Golden delicious apple tree issue

Asked August 20, 2020, 11:06 AM EDT

I have a fairly young golden delicious apple tree that I planted about 4 years ago. It produced some apples this year and last. I had to harvest them in early July because of squirrels. But now the tree has hardly any leaves. The branches still have give so I don’t think they are totally dead and there are even some new shoots. The leaves that are left do have brown patches which concerns me. But I’m concerned due to so few leaves. What can I do to save the tree— it was a birthday present.

Montgomery County Maryland

3 Responses

Hi- the brown spots are most likely symptoms of apple scab, a common and serious disease that can cause partial defoliation. Rake up and dispose of all fallen leaves to prevent the fungus from overwintering under the tree. Spraying fungicides multiple times, beginning in early spring, will help you control apple scab. Please read Section 3 (page 87) of this VA Tech guide to managing plant and pest problems:

Please also read our apple pages to learn how to prune and care for your tree.

Limited sunlight due to crowding/shading from adjacent vegetation would encourage disease problems and weaken the tree.

The tree is going into fall and winter with reduced food reserves due to major leaf loss. Water it during dry periods this fall. Lightly fertilizing the tree at bloom may help if soil nutrients are deficient. Or, apply one inch of compost under the tree, especially if the soil is low in organic matter.

Should I do anything to help it during the winter such as fertilizer? Thank you!

Hi- it's probably not necessary if 1) the soil is fairly high in organic matter, 2) the tree made good growth early in the season, and 3) the leaves on new shoots are dark green and healthy (indicating that there are sufficient nutrients in the soil).

However, if that's not the case, then a light application of a complete granular fertilizer (contains nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium) might be helpful.