Tag Archive for apples

Mummy Apples

Yesterday I worked in my apple orchard removing mummified apples.
Mummy apples are apples that turn brown, shrivel and do not drop from the tree.

A Mummy Apple

A Mummy Apple

Mummy apples contribute to certain disease and fungus cycles in apple trees. Fire Blight and Bitter Rot are the two main diseases that my apple orchard is prone to.

Bitter Rot Apple

An Apple Infected With Bitter Rot

Good sanitation plays an important part of my orchard management program. Lots of orchard headaches can be avoided with careful and timely attention.

Last year I had some trouble with Bitter Rot and Fire Blight on my apple trees and our wet summer weather contributed to the problem.  But I also think the situation was made worse because I didn’t remove the old brown apples in the early part of last spring.

To stop to spread of disease it’s imperative to remove mummified fruit before the spring. When shriveled apples are removed from the trees they should be burned; and burned well away from other apple and fruit trees. That’s because smoke from burning Fire Blight limbs or dried up apples can re-infect the orchard. No sense going through the trouble of picking mummy apples off of trees just to have the trees become re-infected again.

Collecting Mummy Apples

Mummy Apples

Can Whole Apple Applesauce With A Pressure Canner

This past weekend I made home canned applesauce and thought you might like to see how I make it.
I almost always make canned applesauce over the course of two days and use a pressure canner to can it. On the first day the applesauce is made and on the second day I can it.

My applesauce is a “whole apple” applesauce. That means the entire apple is used except for the core. I frankly don’t have the time or patience to peel apples for applesauce and I prefer the rosy or caramel color of whole apple applesauce. If you want white applesauce you’ll have to peel the apples to get it.

Whole Apple Applesauce

Whole Apple Applesauce Isn’t White

I save time and cooking fuel by pressure canning applesauce instead of water bath canning it. By pressure canning applesauce the canning processing time is cut by more than half.


First apples are gathered and washed in warm soapy water and thoroughly rinsed. You’d be shocked at how dirty fresh picked apples can be. If you are buying apples from a farm stand or from a grocery store, your apples are probably already washed and you can skip this step. I get about  25 pints of applesauce from a bushel of apples.

Washing Apples

Washing Fresh Picked Organic Apples

After washing, the apples are cored and any bad spots are cut away. Then the apples are placed in a large pot with just enough water so that they won’t stick to the  bottom of the pan. About a cup of water is a good place to start.

The apples then are heated slowly and cooked until they are soft and mushy. It is usually a good idea to stir the pot every now and then to prevent burning or scorching the apples. It takes a few hours to properly cook down about a half bushel of apples. And about another 4 – 5 hours to cool down the apples enough to comfortably handle them and proceed to the next step.

Cooked Apples

Cooked Apples For Applesauce

This is where I often stop for the day. Unless I happened to have started my day very early, the apples are put some place cool overnight like a refrigerator or on a cold porch.
The next day I pick up where I left off, and use a food mill to puree the cooled apples into a large pot.

I suppose if you didn’t have a food mill you could use an electric blender or food processor.

Using A Food Mill

Using A Food Mill To Puree Cooked Apples

I never sweeten my applesauce. But if you prefer sweet applesauce this is the point to add sugar to your personal taste. The applesauce is next heated to very hot. Be mindful and stir it often because it will burn.

Once the applesauce is very hot, it is ladled into pint or quart jars leaving a ½” of head space. I slide a non-metallic object down the side of the jar (I use my trusty wooden chop stick) to release any trapped air bubbles. The rim of the jar is carefully wiped clean and a hot lid and band is applied to the jar.

Lid & Band

A Lid & Band Are Applied To A Filled Jar

The jars are then placed into a pressure canner and the pressure canner is vented according to the manufacturer’s instructions – usually about 7 – 10 minutes. After the canner has been vented the weighted gauge is applied.

The processing time for hot pack applesauce in a weighted gauge pressure canner is:

Jar Size Process Time Sea Level – 1000ft Above 1000ft
Pint 8 Minutes 5 lb. 10 lb.
Quart 10 Minutes 5 lb. 10 lb.

Processing time is counted from the moment the first “jiggle” of the weight gauge is heard.

After the processing time is complete, the canner is allowed to return to normal pressure. The jars are then removed from the canner and allowed to cool away from a draft and undisturbed for 8 – 12 hours.

Cooling Jars

Allow The Jars To Cool For 8 – 12 Hours

After jars are cooled remove bands and check the seals. Wipe the jars clean, label and date the jars and store in a cool dark location.


You can most definitely water bath can applesauce. The processing time is 20 minutes for both pints and quarts.  Processing time is counted from the time the water begins to boil after the jars have been placed in the canner. Applesauce can also be frozen for up to 9 -12 months.

