Apple farming is the practice of growing apple trees for their fruits. It is vital because apples are one of the world’s most popular and nutritious fruits. Apples are rich in fiber, antioxidants, vitamin C, and other phytochemicals that can benefit human health. You can process apples into various products, such as juice, cider, vinegar, sauce, jam, pie, and more.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the global apple production in 2021 was about 93,144,358 tonnes1. China was the largest producer, followed by the United States, Poland, and India. Apple farming can be profitable and rewarding for farmers with suitable land, climate, and markets. This blog post will guide you through the basic steps of apple farming, from selecting trees to harvesting and storing apples. We will also share some tips and tricks on how to grow apples organically and sustainably.
Step 1: Selecting Trees for Apple Farming
The first step of apple farming is to choose the best variety of apples for your location and purpose. There are thousands of apple varieties worldwide, each with different characteristics, such as size, color, shape, flavor, texture, ripening time, storage life, and disease resistance. Some of the most common apple varieties are Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Gala, Fuji, Granny Smith, Honeycrisp, Braeburn, McIntosh, Jonagold, and Pink Lady2.
To select the best apple variety for your farm, you need to consider several factors, such as:
- Climate: Apples grow best in temperate regions with cold winters and warm summers. Apples need a certain amount of chilling hours (below 7° C) to break dormancy and initiate flowering. Different apple varieties have different chilling requirements, ranging from 300 to 1200 hours3. It would help to choose an apple variety that matches your climate zone and chilling hours.
- Soil: Apples prefer well-drained, fertile, and slightly acidic soils with a pH of 6.0 to 6.54. You must test your soil before planting and amend it with organic matter, lime, or sulfur if necessary.
- Market: Apples can be sold for fresh consumption or processing. Choose an apple variety that meets the demand and preference of your target market. For example, if you want to sell apples for fresh eating, you must choose a variety with good appearance, taste, and quality. To sell apples for processing, you must select a variety with high yield, long shelf life, and suitable characteristics for the intended product.
- Disease resistance: Apples are susceptible to various pests and diseases, such as insects, mites, fungi, bacteria, viruses, and nematodes. It would help if you chose an apple variety that has resistance or tolerance to the common pests and diseases in your area. This will reduce the need for chemical inputs and increase the quality and quantity of your harvest.
Another essential factor to consider when selecting apple trees is the rootstock. The rootstock is the lower part of the tree that provides the roots and affects the growth and performance of the tree. Most trees are grafted onto different rootstocks to improve their vigor, dwarfing effect, disease resistance, drought tolerance, and fruit quality. Many types of rootstocks are available for apple trees, such as M7, M9, M26, MM106, and MM111. It would help if you chose a rootstock that suits your soil, climate, and management practices.
Step 2: Preparing the Soil for Apple Farming
The second step of apple farming is to prepare the soil for planting. Soil preparation involves testing, amending, and tilling the soil to provide optimal conditions for apple growth.
Testing Your Soil
To test your soil, you can use a soil testing kit or send a soil sample to a laboratory for analysis. The soil test will tell you your soil’s pH, nutrient levels, organic matter content, and texture. Based on the soil test results, you can amend your soil with organic or synthetic fertilizers, composts, or mulches to improve its fertility and structure.
Amending Your Soil
You can use organic fertilizers such as manure, compost, green manure, or biofertilizers to amend your soil. Organic fertilizers are natural materials that provide nutrients, organic matter, and beneficial microorganisms to your soil. They can improve soil water-holding capacity, aeration, drainage, and biological activity.
You can also use synthetic fertilizers such as urea, ammonium sulfate, potassium chloride, or superphosphate. Synthetic fertilizers are manufactured chemicals that provide specific nutrients to your soil. They can increase your soil’s fertility and productivity but also cause environmental problems such as leaching, runoff, and pollution.
To apply fertilizers to your soil, you need to follow the recommended rates, methods, and timing for each fertilizer type and apple variety. You can use a soil test calculator or a fertilizer recommendation guide to determine the optimal amount and frequency of fertilizer application for your soil and crop.
Tilling Your Soil
To till your soil, you can use a plow, a disc harrow, a rotavator, or a cultivator. Tilling your soil is the process of loosening and turning the soil to create a smooth and uniform seedbed for planting. Tilling your soil can improve your soil’s aeration, drainage, and weed control, but it can also cause soil erosion, compaction, and loss of organic matter.
