Apple Tree spraying/maintenance

countrylifeMarch 28, 2007

Ok. Apple tree newbie here. I bought 3 potted apple trees from Home Depot last year and planted them around June..... Yellow Delicious, Granny Smith, and Jonathan. The Jonathan actually produced 1 very small apple. Other than putting some composted manure around each tree I haven't done much of anything. All 3 trees are starting to bloom quite nicely this year since we've had a warmer than usual Spring so far.

My plan is to spray Sevin liquid about a month or so after petal fall and then every 3 weeks or so after that. Making sure I quit spraying within 30-40 days of harvest. Then start with the dormant spray and pruning after that.

Is this the right approach? Spray Sevin on a regular basis and Dormant Oil on a regular routine and then approach other options if I run into problems like diseases?

I'm a little confused about the spraying aspect of fruit growing. Spray only when you find a problem or spray regularly??

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Something else to add is that I haven't sprayed anything since I've gotten them and they are already budded out and starting to flower. I assume it's too late to do anything now. Is that going to be a major problem in hoping to have any kind of a harvest at all this year?

    Bookmark   March 28, 2007 at 4:53PM
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Spraying is a difficult topic to approach, since there are a fair number of products on the market, and the essentials of timing and application of chemicals do not lend themselves to a one paragraph explanation. It would be best for you to conduct some of your own research online, although even university websites are skittish about recommending pesticides for liability reasons, and when they do, include all kinds of disclaimers. After you do a little investigation, I think you will see what I mean about the complexity of this issue.

Spraying Sevin might be better than nothing, and Sevin is very effective against Japanese Beetles and moderately effective on aphids. But that's about it. The most serious early pest of apples is the plum curculio, followed later in the summer by successive generations of codling moth and/or oriental fruit moth, and possible apple maggot fly if that is present in your area. None of these insects can be effectively controlled with Sevin. For PC and CM you will need a better insecticide such as Imidan or Permethrin, and your spray schedule will have to be a max of 10 days between applications, and maybe more frequently depending on weather conditions and prevalence of pests.

Spraying should commence immediately after petal fall, just as the little fruits are forming, because this is when the plum curculio likes to strike. You will see what I mean if you closely inspect the little fruits for damage when you thin them to one or two fruits per cluster. The slightest sign of insect damage at the thinning stage is reason enough for that little fruit to come off.

I won't go into some of the disease problems that could affect your apples, such as scab (fungal), cedar apple rust (also fungal), or fireblight (bacterial), which can affect the whole tree. But you get the idea. There is quite a bit to it, and you need to learn at least some of it to produce decent apples. Fortunately, you have the internet to do it. Thirty years ago you would have had to read a good book, or maybe more than one. You need to learn to recognize the kinds of damage that can be inflicted by the various insects and diseases that may exist in your area.

Bagging apples in ziplock sandwich bags after thinning is one way to reduce or eliminate spraying after the early sprays for PC, and it is one I use myself. Apple bagging and fruit bagging in general is a whole 'nother story, and one which you should be able to access with a search of the Fruits and Orchards site. I have even written quite a lot about it myself. Maybe too much.

Don Yellman, Great Falls, VA

    Bookmark   March 28, 2007 at 9:43PM
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ediej1209(5 N Central OH)

Don, never too much! I value your knowledge and thank you so much for sharing with us. However, you said that Sevin doesn't work against the Plum Curculio and according to The Ohio State University Extension Fact Sheet, Sevin will work against Second Generation, but they do recommend Imidan for control of the First Generation. So now I am confused - again and always!

    Bookmark   March 30, 2007 at 1:14PM
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I second that comment, Don. And I hope you will offer more on spraying and on bagging.



    Bookmark   March 30, 2007 at 4:40PM
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I'm not the final authority on these things, and I don't like to argue with a university, but it has always been my working assumption that plum curculio has only one generation, at least where I live. PC is a hard-shell little insect, and I believe it has to undergo a pupal stage in the ground. Females grow flight wings and have airborne capabilities at egg-laying time. I use Imidan against PC because it is so tough to kill, but there may be other insecticides, such as Permethrin, that could be effective. I know that Sevin is not, since I have tried it.

Aside from the issue of whether PC has more than one generation in a season, I find the idea that Sevin could be effective against a second generation but not the first very difficult to absorb. Maybe the university is right, but it would have to be explained to me how this could be.

