How To Save Apple Tree From Dying

Saving an apple tree from dying requires more involved knowledge than initially anticipated. It is often thought that the golden solution to reviving a tree is to strip it bare and turn it over to the ground, but this often proves to be the wrong approach that accelerates the decomposition process of the tree. There are a few basic steps to take if one wants to save an apple tree from dying.

Firstly, in order to identify if a tree is still very much alive and worth saving, it is important to look at its overall condition. An apple tree that is wilting, covered in discolored leaves, producing abnormal blossoms, or lacking fruit is likely near death, and revival is a long shot. If some branches have become dead and have no new growth, the task is much more challenging.

Secondly, one must assess the environmental conditions in which the tree is growing. If it is planted in an area that is too shady, too dry or too wet, it is likely the tree will not survive long. If the soil is affected by disease, it may also be hindering the tree from growing to its maximum potential.

Thirdly, check for any signs of pests and if there is fungus, bacteria or parasites present. Remove any living pests on the tree and consider a chemical solution such as an insecticidal soap. Fungicides may also be used in cases of major fungicide infestation.

Fourthly, it is recommended to prune the tree in order to encourage more sunlight and air to reach the inner foliage. Taking care not to prune too far, one should focus on dead branches and unhealthy canopies. Also, trimming out crowded branches can create more open areas and promote growth.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, ensure the tree is receiving adequate fertilizer. Using an appropriate fertilizer can give the tree the needed nutrients boost it needs to survive. Liquid fertilizer works best as it can be absorbed by the leaves, but this should be done on a regular basis and only with the recommended dosage.

Root Pruning

Root pruning is a surprisingly effective technique utilized by certified arborists and gardeners when trying to maintain the health of an ailing apple tree. This process involves cutting away the shallow roots of the tree, thus allowing new roots to take the place of the old and decayed ones. A saw or hoe is often used to cut away the lowest few inches of roots, since that is where most of the old roots and decay concentrate.

Root pruning is best performed during the early spring months, when temperatures are relatively mild and the soil is not too dry or overly wet. It is important to note that this process can only be done once every two or three years, as any more frequent treatment can do more harm than good.

When performing root pruning, it is important to exercise precaution in order to ensure that the tree is not disturbed any more than necessary. Do not prune away more than one-third of the trees’ roots and make sure no more than two-thirds of the entire root ball is cut away. Root pruning should not be done too close to the trunk, as it can disrupt the fibrous root system and cause damage to the tree.

Once the root pruning has been completed, it is crucial to make sure the soil surrounding the tree is replenished with nutrient-rich soil and compost. This will help the tree recover its dormant roots and promote new healthy root growth.

Foliar Feeding

Foliar feeding is a practice that basically involves applying a soil-free liquid nutrient solution directly to the trees’ leaves. This technique is commonly used by orchardists to supplement the trees’ nutrition during the growing season and to provide the tree with an extra boost to promote healthy bloom and fruit production.

Foliar feeding can be done on almost any type of fruit tree, and it is especially beneficial for an apple tree in danger of dying. The solution contains a concentrated mix of nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium—the three primary nutrients necessary for plant growth. For apples, additional calcium, zinc, manganese, boron, and other trace elements may be added to the nutrient solution.

When performing a foliar feeding treatment, dilute the nutrients according to the instructions given, since too much of it can burn the tree’s leaves and cause further damage. It is important to ensure that the tree is hydrated when foliar feeding, as the solution will absorb quickly with minimal mess. Generally, it is recommended to foliar feed the tree with a nutrient solution once every week or two.

Foliar feeding is an excellent way to supplement the nutrients of an ailing apple tree, but under some circumstances it may be ineffective. If the deficiency is caused by soil issues such as poor drainage, compaction, lack of organic matter, or soil-borne pathogens, then foliar feeding may not provide any real benefit.


Mulching is an age-old horticulture practice that was used by the ancient gardeners to provide their crops with a more favorable growing environment. This practice consists of covering the soil with a layer of organic material that protects the plant roots from the elements and keeps the soil at an ideal temperature and moisture level.

Mulching is an invaluable tool for orchardists looking to ensure the survival of their apple trees. When applied properly, mulch can reduce pest populations, help retain moisture in the soil, keep the soil temperature constant, and prevent weeds from competing for the trees’ resources.

It is important to apply the mulch in between the edges of the trees and to a depth of no more than three to four inches. Wood chips, sawdust, and straw are all suitable types of mulch, but be careful not to use materials that can break down too quickly, such as grass clippings or compost.

It is generally recommended to apply the mulch in a thick layer, as a thick layer of mulch will be more effective at retaining moisture and protecting the roots of the tree. This must be done carefully, however, as the mulch should not be applied too close to the tree trunk lest it start to suffocate the tree.

Compost Tea

Compost tea is a natural, organic way to feed an apple tree and ensure its survival in times of distress. This technique consists of brewing a nutrient-rich mixture of organic matter and adding it to the soil surrounding the tree. It provides all the minerals and trace elements necessary for optimum growth.

Brewing compost tea is a simple and quick process that requires little more than mixing together finished compost and water. The compost should be finely sifted, and then mixed with water in a bucket and stirred. The mixture should then be left to brew for at least 16 to 24 hours, depending on the desired strength of the tea.

Once the compost tea is ready, it should be diluted with water and then applied directly to the soil around the tree. After the compost tea is applied, the soil should be lightly replenished with fresh compost, which will help the tea penetrate further into the soil. This process should be repeated every few months or whenever the tree needs extra nutrition.

Cover Crops

Cover crops are yet another way to ensure the survival of an ailing apple tree. This practice involves planting specific mixtures of agricultural species that are known to accumulate minerals and trace elements. Cover crops help to reduce weeds and attract beneficial insects, while providing a favorable environment for the apple tree’s roots.

The cover crop should be planted in the spring, no more than a few weeks before the tree begins to bud. Annual cover crops are commonly used and they can be planted in rows between the trees or scattered along the boundaries of the orchard. Legumes, grasses, and clovers are all great cover crops for an apple tree.

Cover crops should be managed regularly, as they can quickly overwhelm an orchard if left unchecked. After a few months, the crop should be mowed or tilled, and then left to compost for a few weeks along the edges of the orchard before being used as mulch.


Watering an apple tree correctly is one of the most challenging tasks for an orchardist. Too much water can drown the tree, while too little will cause it to dry out and eventually die. The amount of water needed for optimal growth can vary depending on the tree’s environment.

One of the best ways to ensure the tree gets the right amount of water is to use a dripline irrigation system. This type of system is designed to supply the tree with a slow and steady drip of water directly to its roots, eliminating the need to water it manually. These systems can be adjusted to account for changing weather conditions, and they require minimal maintenance.

On the other hand, if a dripline irrigation system cannot be used, one must manually water the tree. The tree should be watered in the early morning when the sun is not yet too hot and the air is humid. Water should be applied to the base of the tree and the surrounding soil, and the tree should be watered deeply and infrequently.

It is important to always check the soil moisture level before watering, and to make sure the water is reaching the roots of the tree. Taking these steps can help to ensure that an ailing apple tree remains healthy and productive.

Gordon Wesson is an environmentalist and author who lives in the Pacific Northwest. He has been writing for many years about topics related to trees, the environment, and sustainability. In particular, he is passionate about educating people on the importance of living in harmony with the environment and preserving natural spaces. He often speaks at conferences and events around the country to share his knowledge with others. His dedication to protecting our planet makes him one of the leading voices in his field today.

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