You can use conservation tillage or no-till methods to reduce the negative effects of soil tilling. Conservation tillage leaves some crop residues on the soil surface after harvesting to protect the soil from erosion and evaporation. No-till is the practice of planting directly into the undisturbed soil without any tillage.
Step 3: Planting and Spacing Apple Trees Farming
The third step is to plant and space your apple trees properly.
- Digging holes.
- Placing the trees in the holes.
- Fill the holes with soil and water.
- Staking and supporting the trees.
Digging Holes for Your Apple Trees
To dig holes for your trees, you need to use a shovel, a spade, or an auger. The holes should be large enough to accommodate the root system of your trees without bending or breaking the roots. The holes should also be deep enough to cover the graft union (the point where the scion and rootstock are joined) with 2 to 3 inches of soil.
Placing Your Apple Trees in the Holes
To place your trees in the holes, carefully remove the wrapping or container from the roots and spread them evenly in the hole. It would help if you ensured that the graft union is above the soil level and that the tree is straight and upright. It would help to plant your apple trees as deep and shallow as possible.
Filling Holes Around Your Apple Trees
Mix topsoil, compost, and water to fill holes around a tree. Gently pack soil around roots and create a basin to collect water.
Staking and Supporting Your Apple Trees
You should stake and support your apple trees with wooden or metal stakes and wires or ropes. Drive the stake into the ground about 18 inches away from the tree trunk and tie it loosely to the tree with a wire or rope, careful not to damage or girdle the tree’s bark. Adjust the stake and wire or rope as the tree grows.
Spacing Your Apple Trees
To space your apple trees, consider their rootstock and pollination requirements. Different rootstocks have different effects on the size and vigor of trees. Dwarf rootstocks produce smaller trees that require less space than standard rootstocks. The spacing between trees can range from 6 to 20 feet, depending on their rootstock. The general spacing guidelines for apple trees are as follows:
- Dwarf rootstocks: 3 to 4 meters (10 to 13 feet) apart in rows and 4 to 5 meters (13 to 16 feet) between rows.
- Semi-dwarf rootstocks: 4 to 6 meters (13 to 20 feet) apart in rows and 6 to 8 meters (20 to 26 feet) between rows.
- Standard rootstocks: 6 to 9 meters (20 to 30 feet) apart in rows and 9 to 12 meters (30 to 40 feet) between rows.
Apple trees also require cross-pollination from another compatible apple variety to produce fruits. Cross-pollination occurs when pollen from one apple variety is transferred to another by insects or wind. To ensure cross-pollination, you need to plant at least two different apple varieties that bloom simultaneously within 50 feet of each other.
Tips on How to Avoid Transplant Shock, Water Stress, and Root Rot When Planting Apple Trees Farming
- Transplant shock: Transplant shock is a condition that occurs when a plant suffers from stress due to being moved from one location to another. Transplant shock can cause wilting, yellowing, dropping, or dying of leaves, stems, or roots. To avoid transplant shock, plant your apple trees as soon as possible after receiving them from the nursery, avoid exposing their roots to sun or wind, water them well before and after planting, and apply a layer of mulch around their base.
- Water stress: Water stress is a condition that occurs when a plant does not receive enough water to meet its needs. Water stress can cause stunted growth, reduced yield, poor quality, and susceptibility to pests and diseases. To avoid water stress, you need to water your apple trees regularly and deeply, especially during dry periods, check their soil moisture frequently, and install drip irrigation or sprinklers if possible.
- Root rot: Root rot is a condition that occurs when a plant’s roots are infected by fungi, bacteria, or nematodes that thrive in wet and poorly drained soils. Root rot can cause wilting, browning, decay, or death of roots, stems, or leaves. To avoid root rot, you need to improve your soil drainage by adding organic matter, sand, or gravel, avoid overwatering your apple trees, and apply fungicides or nematicides if necessary.
Step 4: Pruning and Training Apple Trees
The fourth step of apple farming is to prune and train your trees. Pruning and training your apple trees involves cutting and shaping the branches and shoots of your trees to improve their form, health, and productivity.
Tools for Pruning and Training Apple Trees
You need to use sharp and clean tools to prune and train your apple trees. It would help to disinfect your tools with alcohol or bleach before and after each use to prevent the spread of diseases. You also need to wear gloves and protective clothing to avoid injuries.
