Apple tree planting approaching

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Apples are one of my favorite fruits. Who can resist sinking their teeth into a cool, crisp juicy apple. Apples are good for you too! They contain phyto-chemicals that play a role in decreasing heart disease, controlling diabetes, and reducing the risk of cancer. The majority of the apples’ disease fighting factors are in the skin. The apple is also low in sodium and high in potassium, and it tastes great! Apples are also low in fat and are cholesterol free.

An apple tree is one of the first fruit crops backyard fruit growers think about planting in their yard. However, they are one of the more difficult fruit crops to grow, primarily because of the wide range of pests that like them.  One of the more difficult diseases for home fruit growers to combat is apple scab. This is a fungus that causes lesions on the fruit and can also defoliate the tree and kill the spurs – the structures that produce the flower buds. Other diseases fruit growers must contend with are fire blight, cedar apple rust and powdery mildew.

A number of scab-immune apple varieties have been developed and released over the past 25 years and have performed well under Kentucky growing conditions. Most also have resistance to several other diseases.

Redfree – a red apple that ripens in August and colors well for this time of the season. Redfree is a tart, sweet apple which will keep for several months and also has resistance to cedar apple rust, as well as sooty blotch and fly speck diseases.

Liberty – a very tart, McIntosh-type apple that ripens in late August. In a cool fall, Liberty develops dark red stripes over a green/yellow fruit.

Enterprise – a red, spicy, crisp and fine-grained apple that ripens in mid-to-late October. Enterprise has a relatively thick skin, a very good disease resistance package and stores well until February.

Gold Rush – a very firm, tart, yellow apple that ripens in mid-to-late October. It sweetens up in storage and is one of the best storing apples available, keeping up to eight months. It has a very good resistance to scab and fire blight, but is susceptible to cedar apple rust.

Sundance – a firm, yellow apple, which is more difficult to find. It is very resistant to all four of the early season problem diseases and ripens in mid-October.

Other varieties that may be of interest to you include Pristine, Dayton, Jonafree, Macfree, Priscilla and SirPrize.

To save space in the yard, select varieties grown on dwarf or semi-dwarf rootstock or inter-stem grafted trees rather than full size. Dwarf or semi-dwarf rootstock and inter-stem grafts will produce a tree that is 30-75 percent of a full sized apple tree. They will also start bearing sooner than a full sized tree. Call me at the Trimble County Extension Office, at 502-255-7188, for a list of recommended rootstocks for apple trees.

Remember, disease resistant does not mean disease immunity. They also do not have resistance to insects. Attempting to grow apples without spraying for plum curculio, coddling moth, rosy apple aphid and scale can cause major crop losses, if not complete crop loss, depending on the season.

The most important sprays for apple varieties are the early ones, the dormant oil, pink, petal fall and first-cover sprays.

The publication, Disease and Insect Control Programs for Homegrown Fruit in Kentucky (ID-21), provides descriptions of these varieties and spray recommendations. ID-21also has a list of insecticide and fungicides for organic growers.

This publication contains spray schedules for pears, peaches, nectarines, plums, cherries, apricots, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries and grapes. The publication, Home Fruit Variety Recommendations 2012 – Hortfact—3003, may be of additional interest to you.

To obtain this publication or for more information on fruit crops, contact the Trimble County Cooperative Extension Service at 502-255-7188.

Michael Pyles is Trimble County’s Cooperative Extension agent for agriculture.