Sometimes gardening expands beyond vegetables and flowers. Home gardening can include fruit trees! We have several Apple Trees in our back yard and we’re always excited to see the blooms come in spring! We know that the blooms will turn into literally hundreds of apples come fall! I wanted to capture the beauty of the apple trees in blooms so that you could see them also.
We use the apples for various things. We can and freeze most of the apples to be used later in the winter. They make some delicious apple pies, fried pies and another favorite of ours is just cooked apples. Of course, they taste just as delicious straight off the tree! Oh, and we can’t forget the apple jelly! And then there’s the dehydrated ones for snack chips!
Back in April the Apple trees were blooming. They literally looked like big snow clouds! This was the promise of all those delicious apples to come!
Upon a closer look at one of the apple blossoms, you will see that our variety has a slight pinkish-lavender tinge to them. I have to be honest and say I’m not positive as to the variety of our trees, since they were already on the property when we bought our home. Apple blossoms are truly a gorgeous and have a delightful fragrance!
Now it is June and the blooms have faded. In their place are hundreds of tiny apples. If you look close enough you can spot a few in the pic above. Now that the apples have formed, it is time to thin or remove excess fruit. It’s a hard thing to go thinning them out! Our first thought was we wanted all of them!! But, thinning and removing the excess fruit will help out production. It will prevent breaking limbs and ensure larger apples. To thin, we need to remove the smallest and damaged fruits, leaving at least four inches between the remaining ones.
Here we are close up. You can see the apples are already getting quite a nice size about them! It’s time to thin them. Then, we wait and let them grow!
Caring for Apple Trees
Soil: When planting apple trees, they will need well-drained moderately rich soil. If you are planting a new apple tree plan on mulching with straw or hay to keep the soil moist.
Sun: Apple trees need full sun (6 or more hours per day) for best fruiting, so choose a sunny site.
Pruning: After an apple tree has grown and is bearing fruit, it will require regular pruning. Pruning needs to be done when the mature tree is dormant (winter months).
You will want to cut away any overly vigorous or upright stems. These are most commonly found high in the top of the tree.
Cut and remove any weak twigs that hang from the undersides of limbs. If any of the limbs low in the tree begin to droop, you will want to remove those also.
If there are any limbs that are aging and lacking in fruit, go ahead and prune it out to make room for younger producing limbs.
Insects: Apples trees are very susceptible to pests. Apple maggot is the worst, and most hated, enemy! Apple maggot flies emerge in July through September. You can get the jump on them by hanging sticky traps in June to capture the flies before they can lay eggs on the apples. These traps are covered in sticky attractant.
To make your own sticky traps: Purchase plastic balls about the size of an apple, sticky insect trap coating and the attractant from local garden centers. Paint the ball red. Then, attach a 12 inch wire or string to the ball and hang the dried ball in an apple tree. Coat the ball completely with the sticky insect trap coating. You will then need to apply the feeding attractant to the ball to draw in the flies. Hang several of these balls in each apple tree (5-6 per tree). Make sure you check them often and if they become to covered in flies to catch any more, remove and dispose of in trash. Then replace the ball.
Sprays are commonly used for insect pest. This would be a personal decision, especially if you are practicing organic gardening. For us, and since we do practice organic gardening, we do not spray with pesticides.
Disease: Clearing out, racking up or mowing the leaves under the apple trees at season’s end goes a long way in helping prevent diseases. Pruning will also reduce disease by letting in more light and air. If disease does happen, it will require appropriate treatment.
Using wire-mesh cylinders around the tree base will help deter rabbits and mice. Keeping deer away will require fencing or repellents. For us personally, we just let them be. They are such beautiful creatures and there are enough apples to go around
Apple trees, and fruit trees in general, require more maintenance than other trees. But, the rewards of fresh fruit for apple pies, fried pies, cooked apples, apple jelly and apple chips will make the effort worthwhile!
Stay tuned for the progress and harvesting! We will be preserving our harvest by making jelly and dehydrating some yummy apple treats as well as making pies and other recipes!