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.

• Plant soon, or wait until spring. Look to plant your tree in October, or hold off until next April or May. Avoid chemical fertilizers, and instead spread about an inch or less of compost in a 3- or 4-foot radius around the tree in the spring.

If you're planting this fall, put a metal cage around the tree so rabbits won't eat it.

• Prune precisely. "Keep the trees pruned so you get sunlight throughout the interior of the tree. It helps keep the tree dry," explains Don Jantzi, veteran organic orchard manager at the Rodale Institute. "After rainfall, the more sunlight, the more quickly it dries out. Good air drainage means less fungus growth throughout the tree."

January and February are the best months to prune apple trees; just don't ever prune in the fall. To prune, first remove broken and dead branches and then move on to remove any branch that is crossing and rubbing on another one. "You want as many branches as possible growing horizontally, rather than upward," says Jantzi.

Travis also suggests pruning horizontal sets of limbs every foot or so up the tree.

• Be patient. It takes three years to get fruit production, but to maximize your tree's apple output later, pull all fruit and flowers off the tree the first two years. Even when your tree is in full production mode, in midsummer, yank off apples that look blemished or look like they're home to worms. Keeping six to eight inches of space between each piece of fruit is key to reducing disease when you're growing organic apples. It will also help your tree produce bigger apples.

• Meet for fruit talk. "There are new varieties coming out all the time, making it fun," says Jantzi. "Small groups meet and share experiences and tips. It helps everyone. Latch onto a backyard fruit-growers group in your area. Now's the time to gather, share ideas, and learn."

• Don't look for false "perfection.""An apple with a few scars on the outside still makes a good pie and a good sauce. A perfect fruit is really the problem. Learn to deal with a few blemishes. Cut out worms and discard," says Travis. For apple recipes, visit the Rodale Recipe Finder.


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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