Apple Ecstasy

As a longtime veggie gardener, I know well the thrill that comes from “growing your own.” But the Zestar apple tree is producing like crazy this year and it has sent me over the moon in a way that tomatoes and zucchini have never done. What fun it is to be muddling in the garden and reach up and pick a sweet snack. A true sense of self-sufficiency.

zestar apple
An espaliered apple tree will let the sun get to the fruit, reddening it up nicely.

I recently completed an article for Northern Gardener magazine on growing apples as organically as possible. It will run in the Sept/Oct issue. I opened the piece by stating that I grow my apples organically-by-good-fortune.

Zestar apple
You can either have more, smaller fruit or thin the fruit in June, leaving the largest apple, shooting for one every six inches. June drop will help with this.

Apple maggots are the scourge of Minnesota apple growers and are what is typically referred to when one speaks of worms in the apples. They are the #1 pest in these parts and I believe that I side step it because there are so few apples trees in the my neighborhood, thus the apple maggot fly is not drawn to my yard. Or it could be old fashioned good luck and believe me, I don’t take it for granted. The best defense against apple maggot is to clean up dropped apples, as the the little devils crawl into the ground, overwinter and revisit next year in spades. Organic gardeners hang red, sticky traps to catch the flies before they lay their eggs. You can also spray, but that is what we are trying to avoid, as chemical sprays aren’t good for the birds and bees, as we know, plus apples suck up chemicals like sponges. They are consistently listed as the #1 fruit to buy organically.

Zestar apples
Looking up through a canopy filled with fruit is a joyous experience.

Check out my article in the Northern Gardener Sept/Oct issue. Here are a few apple growing basics to get you going:

  • Apples needs full sun, close to eight hours a day to be at their best.
  • Though they are somewhat self-pollinating, having another variety within view can be enough to produce more fruit. A crabapple will do the trick.
  • Dwarf varieties are easier to tend and fit better into small space gardens.
  • There are no trees bred to be resistant to the apple maggot, but search for varieties that are resistant to fire blight and apple scab the other two pains-in-the-ass to orchardists.

My Zestar apple tree is espaliered against a 6 foor privacy fence and I think this is overall beneficial to the health of the tree. Read about my espaliering process.

Sam Kedem, great local rosarian and organic growing aficionado gave me great advice when I started barraging him with questions about this and that and how do you fight this bug or that blight. He told me “to do whatever will bring enjoyment to time spent in the garden.” Well put.

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. Karla Keller says:

    Hello my Friend, my school has a community garden this year and it is doing very well. I have asked for permission do plant 2 apple trees for espaliering (is this a real word?). If I am approved, will you help me get it started? I shall repay you with tomato tart!!!

  2. Karla Keller says:

    Would ya, could ya add RSS feed to your site so we can all update regularly?

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