Many Utah homes have fruit trees planted as a part of the home landscape. Fruit trees provide shade, screening and beauty, as well as providing fruit for table use or preservation. However, as trees get older, they get taller, and most of the fruit production moves to the tops of the trees where there is light. Fruit in the tops of the trees are also difficult to spray and harvest.
As you harvest apricots, plums, pears, and apples this fall, look at where the fruit are located, and how many are wormy or damaged. One strategy people employ to reduce the height of trees is to cut them back substantially. Leaving the tree perhaps 6 to 8 feet tall. The thinking is that new branches will form, extending the fruiting life of the tree.
Certainly, new shoots will grow from the branch stumps, but the new shoots will have weak connections with the branch stumps. After a couple of years when the new growth will begin to bear fruit again, the weight from the developing fruit can break the young branches from the old stump, this is made worse by wind and rain.
A better strategy is to develop a succession plan to replace the trees. In the grand scheme of things, new trees from a nursery are relatively inexpensive. Cultivars improve over time, and you may be able to get fruit you’ll like even better.
Apples can be purchased on dwarfing root stalks, dwarf trees take up less space, and if properly planted will never get over 12-15 feet in height. New trees can also be put in better locations in the landscape. For old trees, replacement is a better plan than rejuvenation. Young small trees produce better fruit and are safer than old trees who have been severely pruned.