Aphids – What They Are & Ways To Control Them

I noticed the other day that my rose bushes have aphids.

Aphids, sometimes called plant lice, are very small sap sucking insects. There are many different species of aphids and they come in different sizes.
Aphids may be green, red, brown, black and sometimes a fuzzy white or gray. All aphids no matter how small, have tiny pear-shaped bodies with long legs and antennae.


Aphids On Roses

Aphids commonly begin to infest rose bushes this time of the year, especially when roses are side dressed with composted manure or are fertilized heavy. High levels of nitrogen encourage aphid reproduction and aphids tend to do the most damage when temperatures are between 65° – 80°F.
During the hot summer months apples trees can suffer from wooly apple aphids, green apple aphids and rosy apple aphids.

Ants and aphids are often partners in crime.
If you see ants in large numbers crawling up a tree or a bush, you can be pretty sure that aphids are present. In some situations ants will watch over and protect aphids from predators because ants like to feed on the sticky “honeydew” that aphids excrete.
Aphids and ants go together like peas and carrots.

Aphids will not kill a large plant, rose bush or fruit tree, but a heavy infestation can cause leaves to curl, deform flowers and weaken plants.
Aphids do spread plant viruses and young plant seedlings are very susceptible to aphid damage. Cabbage, beets, melons, squashes, pumpkins, potatoes and beans often suffer from aphid transmitted viruses.

Aphids are very easy to control and it seems that every gardener has their own personal favorite aphid remedy.

For just a few plants and a light infestation, aphids can be removed by hand or sprayed off the plant/plants with a spray or stream of water from a garden hose. If you are going to control aphids with a spray of water it is best to do it early in the day so the plants can dry off in the sun and thereby reduce the possibility of fungal diseases.

For more serious infestations especially in fruit trees, aphids can be controlled by means of a chemical control like malathion, permethrin and acephate .

For gardeners who prefer a more natural approach to pest control, soapy water delivered by means of a pressure tank sprayer or a small squirt or spray bottle works well.
For fruit trees I use a ¼ cup of Dawn dish detergent or Murphy Oil Soap in a 3-gallon spray tank of water. I spray only the trunk of the trees and never the leaves or fruit.
But take care and don’t use a soapy water spray on over stressed plants or when temperatures are above 90 F.  because you’ll burn the leaves and do more harm than good.

No matter what type of spray you choose, be sure to spray the underside of the plant leaves where aphids tend to hide.
Aphids do have natural enemies and predators and sometimes biological controls can be effective in reducing aphid populations especially in small backyards.
Lady bugs, lace wings and syrphid flies are the best known predators of aphids. Lady bugs can be ordered by mail and when properly handled can afford some relief to a heavy aphid infestation.

Apple Trees – Selection, Planting & Basic Care

I own a small apple orchard of about 35 trees. I started my orchard over 27 years ago when I moved to my farm as a new bride. At the time my husband and I had just started to remake his old family homestead.The farm had been left idle for an entire generation and we had more repairs and bills than we had money for. At that time the local 4-H sold fruit trees as a club project for $7 apiece. Each year I could only afford to buy 5 or 6 at a time.

Apple Trees In Bloom

25 Year Old Apple Trees In Bloom

Back in those days I drove a school bus and I made $24 a day before taxes. So $35 was a lot of money for us. Every spring I scrimped on my groceries to pay for the apple trees and I often drove 50 miles on slick snow-covered back roads to pick them up.

As a new homesteader I believed then as I do now, that it is important to plant fruit trees first when settling in at a new place. I had taken a lesson from the early settlers of Pennsylvania who depended upon apples for fruit, cider and vinegar for food preservation. Fruit trees came before anything else.

Wooden Cider Press

A Wooden Cider Press

Apple trees can last a lifetime. And depending upon the variety, they’ll take from between 2 – 10 years to mature and produce fruit. Fruit trees are a keystone in the foundation that home food production and self-reliance is built upon.
If you would like to add apple trees to your homestead and are perhaps a bit hesitant, I hope this article will encourage and assure you that a few apple trees or a small home orchard is a worthwhile investment and is much less trouble than most people imagine it to be.

Apples In October

Picked Apples In October Ready To Be Made Into Cider

When planning a home orchard picking the right location is critical to its success. Unlike a vegetable or flower garden, an orchard cannot be picked up and moved to another location once it is planted.
Apples and all fruit trees need at least 8 -10 hours of full sun every day. Fruit trees need plenty of space between them so the air can freely circulate. Never plant apple trees or any type of fruit tree in a low-lying wet area. You’ll also want to avoid areas where frost can run down a hillside or collect in pockets.

