Organic Apple Tree Care
- Apple trees need to be pruned once a year, in Quebec this pruning is done in the winter, when the trees are dormant. The size of the tree will partly determine what style of pruning to carry out. Many people will have dwarf apple trees on their properties.
- In order for the fruit to turn red, it must be exposed to the sunlight.
- Young apples should be thinned out so that big fruits can form.
- To discourage rodents, keep the area around the apple trees well mowed and rake up the clippings.
- In the winter, place wire mesh around the base of young trees. This will prevent rabbits and rodents from eating the young bark.
- At the half-inch green, pink bud stage (leaf buds are partially open, flower buds are pink): Apply horticultural oil - this will kill scales, mites, European red mites, etc.
“Why are my apple trees not making fruit?”
- In order to bear fruit, apple trees need an apple tree of a different species nearby to cross-pollinate with; they also need bees or other pollinating insects to fertilize their flowers. If there are no other apple trees nearby, plant a crab apple tree. As long as you do not use insecticides, you should have pollinating insects around.
- Another problem could be that the tree is not old enough to bare fruit. Apple trees should be at least three years old before they will produce any fruit.
- At the opposite end of the spectrum, your tree might be too old to bare fruit. Pear trees have a very long reproductive life (in some cases over 100 years) however apples produce for only a short time. Dwarf apple trees produce for around 20 years, while regular trees produce apples for just around 50 years.
To control the fungus apple scab: Plant scab resistant varieties: Liberty, Freedom, Nova Easygrow, Bell Mac, and Nova Mac. Sulphur can be used, but it must be applied all the time, as it will be washed off in the rain. It is also non-systemic, so any new growth after application will not be protected. For sulphur to work, it must be applied before the scab infects the tree. Apple scab will not spread through the veins of the tree, but it will spread by wind or rain to the other parts of the tree. Raking up and removing the dead leaves (as they fall and in autumn) will help control apple scab, since the fungus will be on the dead leaves. The fungus can travel a fair distance, so if you compost the leaves, do it away from the trees (at least 25 metres). When the leaves have fully decomposed, they can be used safely as compost without reinfecting the tree.
Plum Curculio is one of the main insect pests of Quebec's apples: If the weather is cool, they will mainly climb up the tree trunks - placing a sticky layer of Tanglefoot® (a sticky product that is manufactured to deter birds) on the trunk can limit their numbers. Some of the beetles may fly (all have wings), and so the Tanglefoot® solution may not be good enough on its own. Rotenone, a product made from plant roots, is "natural" but not non-toxic. It is a poison that will kill the Plum Curculio, and is perhaps the least toxic, readily available control for these beetles.
Apple maggots are also a problem in Quebec: A trap is available at nurseries that sell products for commercial apple growers. This trap is used as a means to judge the number of apple maggots in an orchard; but on a very small scale, these traps could be used to organically control apple maggots. The trap consists of a fake apple: a red ball with an apple scent that attracts the adults, covered in a sticky substance that they adhere to.
“How can I stop flowers falling off tomatoes, cucumber, zucchini, squash, etc., without making fruit?”
Tomato: High nighttime temperatures prevent fertilization, without fertilization, fruit will not form. To prevent this from happening, spray the plants gently with water in the evening.
Cucumber, squash, zucchini, etc: All these vegetables have separate male and female flowers: only the female flowers will produce fruit, the male flowers will fall off. The male flowers generally bloom first, and are necessary to fertilize the female flowers if fruit are to be produced.
There are a number of measures that can be taken to minimize the likely hood of your roses getting diseased. Remove any leaves that are not healthy, and any leaves that are on the ground; this will help stop the spread of any disease the plants may have. Do not water roses from above, water on the leaves will create a better environment for fungus and bacteria to grow in. Instead, water roses at their base, installing soaker-hoses (hoses with small perforations that let water out along their length) will facilitate this and save time from hand watering under the plants. Good air circulation will also help minimize disease transmission.
Many roses are not hardy in this area, and must be protected from the cold. In the fall, do not pick any of the flowers off rose bushes, but allow them to get old on the plants: this will encourage the plants to stop growing and start storing energy for winter. In the late fall, after there have been many frosts, and the leaves on the rose have died, prune off some of the longest growths, leaving at least two or three feet of stems. Cover the base of the rose in dirt, the more it is buried the better, some people will even cover the whole plant with soil, but a mound covering the base of the plant in at least ten inches of dirt is acceptable. Now, cover the plant with leaves or straw as a further insulation. In the spring, when the snow has melted, take the straw or leaves and the soil off the plant, so that the crown is at the level of the soil. Cut back the stems to where there is green. Now your roses are ready for a new year.