Treating my old apple tree

Asked April 21, 2016, 6:14 PM EDT

I would like to take the best care of my dwarf/ semi dwarf apple tree as possible. I took a class at the mason library from MSU extention giving us informaion on fruit plants and trees. How ever I am seeking for more specific information. 5 years ago I removed all dead branches. The apples have continued to in crease in size and health I've been doing light pruning overy the years as well. Last year I cleared a 10 foot circle around the tree added top soil and organic compost from kitchen scraps and yard waste. I pit down garden fabric and cedar mulch. The tree started dropping apples early last year and became lumpy and infested with worms. I would like to avoid this. I'm okay with sprays but know they can be costly. A gardening friend of mine told me to bag and seal the apples then snip the bottom of the bags corners for ventilation. She said it would keep the flies out. If this is not the way to go then i am open for trying something new. Thanks for your time. _rachael

Ingham County Michigan fruits and vegetables apple insects apple trees

1 Response

Rachael, It looks like you are off to a good start. Is that a Red Delicious tree? I don't see many flower buds in the closeup you sent so I am assuming that you are going into an 'off' year. Some apples will set a large crop one year and the seeds in the fruit will suppress the formation of flowers and reduce bloom and fruit the next year. So you get into a pattern of large crops of small fruit and small crops of large fruit. My quess is that you lost your flowers in the early spring of 2012, and had large crops in 2013 and 2015 with a small crop in 2014 and again this year.
You asked about bagging fruit to protect against apple maggot which caused the lumpy fruit. Here is a link to some facts about apple maggot.
Bagging is common in Japan to control coloring and probably to reduce pest as well but it is very labor intensive bagging all the apples. If you cut a hole in the bag the flay will get in. Apple maggot is common in suburban settings and I get a lot of calls on it. I suspect that you have crab apple trees near by which pollinate your apple but also have a population on apple maggot flies associated with them. The fly emerges from the ground usually in early July after a rain (at least quarter inch). They flay around for about a week and then the males hang out of apples and other host and mate with the females who then lay their eggs in the apples. Commercial apple growers are usually spraying for several pest at this time and are applying insecticides every 2 weeks to control them all. A home fruit tree spray containing Malathion every 10 days should work well for you. You could time your applications to within 7 days after any significant rain (or you or your neighbors watering under their crab apples and get good control.
Good Luck