Fruits – organic apples report

organic apples

If you read my earlier report about our attempts at growing organic apples, you might be wondering if we were successful.

My short answer is a resounding “YES!” and we couldn’t be more pleased.

Here’s the long answer: In 2009, we put little nylon “footies” on our apples in an effort to keep apple codling moths from laying eggs on them. Unfortunately, our success rate was a humbling 5 to 10 percent. Very discouraging.

This year, thanks to learning more from our friend Steve Cole, the only certified organic orchardist in Spokane County who owns Cole’s Orchard in Green Bluff, we decided to try using both the nylon footies and the organic product “Surround” which is a powdery kaolin clay that you mix with water in a sprayer.

Scientists think the resulting clay residue on the leaves and developing apples acts as an irritant to the moths, or perhaps the surface of the leaves and apples just doesn’t feel “right” to them.

In the spring, my husband Bill sprayed the Surround on the trees at petal drop (when the flower petals start falling).

Once the apples were the size of cherries, we thinned them to a few inches apart from each other so each tree would be able to support and ripen a reasonable amount of apples. Then we covered 600 apples with the nylon footies. Yes, that is a bit labor-intensive but really didn’t take all that long.

Bill sprayed Surround a few times during the growing season because, as our luck would have it, we had a particularly rainy spring and early summer this year.

The bottom line? Not only did we have about a 95% success rate, but we also noticed that the apples we missed putting footies on – yet had been sprayed with Surround – didn’t have any apple codling moth damage either. Wow.

Next year, we plan to take the experiment one step farther: we will put the footies on the apples on one or two trees, leave them off of the others, but spray Surround on all of the trees. If the uncovered apples are worm-free, that will likely mean the nylon footies are unnecessary when Surround is applied to the apples during the growing season.

That means we wouldn’t have the expense of the footies ($20 for 300 of them) and we’d save the time it takes to apply the footies to the small apples.

Thanks, Steve, for sharing your expertise with us!