Tips on growing healthy apple trees
The phone calls have started … seems to happen this time of year every year. As soon as we get through the holidays, into a New Year and have a few mild days, those that love gardening turn their attention to their landscape and begin planning for a new growing season.
I get lots of questions at the OSU Extension office related to gardening both edible food crops and ornamental plants with one of the more popular topics being growing fruit trees. And one of the most popular trees to grow here is an apple tree.
Apple trees are easily the most adaptable kind of fruit tree in our high desert, cold-climate environment. The tree itself grows well and requires a moderate amount of supplemental water. The trick to having a great harvest is making sure the blossoms make it through our springtime temperatures, pollination and fertilization occurs, and to try and thwart off a nuisance pest called codling moth.
Sometimes you can protect the blossoms using frost cloth or Christmas tree lights (the warmth from the light protects the blossom). If the blossoms make it through the spring without cold injury damage, then pollination and fertilization should follow suit, and you should be on your way to wonderful harvest.
Secondary to frosty spring weather, you will want to try and prevent an infestation of codling moth (Cydia pomonella) or what most refer to as 'wormy apples.' Codling moth is not a unique problem to Central Oregon, in fact it is one of the more devastating pests in apple and pear trees in Oregon and on a worldwide scale.
In my experience of fielding hundreds of clients' questions related to codling moth management, I have found that most backyard growers have difficulty wading through the pest management-related technical specifications and degree-day model information intended for use by commercial growers.
In an effort to assist backyard growers in managing codling moth on a regional backyard level, Project Happy Apples was born. The goal of Project Happy Apples is to help homeowners increase their knowledge of when to monitor and manage for codling moth in real time.
The key to successful codling moth management is timing, as the life cycle of codling moth, and other insects for that matter, is temperature dependent. So, if we have a really long, drawn-out, cold spring, then the life cycle of the codling moth begins later. Timing is critical for successful management and knowing where the codling moth is at in its life cycle and which generation it is in (we can have up to three here) is key to knocking back this pest.
Each spring, we monitor the life cycle of the pest and then send out timely informational updates on how to manage codling moth. We load this information on our website, and you can also sign up to receive an email blast with pertinent and timely information. Each update details a variety of research-based pest management strategies from biological control to chemical control and includes organic options. Timely updates outline the tools and supplies you will need, what they typically cost and where you can buy them locally or online.
Pollinator protection is also emphasized in Project Happy Apples updates. Updates include a date range of when to do what and include photographs as a guide when necessary. Our hope is to equip backyard growers with both the confidence and knowledge to make informed decisions on how to manage codling moth so they can reap the benefits of a worm-free apple and delicious apple pie come fall.
To sign up for Project Happy Apples go to: https://extension.oregonstate.edu/newsletter/project-happy-apples
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.