An issue we have noticed after two seasons of caring for this orchard is that by the end of summer the tree limbs are heavy with fruit and hanging low to the ground. The apples are fully formed but not yet ripe and we found this year there can be disastrous consequences in this situation if your trees aren't prepared to bear the load.
This tree at the front of our property produces bushels of apples each year. This year, under the weight of all that fruit, one of the limbs gave way.
Unfortunately it was not a clean break. Instead it ripped the bark right from the trunk which is further bad news for this tree. Tears in the bark are prime targets for fungus and disease to infest your plant. We were able to cut the branch off but the damage was already done.
As you can see the branch that came down was loaded with unripe apples which were a loss. And now the tree is open to having its health compromised.
|This open wound is now a prime target for disease|
What could have been done to prevent this? Early each summer we thin our apple trees removing fruit that is too small or shows signs of deformities and disease. By thinning the fruit we are providing the apples that remain with more space and nutrients to grow their very best. However, thinning fruit is also another way to decrease the weight load on your trees so that branches don't become too heavy and snap.
Another preventative measure is to carefully prune your fruit trees when they are young. Branches should be evenly spaced and grow at a wide angle from the trunk. Ideally the angle should be 60 to 70 degrees from the tree trunk. Branches growing at an angle of 45 degrees or less are at higher risk of breakage due to bark build up between the branch and the tree trunk.
This old tree already has a number of health problems and I suspect it won't last much longer but we'll be watching other trees in the orchard this year for branches that look overly heavy and acting accordingly.