller trees and see what they could do to bring them back to health.

They got right to work.

Soon we could see lopped-off branches as they pruned and shaped and cut away deadwood.

Definitely a job that requires a head for heights.

But while it was easiest to photograph them as they worked in the trees closest to the driveway, in fact most of their efforts were concentrated on the one tree they didn't have a chance to do last year. This poor tree was so overgrown and laden with deadwood that the arborists weren't certain they could pull it back from the brink. By the time they were done, the poor little tree was just a stump of its former self.

By the end, we had another huge pile of branches.

We asked the head arborist when we should have them out again for follow-up work. He suggested about 18 months from now, during high summer, so they could trim away unproductive suckers and gauge how the trees are doing in full production mode.

One thing is certain: We're grateful for the chance to pull these mature heritage trees back into beautiful production.


  1. Patrice, we had the same thing done last year. We could almost hear the trees sigh with contentment!

  2. It takes a long time for a fruit tree to grow to that size and produce well, so I think you have made a very wise investment by caring for this old home orchard. You don't have to buy these now expensive young trees, or nurture them along to maturity for years. Plus they have survived all N. Idaho can throw at them weatherwise, so you did very well getting them back into production.
    One thing you might think about on your hill is to dig in a root cellar. Your apples, pears, potatoes, and lots more would love to have a place like that to hang out in during winter time.
    Can't wait to hear about your new critters that I hope you get this year.

  3. My late father was a master pruner and tree shaper. One of his tricks for keeping it easier to pick the fruit was to weigh down the branches to keep them from growing upwards. He also hated heights and his goal was to never need more than a step ladder to pick. He used rocks and twine and tied them to the ends of the branches to create a graceful, umbrella like shape. Yours may be too old for this to work, but if you get new trees, this might be something to consider.

  4. All over Koontenai Co there is a type of old apple you can find near old homesteads. It is a hardy thing, with greenish red, sweet-tart apples that have a bit of a tough skin. They are amazingly indifferent to pests and blight. I stopped by my old home out in Cougar Gulch and the same tree I picked apples off while riding my horse was still there 40 plus years later.

  5. The services of a skilled, experienced arborist are well worth the cost.

  6. Great job.
    DH did ours a week ago. Yesterday I went down to that area dump my chicken poo bucket. I have my compost pallet bin there and on the side, good pile of chicken poo and one of charcoal from wood burn piles. Well, I noticed in our little orchard area,, hahaha ya-
    he pruned but left all the trimmings on the ground. So I raked it all up. I raked around the elder berry trees and blue berry plants. The lilacs have buds. I think with this nice rain break we are getting Thur. - Sun. I will put chicken manure around the apple; plumb; pear and elder berry trees and get some compost out of the bin to put on. There was a bunch of tiny bugs that were flying around AND when we came back from walking the dogs down to get the mail AHHHH! I spotted a tiny tic on Tony Dogs nose! I grabbed my tissue from my pocket and got the bugger before it made itself at home.
    We have just not had enough cold to kill off the bugs--
    I feel it will be a bad mosquito year

  7. Thank you for keeping us updated on the apple tree progress. I'm looking forward to the next post 18 months from now.