Advice for Small Apple Grower

uglyapple(7)September 10, 2013

Greetings from Greensboro, NC!

I'm two years and 400 trees into a new 1 acre apple orchard project. Most trees are 3 or 4 feet in row spacing on BUD9, with expected density of about 800 trees per acre. Trellis is about 9.5 feet tall with 4 wires. We selected about 20 varieties, some of which we never tasted for this project based on the best information we could get. Because we have a good PYO Blueberry and Blackberry business, about 25% of the trees are "summer apples" that ripen with our berries. Growing the trees is easy but getting quality fruit is about 100 times more difficult than producing quality blackberries and blueberries, even with drip irrigation and an airblast sprayer. The spray schedule for Apples is almost overwhelming compared to the berries. So far I have spent a bundle of money and I my wife who is from apple country in Virginia is concerned that I have lost my mind!

Anybody else headed in the same direction?

Any good advice for a novice Apple grower?

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trianglejohn

I'm a tiny bit east of you in Raleigh and my mind has also been lost but not to the extent that yours has.

The apple that does the best for me is 'Williams Pride' as far as production goes. As far as no spray, 'Arkansas Black' is tops, but it fruits late and has wimpy flavor for me. I probably get around to spraying a third of the schedule that real apple people spray - not because I'm lazy but because I have a big complicated garden and it takes up all my non-working hours to tend to. The only way I can get fruit worth eating is to spray and then bag my fruit. I make my own bags out of the nylon fabric material used to cover drain pipe. I have to bag just about everything in my garden so buying a large roll of this stuff (comes in black or white) each year makes the most sense. I use the cheapest zip ties to seal off the bottom of each sock and depending on the crop, a larger zip tie to cinch in the top around the stem. It makes my garden look like hell but I get fruit to eat. I use the same technique to make mini sand bags which come in handy around the garden.

Some years my trees are damaged by disease but other years they are barely fazed. This has been a bad year.

Good luck

    Bookmark   September 10, 2013 at 2:28PM
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oldryder

i am not remotely an expert but here is what I have learned:

I have about 150 trees on various semi-d rootstock with about 15 different varieties which I started planting 4 years ago.

in my area a 3 spray program has been highly effective; fungicide before bloom and 2 applications of "Once and Done" triazicide after petal fall. I also had to cure a eastern tent caterpillar problem and this year I have a new problem with cedar apple rust.

I expect I'll be dealing with new or reinvigorated pests on an annual basis.

trees can be short of water and not look like it. They take a lot more watering than I expected even after 2 or 3 years.

well drained soil takes a regular nitrogen application for optimum growth.

Crab apple trees really seem to help with pollination.

This forum is invaluable.

This year is the 1st one that I am getting apples. next year (5th summer) I should have a good amount and an avalanche of fruit the next year barring damaging weather.

Good luck. I started my trees with the idea that I could do a pick your own after I retire. I'd be very interested to see your your program works out for you.

    Bookmark   September 10, 2013 at 2:30PM
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uglyapple(7)

To Trianglejohn:

I'm very happy too hear that Williams Pride does well in Raleigh because its one of the varieties we selected! I love the flavor and it hits at the right time. Do you have a problem with bitter pit on this apple?. Mine was terrible this year.

To Oldryder:

Where are you located?

Looks like you are testing a lot of varieties. Which ones do you like best?

I wish I could get by with just 3 sprays in my area.

I had a big fireblight problem on the Gala this year that killed one tree and required me to cut the leader out of two trees. Next year I going to try copper followed by 3 or 4 sprays of agrimycin.

I produced about 15 apples on most of the remaining trees this year (second summer) but the quality was poor and I stopped after just 2 cover sprays. The only good news is that I have a lot of apples to make hard cider!

I underestimated the spray requirement for my area this year when it rained each day for weeks at a time, but I hope to do better next year

    Bookmark   September 11, 2013 at 8:52AM
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uglyapple(7)

To Trianglejohn:

I'm very happy too hear that Williams Pride does well in Raleigh because its one of the varieties we selected! I love the flavor and it hits at the right time. Do you have a problem with bitter pit on this apple?. Mine was terrible this year.

To Oldryder:

Where are you located?

Looks like you are testing a lot of varieties. Which ones do you like best?

I wish I could get by with just 3 sprays in my area.

I had a big fireblight problem on the Gala this year that killed one tree and required me to cut the leader out of two trees. Next year I going to try copper followed by 3 or 4 sprays of agrimycin.

I produced about 15 apples on most of the remaining trees this year (second summer) but the quality was poor and I stopped after just 2 cover sprays. The only good news is that I have a lot of apples to make hard cider!

I underestimated the spray requirement for my area this year when it rained each day for weeks at a time, but I hope to do better next year

    Bookmark   September 11, 2013 at 8:53AM
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oldryder

Uglyapple;

I am in central MN (Zone 4). Honeygold and snowsweet are both doing well. Lodi also doing well, they ripen quite early and are big, good, looking apples. I'm getting anywhere from a dozen to a hundred apples or so on my young trees.

Not impressed with Macintosh or Honeycrisp so far as trees seem slow growing. Not enough samples of other varieties yet to make a determination.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2013 at 9:47AM
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thomis(7)

I put a fair amount of effort into a spray regimen, but it seems to differ every year. I'm an hour and half east of Greensboro. I think if I had to pick one variety it would be Liberty. My Liberty apples hardly even get sooty blotch, which is pretty amazing seeing that it covers all the other apples in my orchard except the very early ones.
My first spray is a early March dormant oil spray for scale and mites.
Then I spray for cedar apple rust (Rally 40 WSP) or it would devastate my crop. Timing on the CAR sprays has to be perfect. Then Like oldryder said, Triazicide once and done has been very effective on some of the worst pests, like plum curculio. But again, timing for PC has to be perfect. Fireblight can be bad some years, requiring a Strptomycin (sp?) spray, which is I think a bacterial spray.
I've never sprayed copper. You are right, though, apples are hard work. Cherries are just about impossible down here, definitely not sweet cherries.
I've heard peaches require a whole different spray regimen which is why I haven't planted a single peach tree.

    Bookmark   September 11, 2013 at 2:52PM
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megamav(5a - NY)

I've heard Sweet 16 is pretty cold hearty.
You may want to give it a look.

Oldrider, I am at the preliminary stages of looking at property for the same reason. Start an orchard now while im young, and use it as supplemental income as a farm/orchard when im retired and can focus on that full time.

Good luck, and keep us up to date!

-Eric
----------------------------------------------------

    Bookmark   September 11, 2013 at 3:14PM
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Suzi AKA DesertDance Zone 9b

Our biggest pests are something you can't spray for. BUT if you can get your man to go pee on the surrounding area, the pests will think twice, and you will get your harvest! Trust me! Under protest, he did it, and he was very pleased with the results. There is value in that 3rd leg!

    Bookmark   September 11, 2013 at 5:23PM
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