Some of the tools you need are:
- Pruning shears: Pruning shears are scissors-like tools used to cut small branches and shoots up to 1 inch in diameter.
- Loppers: Loppers are long-handled tools used to cut medium-sized branches and shoots up to 2 inches in diameter.
- Saws: Saws are tools with a blade with teeth that are used to cut large branches and shoot over 2 inches in diameter.
- Secateurs: Secateurs are tools with a blade and hook used to cut thin branches and shoot close to the stem or trunk.
- Wires, ropes, stakes, or trellises: These tools are used to bend, tie, or support the branches and shoots of your trees in a desired shape or direction.
Techniques for Pruning and Training Apple Trees
It would help if you used different techniques to prune and train your apple trees depending on their age, type, and purpose. Some standard methods are thinning, heading, notching, pinching, tipping, bending, spreading, and espaliering.
- Thinning: Thinning is cutting off an entire branch or shooting at its base or point of origin. Thinning can reduce the density and congestion of branches and shoots and improve light penetration and air circulation.
- Heading: Heading is the technique of cutting off the tip or terminal bud of a branch or shoot. Heading can stimulate the growth of lateral buds and branches and create a bushy and compact shape.
- Notching: Notching is making a small cut above a bud or branch on the opposite side of the desired direction of growth. Notching can induce the growth of dormant buds and branches and create a balanced and symmetrical shape.
- Pinching: Pinching is the technique of removing the tip or terminal bud of a shoot with your fingers or nails. Pinching can control the length and vigor of nodes and encourage branching and fruiting.
- Tipping: Tipping is cutting off a shoot’s tip or terminal bud with a tool. Tipping can have the same effect as pinching but with more precision and less damage.
- Bending: Bending is the technique of curving or twisting a branch or shoot to change its direction or angle of growth. Bending can increase fruit production by exposing more buds to light and reducing apical dominance (the tendency of the terminal bud to suppress the growth of lateral buds).
- Spreading: Spreading is the technique of widening the angle between a branch or shoot and its parent stem by using wires, ropes, stakes, or trellises. Spreading can improve fruit quality by increasing light exposure and reducing shading.
- Espaliering: Espaliering is training a tree to grow flat against a wall, fence, or trellis by pruning and tying its branches in a horizontal, vertical, or diagonal pattern. Espaliering can save space and enhance aesthetic appeal.
Timing for Pruning and Training Apple Trees
You must prune and train your trees at different times depending on their growth stage and season.
Some general guidelines are:
- Dormant pruning: Dormant pruning is the pruning that occurs during winter or early spring when the tree is not actively growing. Dormant pruning is the most important and extensive pruning for apple trees. It involves removing dead, diseased, damaged, or crossing branches and shoots, thinning out excess or competing branches and shoots, and shaping and balancing the tree structure.
- Summer pruning: Summer pruning is the pruning that occurs during summer or late spring when the tree is actively growing. Summer pruning is less severe than dormant pruning. It involves removing water sprouts (vigorous upright shoots), suckers (shoots that grow from the base or roots), weak or broken branches, unwanted fruits, or any other growth that interferes with light penetration, air circulation, or pest control.
- Winter pruning: Winter pruning is optional for apple trees. It involves removing any remaining dead, diseased, damaged, or crossing branches before they cause further problems.
Step 5: Irrigating and Fertilizing Apple Trees Farming
The fifth step of apple farming is to irrigate and fertilize your trees. Irrigating and fertilizing your trees involves providing water and nutrients to your trees according to their growth stage, weather, and soil conditions.
Irrigating Your Apple Trees
It would help to use drip irrigation, sprinklers, furrows, or basins to irrigate your apple trees. Irrigating your trees is the process of applying water to your soil to maintain adequate moisture for your trees. Irrigating your apple trees can improve their growth, yield, quality, and resistance to pests and diseases.
Some of the advantages and disadvantages of different irrigation methods are:
- Drip irrigation: This is the method of applying water directly to the root zone of your plants through pipes or tubes with small holes or emitters. Drip irrigation can save water and fertilizer by reducing evaporation and runoff. Keeping the soil surface dry can also prevent weed growth and disease spread. However, drip irrigation can be expensive to install and maintain, and it can clog if the water quality is poor or the filters are not cleaned regularly.
