Apples are one of the most difficult crops to grow without pesticides, BUT it is possible if you abide with three key rules:
- Get the right varieties—get the disease resistant varieties we offer on the right rootstock. You won’t have to worry at all about cedar apple rust, fireblight, scab, or mildew. (Summer rots of the fruit will still be problematic some years, especially on the mid-season apples; the early apples and the very late aren’t nearly so prone to the rots).
- Control trunk borers—they can kill trees, especially drought-stressed trees. Wrapping trunks with window screen is about 90% effective. I inspect twice/year (April and August) and carefully remove any borers with a knife and a piece of wire. During the April inspection, I spray beneficial nematodes into active tunnels and also around the base of trees.
- Either spray with Surround (kaolin clay—very “organic”—doesn’t even kill the pests, just repels them) beginning right after bloom and keeping a film on the trees for about four weeks thereafter, and/or become tolerant of insect damage on (and occasionally in) fruit.
All apples are on MM.111 semi-dwarf rootstock. It’s resistant to wooly apple aphids and fireblight, and very tolerant of drought.
Like everything we offer, other than the pawpaws, new apple trees do best when fall planted. The month between Thanksgiving and Christmas is perfect.
All the following varieties (all on MM.111) survived ten years of almost total neglect (no water, no sprays, no pruning) from 2000-2010. That should tell you something! In the order of ripening:
Williams Pride—A very early, red-purple apple with a fragrant floral sweetness. Best early apple I’ve ever eaten. Comes from the Purdue-Rutgers-Illinois (PRI) breeding program—SUPER disease resistant. Buff it on your pants leg—the natural wax makes a beautiful shine.
Pristine—Another early PRI apple with superb disease resistance (I have seen a little fireblight). A beautiful, yellow apple with lemony flavor early, mellowing to hints of banana later.
Liberty—A super disease resistant variety from Cornell U. Crisp with a very pleasing McIntosh flavor and aroma.
King David—An heirloom variety from Durham, AR, 1893. Thought to be a chance cross between Jonathan and Arkansas Black, it has some of the best characteristics of both. It is not as disease resistant as the PRI apples, but I always get some…and it’s worth it. My favorite apple flavor-wise: sugar and spice.
Orleans—A mid-season apple that holds up to the black rot better than most mid-season varieties. Very sweet and crunchy, and with a distinctive “sheep-nose” shape. From NY ca. 1920.
Florina—Another super disease resistant variety…but from France! Beautiful when ripe: pink with white lenticels (little dots). Tastes like bubblegum, I swear! Very sweet. Good keeper.
Enterprise—A nearly perfect apple: super disease resistant (a PRI selection) + sweet and tart (makes a great cider without blending other apples) + excellent keeping quality + large and pretty.
Arkansaw—Also known as Mammoth Black Twig, this is Arkansas’ oldest heirloom, dating from 1833. Distinct from Arkansas Black, but shares some of Black’s keeping ability. The fruit is medium to large, red stripes over green, crisp and winey. Resistant to all four major diseases and late enough to escape summer rots.
Arkansas Black—One of the most beautiful of apples, very dark red approaching black—buff it up for a real visual pleasure. King of the keepers. Little bothered by any diseases—even insects don’t bother it! Another Arkansas heirloom—from Benton County around 1870.
Other—I’m always experimenting with other varieties (new and heirloom) and also propagate small amounts of varieties that do “okay” for me, but are not quite as disease resistant as the above. This year I have a few Golden Russet, Tennessee Strawberry, Mother, and an unnamed fall apple I think is fantastic. Ask if you’re interested.