By DAN ELLIOT
This past season was good for South Central apples. Although dry, spring was early, fairly sunny, and warm. Blossom peak was about June 4th – many years it is around the 10th. We were almost a week earlier than Fairbanks. Although July was cloudy, the ground had already warmed and the rain was a plus. Hard freezes were late in September which lengthened the ripening period. I had good red blush on a number of varieties that I had thought were supposed to stay a yellow or green.
Following are my reflections and opinions on some varieties.
Most beautiful – Dawn – red as a Christmas ornament.
Most tart – Dawn – early (8/18), splits and softens when ripe. Tart enough to make Listerine taste like ginger ale!
Best late – September Ruby, State Fair, Carroll
My Favorite – September Ruby
Biggest for me – Morden 359
Large fruit – Westland, Goodland, PF21, Lowland Raspberry, Carroll, Heyer 20
Pie – Westland, PF21, Lowland Raspberry, Heyer 12, Heyer 20, Yellow Transparent
Desert – Norland 9/1, Rescue 9/16, Parkland 9/10, Ukalskoje Nalivoje 9/16, Golden Uralian 9/6, Carroll 9/16, Mantet 9/6, State Fair 9/27, September Ruby 9/25, Oriole 9/15
Most common and reliable in South Central – Norland, Rescue, Parkland, Westland, Yellow Transparent, Heyer 12
Other common varieties – Geneva Early, Chinese Golden Early, Canada Red, Yellow Jay, Novosibirski Sweet, Whitney, Red Duchess, Breaky, Lodi, Trailman, Vista Bella, Sunrise, etc.
Cider apples – Norland, Patterson, Shaefer, Red Duchess, Whitney, Rescue, Trailman, Norson, September Ruby
Following are recommendations and opinions on horticultural practices.
Feed early – no later than June 10 (foliar spray later is okay.)
Water an inch a week, usually Memorial Day through June.
Prune March 20 to April 10 (water sprouts can be removed anytime)
Benchgraft (indoor dormant) March 15 – April 30
Outdoor graft May 10 – June 1
Protect from moose with 7’ fencing
Protect from mice and rabbits with wire mesh.
Prevent dog “watering and fertilizing.”
Protect against sunscald in late winter and early spring – paint trunk on the south side with white latex paint while the tree is young and smooth barked. Another option is to use the white spiral plastic rabbit/mice guards.
Bare soil around the base of the tree (2’ radius) helps warm up the soil in spring, deters mice in the winter, and prevents competition from weeds and/or grass. One drawback is that soil dries out faster. After July 4, a mulch can be applied to fight weeds and hold moisture.
The two most neglected practices are fruit thinning and early training. Fruit thinning increases fruit size, decreases the proportion of wasted energy in the form of discarded core and seeds, and discourages biennial bearing. My recommendation is to let ripen only one fruit per cluster and to space each fruit 6” apart. About the end of June to July 4th, I thin about 80% of the little apples. A couple of weeks later I thin the rest to the recommendations above.
Training and pruning strive to maximize the efficiency of the tree to produce fruit. The University of Kentucky has produced an excellent video on training and pruning apple trees. (This was the video shown at our March meeting.) Other good sources of instructions are:
Training and Pruning Apple Trees; Forsley, CB; 23 pp; Cornell Information Bulletin #112
The Pruning Book; Reich, L.; 234 pp; Tauntan Press; 1997
The American Horticultural Society Pruning and Training; ed. Brickell, C.; 336 pp; D K Publishing; 1996
Pruning Simplified; Hill, L.; 208 pp; Storey Pub 1986 or Rodale 1979