Imidan is difficult to find on the consumer market thanks to an EPA decision that backyard orchardists are not to be trusted with it. You can still find it, but you really have to look around. I have a stock of 70WP Imidan that I conserve very carefully, applying only two sprays early before I thin and bag the apples in ziplock sandwich bags. Imidan is effective at fairly low application rates.

Don Yellman, Great Falls, VA

    Bookmark   March 30, 2007 at 8:53PM
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wayne_5 zone 6a Central Indiana

Do you have the Imidan in 1 pound bags? If so, will it keep over from one year to the next if opened?
My main problem....and perhaps my only real problem has been the plum circulio bites in late May and early June. Bonide Orchard Spray just did not stop that.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2007 at 9:10PM
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The Imidan I have is from about 1996, and the foil bag has been open since that date. The foil bag contains 4 light plastic bags that are designed to dissolve in water for large commercial operations. I cut these open carefully, and dump them into a coffee can. The potency of Imidan seems to be permanent. Combination fruit tree sprays and products like Sevin have little effect on plum curculio, which is one tough insect.

I hear what you are saying about PC strikes in late May and early June, although mine occur a little earlier. Even with 2 sprays of Imidan, I do not completely stop the PC on the apples. Many of the clusters have one or more PC damaged apples at thinning time, and these are the first to be removed. With luck, I try to save the king fruit, and that is the one that is bagged. But if the king fruit is damaged, it comes off and the largest of the others is bagged.

PC are also extremely destructive on nectarines, which is one of the reasons this fruit is so hard to grow here. PC on stone fruits is followed by oriental fruit moth. I spray nectarines and plums periodically all season long or I would have nothing to pick. I am not the guy to ask about growing organically.

Don Yellman, Great Falls, VA

    Bookmark   March 30, 2007 at 9:34PM
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You don't have to spray for apple maggots or coddling moths any more! The Seattle Tree Fruit Society members began using "Maggot Barriers" on apple, pear, and asian pears trees last year. We found that they were nearly 100% effective against apple maggots and 80% effective against coddling moths!

The Maggot Barriers are nylon socks that are slipped on the fruit when the fruit is approx. quarter size. The apple maggot fly either can't lay its eggs through the nylon or when it lands on the nylon, it doesn't recognize the nylon as an apple and looks for other fruit.

Unlike apple bags, the nylon Maggot Barriers allow sunlight, air, and water in. You don't have to remove them until you are ready to pick the fruit.

The Seattle Tree Fruit Society is selling the Maggot Barriers. A bag of 300 costs $20. You can purchase them by sending an email to

    Bookmark   April 8, 2007 at 10:29PM
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Maggot Barriers were again successful against apple maggot and coddling moth damage this summer.

The email site has changed! You can now purchase them by sending an email to

All of the profit from sales go to the non-profit Seattle Tree Fruit Society in western Washington which supports fruit research and education.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2007 at 9:38PM
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alan haigh

Imidan has more stay power than Sevin. Up here in the NE apples can usually be protected from PC and most other insect damage by one Imidan spray within 5 days of pedal fall followed by a second spray 10 to 14 days later. I have been fortunate in the last 17 years to experience very little AFM. They can be trapped, I'm frequently told, by hanging about six round red spheres per tree smathered with tangle trap. These should be set out just as last spray becomes ineffective.

While I usually only use Sevin during insane Jap beet. outbreaks many use it succesfully against PC on a somewhat tighter schedule than the sched. mentioned adding one more spray.

Cornell catagorically states the efficacy of Sevin against PC as only slightly less lethal than Imidan and are guiding commercial growers with thousands of trees and a livlihood dependent on their good advice. I manage scores of home and estate orchards but my pest control advice should be recieved with caution as these are local issues.

Here, I usually don't have to protect apples from any insect after the first week of June. On occasion mites and scale can become a late season issue and stinkbugs and tarnished plant bug can chew up peaches and pears.

One way to determine your spray needs is not to spray at all the first couple seasons and closely observe what's happening with the aid of a book with pictures of your known local pests.

When you do start to spray, limit your applications even if some risk of your crop is necessary. This is the only way to learn how little spray you can get away with. Be sure you are spraying at adequate rates for the specific pest targeted. If possible purchase your pesticides from an agricultural supplier, but go there with some knowledge- those guys are not comfortable selling to home growers.

I have not found cooperative extension useful in suggesting a specific schedule for the home orchardist not seeking completely unblemished fruit. They don't have a mandate to research this kind of information. The research is financed for the purpose of helping the fruit industry, not backyard growers. Nevertheless information for commercial growers can sometimes be applied to the backyard by the thoughtful grower.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2007 at 11:10PM
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