One of our Perfekt Earth followers asked if we had any tips for growing Apple trees. I found a really great article on apple growing tips at vegetablegardener.com. While it was written in 2011, the info is still quite pertinent. I have summarized a few of the highlights below.
Tips for Growing healthy APPLES:
Tip 1: Successful organic fruit-growing starts with selecting varieties that are inherently disease resistant. This important first step eliminates half the problem. Of course, just being disease resistant is not enough. An apple must also taste good. Nature has produced plenty of heirloom apples that have excellent flavor, as well as good pie, sauce, and drying qualities. Among them are literally hundreds of disease-resistant apples to choose from. Here are a ½ dozen to consider:
Akane- a bright red, tart/ sweet flavor
William’s Pride- Dark red, sweet
Sweet sixteen- Red striped, firm, crisp
Liberty- Red, sweet/ tart, productive (I like this one myself)
Hudson’s Golden Gem- Golden, Pear-like flavor
Tip 2: Just as important as selecting disease-resistant varieties is rootstock selection. I recommend a tree no taller than you can reach. But don’t expect anything labeled “dwarf” to be small enough. To the fruit tree industry, that term means anything from 4 to 16 feet. You will know how big you can expect your tree to get only if you know the name of the rootstock. The most dwarfing rootstocks are M27 and P16, yielding trees of 4 to 7 feet. Next are P22, Bud 146, and Bud 491, which produce trees 5 to 10 feet tall. Bud 9 and M9 create trees 6 to 12 feet tall.
Tip 3: Thin apples within 35 to 40 days of fruit set. The sooner you do it, the better the results. All things being equal, fruit size should increase, along with next year’s bloom potential. Many apples tend to bear heavily every other year, with little to no fruiting in between. Thinning shortly after blossoms fall helps reduce this tendency and results in more even harvests every year. Thin to the biggest fruit, leaving one about every 6 inches. In every cluster of apple blossoms, there’s one in the center that’s slightly bigger and slightly earlier than the others. Orchardists call this flower the king blossom. Because it opens a day or two before the others, the king blossom usually gets pollinated first and therefore produces the largest fruit. However, if the largest fruit is blemished, remove it and choose another. If there’s no appreciable difference in size among the fruits, select the one with the thickest stem.
Tip 4: Maintain good soil fertility and adequate soil moisture levels by keeping the trees permanently mulched. All plant health starts with the soil. Since apples, like most fruit trees, require mycorrhizal fungi in, on, or around their roots, I aim for a soil that has a lot more fungi than bacteria in it. You can enhance fungus dominance by adding brown organic matter, such as leaf mold, sawdust, and woody materials, to the soil.
Tip 5: Increase insect predators on your trees by planting a ground cover specially designed to attract beneficial insects. You can achieve a similar effect by scattering plants within your garden or orchard. Select plants for a succession of blooms from spring through fall and include ones of different heights. Low-growing plants offer ground beetles a place to hide and lacewings a place to lay eggs. Taller plants provide nectar and pollen for hover flies and predatory wasps.
Happy Gardening everyone!!!