Up until a few years ago, there was not much published literature on apple growing that dealt specifically with the problems we face in Alaska. La Culture de la Pomme dans le Nord (Growing Apples in the North, 271 pages), published in 1992 by Eddy R. Dugas, is just the book we need, except it’s in French. Dugas is a Canadian from northern New Brunswick, just across the border from Aroostook County, Maine. He has a large experimental orchard in Zone 2. Because I’ve never had a day of French class, the language barrier makes for pretty slow reading. Still, because so many French technical terms are essentially the same as in English, and because there are lots of well-labelled illustrations, I’m able to make headway at about fifteen minutes per paragraph, using a French-English dictionary. It is well worth the effort.
Chapter 1 is about the basics of apple trees. Chapter 2 is on orchard site selection. Chapter 3 is the best treatment of hardy rootstocks I’ve ever seen. It discusses the pros and cons of seedling rootstocks such as Antonovka, Beautiful Arcade, Borowinka, Baccata, Prunifolia, and Columbia Crab, and clonal rootstocks such as Ottawa 3, 3, and 5, Budagovski 490 and 491, P 2 and 22, Alnarp 2, Nertchinsk, and two dwarfing stocks that Dugas developed himself: D2 and D3. D2 looks promising for Alaska, because it induces early leaf drop and is hardy in Zone 2. Chapter 4 is on grafting and propagating rootstocks. Chapter 5 is on improving the soil. Chapter 6 is on laying out and planting an orchard. Chapter 7 contains a very helpful guide to recognizing and treating deficiencies in the major elements (nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus), minor elements (calcium, magnesium, sulfur), and trace elements (boron, copper, manganese, zinc, iron). There is also a section on ways to induce earlier fruiting. Chapters 8 and 9 are on control of weeds, insects, and diseases. Chapter 10 is a well-illustrated discussion of pruning and training apple trees. Chapter 11 is on controlling overproduction and premature fruit drop. Chapter 12 is on harvesting. Chapter 13 contains one-paragraph descriptions of about 50 varieties, including many that might be worth trying in Alaska. Ripening dates are given for northern New Brunswick, and it ought to be a fairly simple matter to convert these to Anchorage dates as discussed in a recent Newsletter by Bob Purvis. This chapter also contains a table of varieties that have not survived on specific rootstocks.
The book can be obtained from Eddy Dugas for $24 US at PO Box 172, Van Buren, ME. (Dugas keeps a P.O. box in Van Buren, which is just across the river from his orchard in New Brunswick). If any club member is fluent in French and plans on having some spare time next winter, translating this book (or even just chapters 3 and 13) would be a great project.