If you have limited space, or if previously planted apple trees are now too close, a good way to improve the tree is by gradually bending the main framework branches down towards the ground! This is more easily accomplished with a younger tree. However it can be done by using the newer growth on older trees and gradually discarding the upright branches.
Other than giving you extra space, it can also dramatically improve the fruit yield per tree over time. This is because it shifts the balance of the tree away from producing vegetative growth, to fruit-bearing growth. A single specimen tree can also look very artistic and ornamental if the branches are trained downwards.
Branches can be gradually trained downwards on apple trees by tying weights to the end of selected stems. These weights can simply be a half or a whole brick! Coloured bottles filled with water can also do the trick - and add a bit of interest to the tree! (Yuk!)
If bottles are used, then weight can be gradually increased by filling with water over time. this will help bend the branches further with less chance of damage.
After the tree has been trained this way, then pruning requirements are no different to that of an upright tree. Obviously, you will need to cut off the new uprights back to a point of three four inches from the main branch. In the initial stages after training, there will be a considerable growth of the water shoots which will need to be pruned back. Do not allow them to take hold and spoil the work and patience you have put into the task.
Don't aim to get the tree looking like an umbrella. Stagger the effect up two or three levels of branches.
Another way to get your apple tree - or any other fruit tree - branched to bend over, or weep, is by using a sturdy hula hoop carefully fed through the branches until it is lying at the base of the trunk. The branches can then be tied to the hoop in stages - tightening up over time. The hoop can be discarded once your task is finished.
If you wish to go forward this way, then best do it with a young tree at planting time. It will raise eyebrows and receive questions, but it works.
Whichever way you decide to try it, do it when the young branches are supple, from early spring through to mid summer. You can leave the weights on for the winter, but the initial bending should be started after blossom in the spring.
The Apples are easier to harvest - being easier to reach, and you can keep a look out more readily for spoiling pests and diseases.
An added bonus for this method of training your apple trees, is the sight of your 'weeping blossom' tree in the spring. A great attraction for pollinating insects at the same time!
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