Gardening Articles: Edibles :: Fruit & Nut Trees
Growing Organic Apples
by Michael Phillips
To minimize apple problems, plant disease resistent kinds, such as 'Redfree'.
Ten years ago, scab fungus and too many bugs to count made my first attempts at growing organic apples a flop, particularly with New England's favorite apple variety -- the scab-prone 'Macintosh'. Today, the Macs we grow at Lost Nation orchard in New Hampshire, literally shine in their unblemished skins as a testament to the integrated approach that has evolved with my understanding of orcharding.
The first point to keep in mind is that few gardeners face all of the apple pests that fill growers' manuals, and that home gardeners need only concern themselves with a few key problems and the best methods for managing them. Below we describe specific stages of apple tree development and the important tasks for each period. We also discuss five of the most common pests.
No treatise on organic growing is complete without emphasizing the importance of building rich soil. Your plantings rely on the billions of microorganisms teeming in good compost. In late fall or early spring, spread an inch or two of compost within the tree's drip line.
Test the pH of your soil, and if it's acidic, use either a ground limestone or powdered oyster shell to raise soil pH to between 6.3 and 6.8. If the pH tests within that range and if a soil test shows that soil calcium is low, use gypsum. A plentiful supply of calcium in soil is important to prevent bitter pit, a physiological disorder of apples.