Fruits – Apple codling moth barriers

Apple codling moth
Have you ever seen apples that look like these? They kind of look like bank robbers who put pantyhose over their heads, don’t they?

My husband and I worked on a tedious but rewarding project out in our small orchard today. We covered the young apples with small nylon “footies.” This is to keep the dreaded apple codling moth larvae out of our apples. Let’s back up for a moment to so I can explain the process and rationale behind all of this work.

We do not use any pesticides anywhere in our garden. But growing orchard fruits organically – especially apples – can be very difficult.

Last year, we learned that one way to do this is to cover the apples with apple maggot barriers. They remind me of the little nylon footies you put on when trying on shoes in a store. The footies are slipped over small, developing apples while they are about the diameter of a dime. You twist the ends over the stem. The nylon will expand as the apples grow. It made a big difference in our harvest last year but wasn’t anywhere near 100%.

This year, we learned from an orchardist that we should first spray an organic product called “Surround” on the trees. Surround is made from kaolin clay, a white powdery substance that you mix with water. The theory is that when the leaves are covered with this filmy substance, the adult codling moths find it irritating and don’t lay their eggs there. Or perhaps the leaves don’t feel quite right to them, which also keeps them from laying eggs.

My husband sprayed the leaves with Surround a few weeks ago, after the apple trees bloomed. Then we waited for the apples to be just the right size so we could cover them with the nylon barriers. As we did this, we also thinned the apples to 6-10″ apart so we would get larger apples and so the trees wouldn’t have trouble ripening an incredible number of apples over the growing season. This ensures we’ll get plenty of apples next year, too.

Now we wait and watch the apples develop. We are hoping this one-two punch of Surround and nylon footies will result a much better percentage of, shall we say, “protein-free” apples this year!

To locate a source for these barriers, just do a Google search on “apple maggot barriers.”