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 available on MM.111 semi-dwarf rootstock. It’s resistant to wooly apple aphids and fireblight, and tolerant of drought. Some apple varieties are also available on seedling rootstock (see “The Posterity Collection” below)–these will be large trees, slower to come into bearing, but 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 survived ten years of almost total neglect (no water, no sprays, no pruning) from 2000-2010. That should tell you something!
“The Posterity Collection.”
For those who want a really big apple tree with excellent drought resistance that should be around for your grandchildren (hence the name “Posterity”), we’ve grafted several super disease-resistant varieties onto seedling rootstock (sometimes called “standard” rootstock), including Arkansas Black, Enterprise, King David, Shannon, Black Limbertwig, Arkansaw, Tull, Porters Perfection, Williams Pride, Stayman Winesap, and Royal Limbertwig. Advantages include superior drought and pest resistance and longer lived. Disadvantages include harder to prune and pick and longer to come into bearing. The pruning disadvantage can be largely accounted for simply by more intensive pruning to keep the tree shorter.
With the exception of Williams Pride, all the trees in the Posterity Collection have good cider characteristics. It would be conceivable to grow these trees with little or no pruning and shake apples out for cider pressing when ripe. Individual apples would be smaller and less likely to look marketable, but if you’re just going to press them, well…
All these varieties are also available on the semi-dwarfing rootstock MM.111, so if you want these “posterity” trees, please indicate with the word “posterity” or “seedling rootstock” when you order.