Many people want to grow their own apples, but it can be very disappointing when the apple crop is damaged by insects and disease. The fruit can become so disfigured and blemished that it is no longer edible. Choosing a disease-resistant apple tree variety is the first step in producing pretty apples. You will find an assortment of apple varieties these days that are resistant to some of the more common apple tree ailments, such as fire blight and powdery mildew.
Many of the insects and diseases that attack apples and apple trees tend to overwinter in the leaf litter and ground fall apples beneath the tree. A simple method to improve the quality of your homegrown apples is to eliminate the over wintering habitat for those pests. Leaves and fruit that fall from an apple tree should be picked up and discarded. The leaves and ground fall apples should not be added to your compost pile. They should be bagged and placed in the trash, far from your apple trees.
Insects that attack apple trees like to spend the winter beneath a blanket of fallen leaves. When spring arrives, those insects are ready to fly or crawl up into the tree where they damage the blossoms and the developing fruit as they lay eggs for the next generation. Without that warm blanket of leaves, many of those insects will succumb to the cold winter weather.
Other insects lay their eggs in the apples and when spring comes, those eggs hatch and the insects are ready to attack the next crop of apples. If the ground fall apples are kept picked up, those insects won’t get the chance to damage next year’s crop.
Practicing good garden hygiene will help you reduce the amount of spraying necessary for a blemish-free apple crop. A good pruning schedule is also beneficial, but that’s an article for another day.
Mike McGroarty is the owner of McGroarty Enterprises and the author of several books. You can visit his website at FreePlants.com and read his blog at MikeBackYardNursery.com.
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