The Georgia National Fair is finally here. It is a busy time for us at the office, but also an enjoyable time. One thing that takes me back to my childhood are the caramel apples. Not only are they delicious, but there is something about apples that tells me fall has finally arrived.
Apples can be planted throughout the state, but variety selection is highly important for success. The more traditional varieties are better suited for the northern part of the state. Trees should be purchased from a reliable dealer.
When selecting a variety, you first need to determine which Apple Zone you are in. According to UGA Extension publication Home Garden Apples (C 740) there are two common strains that backyard growers need to be aware of: spur and non-spur. Spur strains have a compact growth form and are usually ideal for backyard orchards. The type of rootstock also affects the size of the tree. A spur strain grown on a seedling rootstock will produce a semi-dwarf tree, and if it is grown on a semi-dwarf rootstock it will produce a dwarf tree.
Apples need to be planted in an area where they will receive full sun and have well-drained soils. The pH of the soil should be at 6.5. This can be determined though a soil test. After planting, water the tree thoroughly. Fertilizer should not be applied until the spring.
Generally apple trees will need to be fertilized each year. After the second season, fertilization requirements are dependent on the type of tree you plant: standard, semi-dwarf or dwarf. Taking a soil sample is a good way to determine the nutritional needs of the tree by finding out what is already available in the soil.
Apple trees should be trained and pruned from day one. Too many times, trees in backyard orchards are left unattended. This leads to poor growth and a delay in fruiting. The recommended pruning method for apple trees is to train a central leader. To learn how this method is done, see the Home Garden Apples publication or contact the extension office.
Under favorable growing conditions, apple trees will produce an excess of fruit then cannot successfully mature. Removal of some of this fruit is the key to proper development of the remaining fruit. Failure to remove excess fruit will decrease flower production the following year and cause the tree to produce fruit every other year. Ideal cluster spacing is every 6 inches, with one fruit per cluster.
There are many pests and diseases that can cause damage to apple trees and fruit. According to Home Garden Apples, “diseases common to apples that should be controlled include scab, black rot, bitter rot, alternaria and fire blight. Damaging insects include apple tree borers, red spider mites, scales, aphids and fruit worms.” Contact your local extension office for recommendations on how to control these pests.
Be careful to avoid injury to the apple when picking. Apples should be picked using an upward and outward motion while rotating the apple. The stem should be left on for longer shelf life.
DATES TO REMEMBER
Oct. 8-18: Georgia National Fair
Oct. 20-22: Sunbelt Ag Expo Moultrie
For more information on any program area, contact the Houston County Extension at 478-987-2028 or visit the office in Perry at 801 Main St. Office hours are 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Visit the website at www.caes.uga.edu/extension/houston for more news about your local extension office.