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Vermont Garden Journal: Wild Fruit Trees

AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

Friday, August 30, 2013 at 5:57 p.m. and Sunday, September 1, 2013 at 9:35 a.m. I'm Charlie Nardozzi and this is the Vermont Garden Journal. Maybe it's because of all the rain earlier this summer or maybe it's an "on" year, but I've been noticing a bummer crop of wild apples and pears. Often untended wild trees will alternate their bearing years. Producing lots of fruit one year, and few the next. This fruit quality can be marginal at best, to actually pretty good depending on the weather, insects and diseases and the variety. While harvesting from wild trees can be rewarding, you might want to try to bring a wild tree on your land back into cultivation.

It's possible, but you can to take an honest look at the tree first. Does it have unique tasting and sized fruits? Is the tree in relatively good health? Is it located in a sunny spot? And most importantly, are you up for the challenge?

The first step is to prune out any dead, diseased and broken branches. Then the real work begins this winter. Remove large limbs crowding the center of the tree or with narrow crotch angles. On an apple tree, open up the center of the tree for light to penetrate the interior. Pears will need less pruning, as they tend not to become a tangled mess as easily. Don't prune out more than 1/3rd of the tree in any one year or you can shock it and cause it to die. Remove suckers and water sprouts. After 2 to 3 years of pruning you should be able to bring back the tree into better production. But you're not done. Adjust the soil pH and fertilize each spring, and spray with dormant oil in late winter to control some pests.

And now for this week's tip, snip the ends and any new flowers of melon, winter squash and pumpkin vines now so the plants put more energy into maturing the fruits that have already set. Any flowers that form in September will not have enough time to mature fruit before a frost.

Next week on The Vermont Garden Journal I'll be talking about flowering for drying. Until then, I'll be seeing you in the garden.

Renovating Old Fruit Trees
Invigorating Old Apple Trees How to Prune Old Pear Trees

Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally recognized garden writer, radio and TV show host, consultant, and speaker. Charlie is the host of All Things Gardening on Sunday mornings at 9:35 during Weekend Edition on Vermont Public. Charlie is a guest on Vermont Public's Vermont Edition during the growing season. He also offers garden tips on local television and is a frequent guest on national programs.
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