If you live in a zone suitable for growing apples, you may be tempted to plant an apple tree in your yard and see what happens. Having a fall harvest of tasty, juicy apples is a big benefit, but an apple tree is a complicated organism that requires care and attention throughout the entire year. Many problems, some caused by humans and some not, may be encountered on the way to getting that prized bushel of apples. These problems need to be dealt with quickly and appropriately.
The springtime is cause for excitement for any apple tree owner. The apple blooms are beautiful and promise a great fall harvest, but then in a few weeks something happens. The blooms fail to set. The problem could be lack of a pollinator. Some trees are self-fertilizing, while others need another tree, either of the same or different species, to pollinate correctly. The ideal pollinators are different for each tree (see Resources). Even if a tree can self-pollinate, better results are seen with a cross pollinator.
The bark of almost all trees is its life source. It protects the main layer that provides nutrients from the root system to the main structure of the tree. If the bark is damaged, either from animals or lawn mowers hitting it, the entire tree could be at risk of dying from lack of nutrients or from an infection. Any tree bark damage of less than 25 percent is acceptable. If the wound extends more than halfway around the tree, it could become very unhealthy. Protect the tree with a trunk protector and do not mow close to it.
This is one of the most common ailments in apple trees. Cedar-apple rust, frogeye leaf spot and other types of fungus can wreak havoc on apple trees. Some, such as cedar-apple rust, may be harmless to the overall health of the tree and only present aesthetic issues. Others have the potential to do serious damage. Frogeye leaf spot, for example, can develop into black rot and kill entire branches. Most fungus can be killed using a fungicide for fruit trees. If entire branches are dead, they should be quickly removed and a sealant put over the cut.
The codling moth, apple maggots, eriophyid mites and spider mites are just a few of the insects that can spend nearly their entire life cycle in and around apple trees, and create future generations that will do the same thing. Most of the time, for a home apple tree or small group of apple trees, insecticides meant for fruit trees can be used to control the problem. However, remember not to apply insecticides during flower blooming, as this can kill bees that aid in pollination.
When treating apple trees with a fungicide, pesticide or combination product, spray at the first sign of green material in the spring, but then take a break when flowers bloom. Pick up the spraying again after the flower petals fall and continue every 10 to 14 days until harvest or the first freeze.