Growing organic apples

Grow Organic Apples at Home

Growing organic apples can be a challenge, but the rewards are delicious!

Grow Organic Apples at Home

There's nothing like the taste of a fresh, organic apple from your own backyard.

RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—If you live on the East Coast and love organic apples, you may have noticed that most organic apples come from faraway Washington state, or even another country. That's because east of the Mississippi, more insect pests and higher humidity levels make it harder to prevent disease when growing organic apples. And although it's easy to think of Washington state as consistently drenched, thanks to its rainy city, Seattle, growers there actually raise organic apples in the desert area of the state. But by picking the right trees and maintaining them with tips from the Rodale Institute and organic apple expert Jim Travis, PhD, professor of plant pathology at Pennsylvania State University in State College, you can grow organic apples in your backyard even in the country’s easternmost states.

THE DETAILS: Although at the moment, it appears it's tougher to grow organic on the East Coast because it's wetter and full of insects that attack apples, Travis says this part of the country may one day be the best place to grow organic apples. "We live in a lush environment with beneficial insects and organisms that could help us grow organic apples here even better," he says. "Someday, it may actually shift, and the East Coast may be the best place for organic."

The orchard at Penn State is already proving this, and just last weekend, the Rodale Institute celebrated East Coast success at the first annual Organic Apple Festival at the Rodale Institute in Kutztown, PA. The nonprofit Institute, which touts the environmental benefits of organic farming and helps farmers convert to safer farming methods, plants disease-resistant varieties, uses high-quality compost and organic sprays approved by the USDA to produce safer East Coast apples.

WHAT IT MEANS: The good news is, one of Travis's students is working on developing a beneficial fungi and bacteria solution that will attack apple scab, the number one problem for organic-apple growers. And there are pheromones available that can trick male pests, making it harder for them to find female friends. But even without these advancements, there are steps you can take to grow delicious, organic apples in your backyard, without spraying your trees.

Here's how to grow organic apples in your yard.

• Choose the right tree. If you're ready to plant a single tree or start a small orchard in your backyard, look to plant a dwarfing rootstock so you don't wind up with an unmanageable 40-foot tree. For a tree that will grow 6 to 7 feet tall, look for B-9 or M-9 on the label; M-26 indicates the tree will grow to about 12 feet; and M-7 could reach 15 feet. It is imperative to plant trees that naturally resist disease if you want any edible apples. These include: Crimson Crisp and Crimson Topaz (good for fresh-apple eating), Gold Rush (good for baking pies and drying), and Enterprise (good for baking). "They are naturally selected in breeding process, and you get a percentage of good apples, no matter what you do," says Travis. (These varieties are not genetically modified, in case you were wondering.)


Published on: September 15, 2009

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Apple scab is the most

Apple scab is the most problematic early season disease that requires control. Organic gardeners can prevent this disease by practicing good orchard hygiene: remove all fallen fruits and dead apple leaves from beneath the trees in winter. -Instant Tax Solutions Scam

Black smut on apples

This tip might help those who have lovely apples and hate to throw all that away because of the black smut on them. We have 3 "dwarf" trees along the back drive: Liberty, Prima and Priscilla & they all were very good I thought considering our climate near Asheville, NC. They aren't culled so many are too small but those we saved this year are the best yet. I've devised a method to clean them. I use a slightly damp paper towel and dip it into dry baking soda and rub away at the skin, set aside and attack the next one. So much black comes off that one is horrified but once they are washed, you can't rub any more black off at all. It's tedious but it's worth it for organic, free apples. (I lather up my hands with good old Ivory soap and wash them and rinse them, after the baking soda treatment.) Do try to use a barely damp towel, the dry soda works best, I just turn the towel into 4 squares or more to use on the next apple. ** Years ago, I even put a lot of them into the washing machine with cold water and I am sure some mild soap and that worked pretty well, but I can't really remember. It's maddening to have good apples and not be able to use them because of the smut.

Store Bought Organic Apples No Longer Turn Brown

Why is it I can cut all store bought varieties of organic apples in half(even macintosh) and leave them on my counter for 2 weeks and they do not turn brown, rot or even dehydrate much. Any apple, any variety, I pick fresh off my own or neighbors trees, start oxidizing immediately. I have been having trouble discovering the answer to this. I understand some apples are better keepers than others, but varieties that used to turn brown quicly no longer do. I would really appreciate an answer, thanks

black smut on apples

Hello! We live on Martha's Vineyard, an island off the coast of Massachusetts. We've had two dwarf apple trees for over 30 years and they are still producing apples. The red delicious and macouns both have this black smut on them and I'd like to know if it's dangerous. I like to make tons of applesauce and would prefer to leave the skins on but don't know if I should. I've tried scrubbing the apples, but it's impossible to get all of the stuff off. Any suggestions? Thanks.

Getting apples for the 1st time

We've had our trees for about 12 years and finally, FINALLY they are producing. We live in central Illinois. My husband knew how to prune but we did not pull off the excess apples. A lot of them are small (a Jonathan type of apple) but surprisingly I haven't seen any worms yet. We sprayed Surround once which is a protective clay that will make the apples have a white cast, and I did spray with a dormant oil on the lower branches that I could reach in the Spring. The skins seem to have some sort of black smut & we have to peel them but they are tasty. I tried to find a book on growing fruit organically but the only thing I found was an expensive textbook. Right away, my husband was ready to spray with Malathion and other toxic sprays that he grew up with when his parents had a lot of trees. I told him I would not use the apples if he did that & there really is no benefit having your own even moneywise if you do all that.

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