Types of Trees
It’s important that you pick the right size apple tree for your location. With modern apple trees there are basically three sizes: dwarf, semi-dwarf and standard. Dwarf apples trees are the smallest and standard apple trees are the largest. Most modern commercial apple orchards are planted in semi-dwarf trees. With modern apples it’s the type of root-stock  that determines the size.
Modern apples are actually grafts that are made in two parts – the scion section and the root. The two parts are made to grow together to form the tree.

Apple Scions & Root Stock

Apple Scions & Root-Stock

The scion is the top part of the tree. It’s the part that’s above the ground. It’s the part of the tree that branches and bears fruit. Scions are grafted onto different types of root-stock.

Root Stock

Root-Stock Before The Scion Has Been Grafted

The variety of apple is determined by the scion variety and not the root-stock. The root-stock is what determines how big the tree will be. The scion and the root-stock are two completely different things.

Apple Scion

A “Grimes Golden” Apple Scion Before It Is Grafted Onto Root-Stock

The scion/root-stock union  graft is a slight bump area about 1 ½” to 4” above the roots of a fruit tree. Many different types of apple varieties are available on dwarf, semi-dwarf or standard size trees.

Grafted Apple Whips

Newly Grafted Apple Trees Potted Up. They Will Be Ready To Plant In 1 Year

Since it’s the root-stock that determines size you can have Honey Crisp, Macintosh, Red Delicious, Empire or most any other type of apple on a dwarf, semi-dwarf or standard size tree.
The variety of apple is not determined by the size of the tree.

When you get your first apples will depend upon the variety of apple and the size of the tree. Just remember that the bigger the tree the longer the wait. A standard size apple tree can take up to seven years to produce apples. A semi-dwarf tree usually produces its first fruit within 2 or 3 years. And a dwarf apple tree can produce fruit the first year after it’s planted. Dwarf trees are very poplar for that reason. Dwarf trees are perfect for small areas where space is a problem. They can do well on decks and patios when planted in very large pots with good drainage.
And just so you know some people say it takes at least 20 leaves on a tree to produce one apple. So according to that theory you’ll need at least 100 leaves on your apple tree to get 5 apples.

Pick the Right Variety
There’s a big difference in apple varieties and different apples are used for different purposes.
There are cooking apples, eating apples and apples for storage. Certain types of apples make better cider and vinegar. It just depends on what you want. Different varieties do different things. All apples don’t ripen at the same time. Some are considered early apples and the ripen in July. Other apples are late varieties and aren’t ready until the end of October. Different apple varieties have different cultivation requirements, disease resistance and spurring habits. Apple spurs are the small knobs on an apple branch that produce fruit.
Not all apples trees produce fruit every year. Sometimes they will skip a year.

Silver Tip

Silver Tip On Apple Trees In Early Spring

When selecting an apple variety for your homestead keep in mind what types of fungus or diseases are prevalent in your area. A trip to a local apple orchard or grower can be helpful in determining this information. You could try calling your local state agricultural extension office for information. But that might be a big waste of time if it is staffed by the kind of idiots we have here in Pennsylvania.

Here’s an example of why local disease information is important:
Let’s say that apple scab is a problem in your area. Then you would do better to pick a scab resistant apple like “Liberty” or “Red Free”. If fire blight  is a problem in your location “Prima” would be a good choice and you might want to forget about “Rome” apples. If bitter rot is a problem in your area, it’s important to know that certain varieties like “Empire” and “Granny Smith” are harder hit.

Bitter Rot

Bitter Rot On An “Empire” Apple

It’s only by knowing your location and your own particular piece of ground can you understand and make an informed decision about what particular variety of apple will do best for you.

When buying fruit trees I strongly caution you to avoid potted trees from big box stores like Lowe’s or Home Depot.
Don’t waste your money.
Only buy fruit trees from a reputable nursery.

Stark Brothers is a good company to do business with. But there also are many other reputable family owned nurseries to choose from.
If you do decide to buy an already potted fruit tree from a local nursery just make sure that it is guaranteed. Most reputable companies will guarantee their trees for at least one year.
I think the best trees for the home orchard are one-year old whips or 2 year-old bare root-stock. A small tree with a good root system will always transplant better than a larger tree. Only plant fruit trees in the spring or in the autumn when the trees have no leaves on them. Planting any type of deciduous tree while it’s in leaf is a risky business.
When planting any type of tree make sure that you plant the tree in a large enough hole. You don’t want to crowd or jam the roots into a too small hole. Try not to break the roots.
There’s an old expression about planting trees:
“You’ll do better to plant a dime size tree in a dollar hole, than to plant a dollar tree in a dime hole.”

