Need advice on caring for backyard apple tree

Asked July 18, 2018, 11:16 AM EDT

Hi. I live in northeast Oregon. I moved into my mother's house and 2 years ago and inherited a backyard apple tree. I do not know what kind of apple tree this is. When my mom moved in 5 or 6 years ago, the apple tree was already there. She never did anything with the apple tree, but when I moved in with her, I read up on taking care of apple trees and the first fall I was here, I trimmed all the dead branches off the tree, around October or so. I literally took off about 1/8 of the tree. Last year, after the intense pruning I did, the apple tree produced nothing but leaves. I think there were 3 apples on the whole tree. This year, it filled out with hundreds of buds and now is covered in apples. The branches are so heavy, some are only 2 feet from the ground now. I even thinned some of the apples where I could reach them. I keep the ones picked up off the ground daily. I am unsure now of what, when or if to spray the tree. We did plant 2 cherry trees in line with our apple tree this spring. Some of the apples have worm holes in them and I have read up on what I can find on the internet about this, but am no closer to figuring out what kind of insect this is or how to properly care for the tree. I would appreciate any advice or guidance. Thanks - Ellen E.

Union County Oregon apples fruit trees horticulture

2 Responses

Hi Ellen,

The insect damage you photographed looks like coddling moth damage. This is really typical for apples and pears in Oregon, and it is very important to control coddling moths because they can damage local orchards. Please see the Pacific Northwest pest management handbook for home coddling moth control https://pnwhandbooks.org/insect/tree-fruit/apple/apple-codling-moth. I would also suggest spraying an insecticide, organic or conventional, to control coddling moth. Removing and destroying the fruit with holes will reduce the future population of coddling moth.

As for general tree care, your tree is most likely in a cycle we call biennial bearing, this means the trees bear a lot of fruit one year and very few the next year. Thinning the tree can help break the cycle of biennial bearing. This may have been worsened by over pruning. This isn't typical if you only removed 1/8th of the canopy, but the signs you described like lots of vigorous shoots are typical of over pruning. Prune a bit less this fall and winter. You may also want to prune in a way that reduces the number of flower buds on your tree.

Thanks for the reference material, Ashley. I really appreciate the advice!!