Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The apple tree quandry

When we bought our house about 2 years ago, I was so excited to have a large, old apple tree in the back yard. And later that year I couldn't wait to eat the lime green apples! But, it was not meant to be. Apple worms had destroyed the apples...ALL of them.

So the second year I "protected" them with the paper bags, like they do in Japan. I thought I was really smart for coming up with a safe/natural way to prevent the apple worms' destruction, even though it looked ridiculous. This option turned out to be a lot of work and some of the protective bags fell off in strong wind. But I remained steadfast: "No spray is going in THIS garden!" I waited for the apples to mature and when they did? More than half of them were eaten by the worms, AGAIN. Apparently, they are able to chew thru the bags and/or wiggle underneath the ties. And the taste of the few apples that survived the attack? Only so-so.

Worm food

This year I'm not even going to put the protective bags on. I just don't feel like it's worth the trouble, when I can get great-tasting, organic apples at the farmer's market at fair prices.

Now, I'm thinking about my options. And I'm thinking about the fate of the apple tree. We're considering a rearrangement of the backyard, since my husband wants to build an outbuilding for his motorcycles. And in our latest discussion, the current apple tree location is slated for the relocation of the greenhouse.

The very thought of chopping down the apple tree feels un-American...maybe even un-humane! But the reality is that I have a small backyard and I need to make my space count. If we end up moving the greenhouse to the apple tree spot, I'll probably have to plant another one somewhere else, just for the purpose of being redeemed. Actually, there would probably be space for a nice espaliered apple tree along the fence. But you know what? I'll still have the apple worms, so what's the point? There are other fruit trees/shrubs that I could plant instead of an apple tree that wouldn't be so bothered by pests. Why don't I just do that? Hmm...more raspberries, or blueberries or a fig tree.

The apple blossom scent is the only thing I would miss about the apple tree.

Would you think I was un-American for chopping down the apple tree?


Anonymous said...

It is funny how trees are thought of here in the US, so sacred in many ways. I used to rent a house that had the nastiest box elder tree, a really good bug attractor, but because it was large, even if it was growing too near the house, the owner was reluctant to cut it down.

ANYWAY, I say cut it down if you need to. You may want to try Surround on your apples though, it seems t work. It is a clay-based spray, not a pesticide, but a barrier.


Anonymous said...

We have apple worms, cherry worms, plum worms, bees eat our pears. We never use any pesticides. I have concluded that there is enough both for us and them. I just cut out the worm part of an apple and eat other part.
Have you asked how those organic apples you buy are worm-free?

Curbstone Valley Farm said...

There are alternative maggot barriers available. Look a bit like pantyhose material, that are easy to apply, and stretch with the fruit. I think 'Grandpa's Orchard' online sells them.

I agree with Henbogle. If you choose to keep your tree, you can use Kaolin clay to help protect the fruit both from sun-scorch, and from worm infestations. It's easier than applying individual fruit protectors. You can use pheromone traps in the spring to assess when the adult moths are active.

I also recommend Michael Phillips book "The Apple Grower: A Guide for the Organic Orchardist". He has lots of advice for growing apples without resorting to nasty sprays.

...and no, you're not un-American if you cut the tree down :P

Jackie said...

Ali, thanks for giving me the "ok" to cut it down. But if we decide to keep it, I'll look into Surround as you suggest.

vrtlarica, you raise an interesting point. I'll have to ask the people at the farmer's market that question next fall.

Clare, thank you, too, for giving me the "ok" to cut down the tree. If the tree stays I might have to try the pantyhose barriers, since they are easier to apply, although I've heard that they are not as effective as the paper bags. Or maybe the clay spray or pheromone traps. Thanks for the book suggestion.