How & When To Plant An Apple Tree

Take my advice and consult an almanac before you breakout the garden rake or shovel. That’s because the best time to plant an apple tree is in the moon’s 3rd quarter. All trees and perennial plants will form a deeper and sturdier root system when plated in the decrease of the moon. If at all possible plant trees in the sign of the Bull (Taurus) and avoid the fruitful or watery signs like Cancer, Pisces or Scorpio. Trees planted in fruitful signs tend to make a strong top growth at the expense of the roots. When planting young trees the formation of a strong root system is critical to its future.

Autumn is my personal preferred planting time for trees but spring planting can be just as successful. The advantage to a fall planting is that young trees have an extra 2 or 3 months to develop strong roots before the warm season arrives again. Fruit trees benefit from a longer season of cool rainy weather after planting. And just so you know most mail order nurseries are set up for a spring rush but do offer fruit trees for sale in the latter part of the year. However the selection is not as good.
When you get your apple tree(s) it is very important that they do not dry out before planting.

Apple Tree In A Bucket Of Water

Apple Whip Held In Water To Prevent Drying Out While Planting

Keep them in a dark, cool location and very well wrapped until planting. Wait to plant until the soil is open and workable and try to pick a cool overcast day in the moon’s 3rd quarter as suggested. Don’t try to plant too early in the spring or when the ground is saturated and wet. This is especially true for heavy clay type soils.
To plant an apple tree correctly you’ll first need to dig a large enough hole. You want the hole to be at least 4” wider than the very widest part of the roots. If your tree is bare root it is a good idea to make a small saddle for the roots. A root saddle is a small hump of dirt in the middle of the hole for the center part of the root mass to rest upon. The way I do it, is I get inside the hole and form a little conical-shaped dirt mountain. I place the center of the roots on top of the dirt saddle and allow the roots to cascade down over the little dirt hump. If your tree is a potted tree, you will need to carefully remove it from its pot and if it is wrapped in burlap or potted in a fiber pot you’ll have to do nothing. Just set the pot in – burlap and all.
When you put your tree in the hole try to have the sturdiest part of the scion graft facing against the prevailing wind. When I first planted my orchard years ago I really didn’t know what I was doing. I planted some of my trees with the scion graft facing into the wind. So over time the trees began lean over because the wind was blowing against the weakest part of the graft.
Once the tree is placed in the hole and the scion union is facing the right direction, you’ll want to flood the hole with water. I always pour an entire 5-gallon bucket of water into the hole.

Apple Tree Being Planted

Apple Whip In A Flooded Hole During Planting

Pouring water into the planting hole serves two purposes. The first is that it helps to pull all of the roots down and helps to prevent air pockets that can sometimes occur when the soil is placed back into the hole. Secondly, the water will help prevent the tree from drying out in the event of an unseasonably warm spell and lessens the stress of transplanting.
Next fill the hole back in. It’s okay to place the grass or turf back into the hole. What I do is turn the turf upside down and stuff it back into the hole. I next slowly rake the dirt back into the hole. Allow some of the water to recede in the hole before gently but firmly tamping the dirt with your foot. You want to insure that there are no dead spaces or air pockets in the hole.

After Planting You’ll Need To Prune, Water & Spray
Here comes the hard part. After your tree is planted it needs to be pruned immediately keeping a 3 to 1 ratio.
That is, you want to keep the top leader or the branches one-third the length of the roots. A newly planted tree must have more roots than branches. You want to have 1/3 tree and 2/3 roots.
When planting a one-year old un-branched whip, cut the top of the tree off at 30”-36” above the ground. I know you won’t want to cut the tree. But just do it.

Apple Whip Pruned

An Apple Whip Pruned To 36 Inches

Remember any pruning done in late winter or early spring encourages branching. So by cutting the tree off above the ground in the spring or late winter you are encouraging the tree to begin to branch out and to form its scaffolding system that will grow to become a permanent part of the tree.

Any pruning done in the summer or early autumn discourages growth. This is good to know and important if water sprouts should become a problem. Water sprouts are the long branches that sometimes grow up from the base or trunk of a fruit tree.
After you have planted the apple tree you’ll need to keep it watered regularly during its first spring and summer. You will also need to spray if needed for summertime pests. I try to spray my trees once a week during the summer with soapy water. I most often use a 3-gallon spray tank mix with ¼ cup of dish detergent and spray only the trunk of the trees and never the leaves or apples.
The trunk of the tree is like bridge for bugs, so by protecting the tree trunk you are protecting the tree against bugs. Protect the trunk of an apple tree and you protect the entire tree.
Apple trees aren’t hard to grow. Just remember to choose full sun and the right type of tree for your location. Plant it properly, prune it and keep the bugs off it and you’ll have apples before you know it.