Help with apple trees

Asked October 4, 2020, 8:06 PM EDT

Good evening - I have approximately 30 apple trees that are struggling and I would like some help diagnosing the issue. I purchased them when they were 1/2" caliper and planted them in a garden area for two years. I moved them to an orchard area about 12' apart two springs ago. The varieties are pink lady, jonagold, honeycrisp, golden delicious and northern spy. The northern spies are the only variety that are not showing signs of stress. The other four varieties leaf out beautifully in the spring but as soon as the leaves are fully open all the growth stops. There is a lichen growing on the bark of all the trees (northern spies included but as I said before, the northern spies have not had any issues.) I did a soil test in August of this year (2020) and will attached the results along with a couple of photos. The photos were taken in mid-September. I have more photos available and can send them along when we talk again. Any help is appreciated. -Brian Maki

Clinton County Michigan

1 Response

If fungicides were not applied for apple scab control, this could explain your leaf drop.

The following is a good general guide to fruit growing in the back yard.


They also have a good resource for pest control --

Your trees will also be helped with better weed control in a circle of at least 2 foot radius. Once the ground is clear in this zone, use of landscape cloth over this zone will help you maintain a weed free zone.

The pH is a bit low, so application of lime can help. Typical rate is 5 lbs per 100 square feet. It is best to rake this into the top layer of the soil if you can as it takes a several years for this to move with water into the soil profile. Since your magnesium level is relatively high, use a high calcium rather than a dolomitic lime which has a higher magnesium level. Your potassium is a bit low, so next year when you fertilize use a fertilizer that has some potassium along with the nitrogen.
Also, your trees may benefit from some pruning in spring 2021 to shape the tree. See the attached picture for ideas. You should remove some branches at the top of the tree so that there is a single boss limb, aiming for tapered shape.