What Is A Cordon Apple Tree

A cordon apple tree is a specialized form of apple tree which has been trained to produce a harvest of quality fruit. A cordon tree is usually trained up a single stem and then kept to a permanent height, making harvesting easily accessible and efficient. This type of pruning puts a considerable amount of fruiting growth into a small space, so cordon apple trees are a popular choice for growing in the garden.

As its name suggests, the cordon tree has the appearance of a cordon when pruned, with a main stem and horizontal ‘cordons’ of lateral shoots roughly 40-45cm apart. The lower part of the tree is unpruned, and the lateral shoots form ‘arms’ from which the fruit will be produced in the summer. Generally speaking, cordon apple trees are dwarf trees, and will not grow beyond two metres, although some varieties may reach heights of up to four metres.

The cordon tree does require quite a bit of maintenance, as it must constantly be pruned and tied up securely to ensure it is in a neat, healthy, and aesthetically pleasing condition. Pruning cordon apple trees is best done in the winter, when the tree is dormant, although light pruning can be done throughout the year to keep the tree in shape and as healthy as possible. Additionally, tying up young cordon trees helps it to establish itself and to promote strong upright growth.

Espaliering is another method used to train cordon apple trees, although it is less common than the cordon. A cordon apple tree espaliered will typically resemble an ornamental fence or wall with horizontal layers of tightly pruned and tied branches radiating from a main stem. Usually, the tree is grown against a trellis on a wall or fence, although some trees can also be espaliered on freestanding canes.

Cordon apple trees suitable for growing in the UK include classic varieties such as Cox’s Orange Pippin, James Grieve and Red Falstaff. These types of apples are disease-resistant with attractive, juicy and sweet fruit, and are great for growing in small gardens. All kinds of apple trees need to be watered regularly, and this is especially true for cordon apple trees as they don’t have much root system.

Water And Fertilizer For Apples

During the growing season cordon apple trees will require at least 1 inch of water per week. During dry conditions, it is a good idea to water more frequently than this. If a tree isn’t watered enough then the apples may not develop properly, so it is important to maintain a regular watering schedule.

Fertilizers are important to cordon apple trees as they help promote strong growth and plentiful fruit production. On average, an apple tree will use up 1kg of fertilizer per year per square meter of root zone. Fertilizers should be added in moderation and as the tree grows larger, it may be necessary to increase the amount that is added. Additionally, mulching around the base of the tree will help to keep the area around the roots moist and weed-free, allowing the cordon tree to produce quality fruit.

Proper Pruning Techniques

Proper pruning is essential for a cordon apple tree so that it reaches the desired shape and that overwintered shoots are properly exposed. Once a tree is planted, the leader should be pruned and trained in the desired direction. Suckers and shoots from the rootstock should be removed and the leader should grow in a vertical direction. Once this is done, the lateral branches can be pruned and trained, and the cordon should begin to form. Yearly pruning keeps the tree healthy and ensures that the maximum amount of fruits are produced.

When pruning cordon apple trees it is important to avoid using too much fertilizer and to ensure that the tree is not damaged in the process. Pruning should always be done in the winter when the tree is dormant, as this will prevent the tree from expending too much energy in the growing season. Each winter, prune the cordon apple tree back a couple of buds, remove any damanged wood, trim the lateral branches to their original length, and remove any shoots that have grown upwards towards the leader.

Throughout the growing season, thin the fruits to create space between each one, as this will help to promote healthy and well-formed fruits. This can be done by hand or with the help of pruning shears and should be done when the fruits are still green and at a size of one to two inches.

Pollinators And Pest Prevention

Cordon apple trees need to be pollinated in order to produce apples, and this can be done in two ways. Firstly, honeybees can be introduced to the area to help with pollination, or alternatively, pollination bags can be attached to some of the apples. These blue mesh bags hold pollen and will help to spread it around the tree as the apples grow.

Apple trees are often troubled by a range of pests, and so cordon apple trees must be inspect regularly and kept healthy to reduce the risk of pests attacking. The best way to do this is to regularly water, fertilize and prune the tree, as this will ensure the tree stays healthy and supports a range of beneficial pests. Additionally, pests can also be prevented by growing companion plants around the tree, such as onion, garlic and chives, as these will help to act as a deterrent to a range of pests.

Apple Pickers And Harvesters

Harvesting apples from cordon trees may be quite difficult depending on the size of the tree and the height of the cordons. If the tree is small and the cordons are reachable, then harvesting the apples by hand or with the help of an apple picker is possible. An apple picker is a tall pole with a device at the end which will pick and hold and apple as it is pulled up and off of the tree. This device can then be removed and placed in a basket in order to collect the apples from difficult-to-reach places.

If the tree is large and the cordons are too high too reach, then a harvester may have to be employed. These machines will drive up alongside the tree and knock the apples off, then collect them in a large container. However, this process can damage the tree and it should only be done as a last resort.

Disease Control

Cordon apple trees are vulnerable to a range of diseases, but with regular inspections and a few preventative measures, these diseases can be avoided. Regularly inspecting the tree for any damage or signs of disease will help to catch any issues early on, allowing for quick and effective action. The addition of pest and disease sprays or white oil can also be beneficial, as these will help to control the spread of any diseases. Mulching the tree with straw or grass clippings can also help to protect it from disease, as this will reduce the amount of moisture available to pests.

When caring for a cordon apple tree, using good gardening practices such as watering and fertilizing correctly, pruning correctly, and monitoring for pests and diseases, will help to keep it healthy and producing quality fruit for years to come.

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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