Gardening

Near-organic apples

Regular readers of this blog know that in the past, I’ve written about the idea of growing “near-organic” apples.

With the near-organic method, you spray as little as three times early in the season when the apples are still very small — starting when they first begin to grow. Then two more sprays are applied spaced about ten days to two weeks apart. If it is rainy during that time period, then another spray may be needed. After the third spray application, you stop spraying. By the way, I sometimes do a very early pre-blossom spray.

I use a general, all-purpose orchard spray mix, one with both fungicide and insecticide in the formula.

The reason why this technique works as well as it does is because it takes advantage of the life-cycles of orchard pests. Generally, the insects that cause the most damage to apples emerge early in the season. The spray knocks back the population of pests. Then once the spraying is over,the population of beneficial insects begins to grow and help keep pests in check. At least that’s one theory I’ve heard.

Through the season, as the apples grow in size, pesticide residue is washed off with the rain and breaks down in the sunlight, hence the name “near-organic.”  There is no official term as “near-organic” but it helps to describe how the apples were grown. Now I know some people will argue that the apples are either organic or they’re not, there’s no middle ground, they say.

At harvest time, the apples often have some discoloration due to harmless fungi on the outside surface of the skin. I just wash off what I can (or rub it off on my shirt) and eat the apple whole.

There is no insect damage on thses apples. Most of the surface spots can be easily washed off.

There is no insect damage to speak of on these apples. Most of the surface spots can be easily washed off.

I’ve been using this method for many years and have had great success with it. It seems to work on all apples: early, mid-season and late apples. It’s not a guarantee that it will work in your situation but it would be worth a try if you are aiming to reduce your use of pesticides while still having halfway decent apples.

I certainly would not recommend it for someone who’s livelihood depends on their apple crop, but for a few trees in the backyard, it may be worth trying.

Bob Dluzen

As a result of being a gardener for more than 40 years, 30 of those as a professional, Bob’s gardening has become an integral part of his life. “It’s the ever-changing seasons and the wide variety of plants and gardens that keeps me intrigued,” he says. Bob lives and gardens in rural Monroe County.