Managing mature trees


Active Member
Howdy all,

I wanted to share a little info on what I've seen as a result of a little bit of trying to control some trees that have overgrown some desirable apple trees.



I girdled this 10" Maple that over towering a very old apple tree. It seems to be taking quite a while to die off. I think I girdled it in 2014 or earlier.

This other Maple that I treated with a hack and squirt of undiluted glyphosate seems to be reacting much quicker.

(Thought I had a pix of the hack marks.)


I wouldn't have noticed this dying tree if it wasn't for the peeling bark in a grove of healthy trees. Occasionally herbicides used on one tree will impact an adjoining tree if the roots are intertwined, so I'm reluctant to treat trees next to apples.

Nevertheless, I've had great success with opening up apple trees that have been overtaken by simply removing the competing hardwoods. Just wish the apples lasted a little longer into the season.

Good call on releasing the apple trees, a lot of us wish we had old mature apple trees. I've planted a bunch over the last 5 years, but production has been pretty minimal to date. After the hunting seasons are over, I've found that December and January are pretty good months to do timber stand improvement. I try to release the valuable timber and remove the trees that don't have much or any value. 100 acres of mostly woods, so I barely make a dent on an annual basis, but over time should result in a more valuable timber forest. Certain types of trees will die the first year you girdle them. Maple are not one of those, can take multiple tries and several years in some cases. Hickories die very easily for some reason. Hickories obviously have some timber value, but they seem to be taking over some parts of the woods and I would prefer oak, walnut, cherry, etc. I do want my woods to produce income so spending 3-4 afternoons a year improving the tree quality is time well spent in my opinion. I have removed a bunch of beech and cottonwoods. The beech trees almost always end up hollow by the time they mature, the cottonwoods just grow fast and massive, shading out many other higher quality trees. i've left a few beech trees given they do provide a fall/winter food source via the nuts, but i had far too many giant old beeches that were hollow and shading out everything else. Girdling them is the safest and best way to take them down without destroying all the other trees in their path versus cutting them down. Beeches usually die in 2-3 years after girdling. I have not used herbicides, but sounds like that would expedite the process.
I can't open your pic for some reason Rusty. Apples that hang on a long time into or thru hunting season and beyond are special for sure. We have a few here that do that and you are welcome to take cuttings from those late holding trees for grafting anytime you would like. Keep on releasing apples though, sooner or later you may stumble onto a tree with those late holding genes.

On the girdling we went to cutting two lines around the tree and cutting well into them just past the sapwood as many just stayed alive with just one shallow girdle cut. The link below shows a substantial more girdle cut than we were making as we simply chainsawed a single ring around the tree, sometimes it killed the tree and sometimes not. The paper points out that spring time is the easiest time of year to girdle because of how loose the bark is; I have seen how loose the bark is in the spring but had never connected the concept to it making the girdling easier until reading the paper on it. It also points out that springtime is a very effective time to girdle the tree and it tells how to girdle to kill the tree and how to girdle to encourage tree sprouts below the girdle.
Thanks for the link Dave. I posted them from a phone using Tapatalk, perhaps that's the issue.

I tried sending them to the phone number I have for you.


I’ve given up on girdling. Can take too long for death and too time consuming for me. Half inch drill bit and gly shot down the hole works better. Hack and squirt works too but I like the drill.

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I’ve given up on girdling. Can take too long for death and too time consuming for me. Half inch drill bit and gly shot down the hole works better. Hack and squirt works too but I like the drill.

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I've gone exclusively to the drill as well unless I want to fell the tree. Works very effectively, and not terribly labor intensive. I got sapped trying this on a maple during the wrong time of year though. Yuck.

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Will that method be effective Dec- Feb ?


It seems to but others on here have been doing it longer than me. From what I've read of the posters that talk of it, late summer and fall the best times as the sap is headed down. But thats a bad time for me as I don't do work in my woods then. So hinge, cutting, or squirt is done by late spring. I'm sure others have better experience. than me.
What spacing between holes? Is it one hole per tree or do you need to drill a hole ever few inches?
This seems like a great idea for the trees too large for me to risk taking down on my own. 99% of the time I'm out there by myself, so running the chainsaw at all is already risky business. Don't need to try getting down big snarly poplars by myself too.
What spacing between holes? Is it one hole per tree or do you need to drill a hole ever few inches?

Again, I’m not the expert here as I’ve learned this from others. But on my typical hinge cut type tree which would be 6 dbh or so, I use one hole. On the larger trees I wing it and use 2-3 holes with no real reasoning and it seems to do the job.
Now, supposedly there is danger of the gly affecting adjacent trees with this method but I’ve not seen it.
I use a sport drink bottle with the squirt top, to handle my non diluted gly.
The same process works with hack and squirt, making a hack, and while hatchet is in tree, spraying gly into the cut, and making possible multible cuts and spray depending on size of tree.

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I have 28 mature apple trees on my land. They were all growing when I bought the property 27 years ago.
I keep them pruned and do that every two to three years in the winter.
All trimmed branches are removed from the drip line and most larger ones are used for smoking venison.
I opened up all South and East exposures when I did an every third row pine thinning several years ago. Sunlight penetrates to the trees.
I put out apple tree fertilizer spikes every spring. The amount depends on the size of the individual tree.
These trees are absolute deer magnets when they drop their fruit.
I also brush hog and use a Stihl commercial trimmer to get out any competing brushes under the drip line of the trees twice in the early and late summer. This allows the apple trees to get the majority of the rain that falls in their area.
I let a friend keep bees on my land. They pollinate my trees and give him honey.
That is my mature fruit tree strategy.