Easy Apple Growing
After a busy holiday season full of eating cookies, cakes, pies, and everything else unhealthy, January brings us Apple and Apricot Month, a chance to celebrate fruits that we can put out for the whole family to enjoy. Apples are what New York is known for. New York is a major contender in the production of apples here in the United States and in many ways our soil and climate is perfect for growing this hardy fruit. We produce an average of 25 million bushels of apples annually, making it #2 in the country. Without the proper knowledge, however, apples can be difficult to grow successfully in the Northeast because of insects and fungal pests. Home gardeners can grow apples with little pruning or pesticide spraying and some folks even enjoy watching diverse wildlife feeding on the fruit they grow or save the remainder to make juice and preserves. According to experts, apple trees can bear fruit for half a century or more with minimal care, but they require considerably more attention and management if regular harvests of fruit without major pest damage are desired.
April is the time to prepare for spring planting. The average tree will bear fruit in three years, with full production coming in 8‐10 years. Even in New York State, hundreds of apple varieties are available from nurseries, but some are especially suitable for home gardeners. Disease resistance is a major factor to consider because common store‐bought varieties require numerous fungicide sprays to control apple diseases. Even better, apples are very adaptable to different soils and climates, and usually don’t require fertilizer in home gardens. Gardeners instead can focus on how to control insect pests from creating diseases rather than how sensitive the trees are in this environment. As always, if you should choose to use pesticides on your apple trees, remember to choose an insecticide that is least toxic to people, your pets, and other species of birds and insects which could be helping to control the undesirable bug population in your area.
When it comes to pruning apple trees, they tend to require periodic pruning to remove any weak, diseased or heavily shaded branches. Limbs must be tied up or weighted down to spread the young tree into the perfect shape. On the other hand, excessive pruning has been known to delay the onset of flowering and fruit production in young trees, and causes too much vegetative growth and shade in mature trees. If desired, right before bud break is the perfect time to fertilize your fruit trees. If you miss the moment and the trees have begun to bloom, you can still fertilize until June.
Harvest time for apples is determined by variety, weather conditions during the growing season, and intended uses for fruit. Different varieties mature and ripen from early August to mid‐November. As they progress through the maturation process, apples can increase in size, change color, and develop unique characteristics. There are many changes in our environment that can determine exactly when the apples are ready for harvest.
When it comes to growing your own apples, there is a lot of information you need to know on how to plant trees, prune them, and feed them. Come visit us and learn more about what it takes to grow your own apples ‐ a healthy food available right at your fingertips.