- Sprinklers: They spray water over a large area through nozzles or jets. Sprinklers can provide uniform water distribution and coverage for your plants. They can also lower the air temperature and increase the humidity around your plants. However, sprinklers can waste water and fertilizer by evaporating or drifting away from the target area. They can also cause leaf wetting and disease spread if the water pressure is too high or the timing is wrong.
- Furrows: Furrows are shallow trenches that run along the rows of your plants. Furrows can carry water from a source to your plants by gravity or pressure. If not appropriately managed, furrows can provide adequate water for your plants but can also cause erosion, flooding, or waterlogging. They can also encourage weed growth and disease spread if the soil surface is wet for too long.
- Basins: Basins are small depressions that surround the base of your plants. Basins can collect water from rainfall, irrigation, or runoff and store it for later use by your plants. If cleaned sparingly, basins can provide sufficient water for your plants but can also attract pests and diseases if they are too wet or dirty.
Fertilizing Your Apple Trees
You must use organic or synthetic fertilizers, composts, or mulches to fertilize your trees. Fertilizing your apple trees is the process of applying nutrients to your soil or foliage to supplement the natural supply of nutrients from the soil. Fertilizing your trees can enhance their vigor, fruitfulness, color, and flavor.
Some of the benefits and drawbacks of different fertilization products are:
- Organic fertilizers: Organic fertilizers are natural materials that provide nutrients, organic matter, and beneficial microorganisms to your soil and plants. They can improve soil water-holding capacity, aeration, drainage, and biological activity. They can also reduce environmental problems such as leaching, runoff, and pollution. However, organic fertilizers can be slow to release nutrients, variable in quality and quantity, bulky to transport and store, and costly to purchase or produce.
- Synthetic fertilizers: Synthetic fertilizers are manufactured chemicals that provide specific nutrients to your soil and plants. They can increase your soil’s fertility and productivity quickly and precisely. They can also be easy to transport and store and cheap to buy or produce. However, synthetic fertilizers can cause environmental problems such as leaching, runoff, and pollution. They can also harm soil health by reducing organic matter, microbial activity, and pH balance.
You Can Read: 17 Essential Nutrients For Plants: A Comprehensive Guide
Some of the methods, rates, and timing for applying different fertilization products are:
You can use methods such as broadcasting, banding, side-dressing, foliar spraying, or fertigation to apply fertilizers to your apple trees.
Broadcasting: Broadcasting is the method of spreading fertilizer evenly over the entire surface of your soil. Broadcasting can provide a general boost of nutrients for your plants, but it can also waste fertilizer by applying it to areas where it is not needed.
Banding: Banding is the method of placing fertilizer in narrow bands along the rows or sides of your plants. Banding can provide a concentrated supply of nutrients for your plants but can also burn their roots if applied too close or too much.
Side-dressing: Side-dressing is used to apply fertilizer to the side of established plants, giving them extra nutrients during their peak growth or fruiting periods.
Foliar spraying: Foliar spraying is the method of applying fertilizer to the leaves or stems of your plants using a sprayer or a mister. Foliar spraying can provide fast and direct absorption of nutrients for your plants, but it can also cause leaf burn or damage if applied too much or under hot or windy conditions.
Fertigation: Fertigation is applying fertilizer dissolved in water through irrigation systems such as drip irrigation or sprinklers. Fertigation can save water and fertilizer by delivering them directly to the root zone of your plants. It can also prevent soil compaction and crusting by keeping the soil moist and loose.
Rates: You must apply fertilizers to your apple trees correctly and frequently to avoid nutrient deficiency or toxicity. You can use a soil test calculator or a fertilizer recommendation guide to determine the optimal rate and frequency of fertilizer application for your soil and crop.
Timing: You need to apply fertilizers to your apple trees at the right time to match their nutrient demand and uptake. You can use a growth stage chart or a phenology calendar to identify the best time to apply fertilizers for your apple variety and location.
Some general guidelines are:
- Pre-planting: You can apply organic fertilizers such as manure, compost, or green manure to your soil before planting your apple trees. This can improve your soil’s fertility, structure, and microbial activity. You can apply synthetic fertilizers such as phosphorus, potassium, or calcium to your soil before planting trees. This can provide essential nutrients for root development and establishment.
- Early spring: You can apply synthetic fertilizers such as nitrogen, magnesium, or boron to your soil or foliage in early spring when your apple trees start to grow new leaves and buds. This can boost their vegetative growth and flowering potential.
- Mid-spring: You can apply synthetic fertilizers such as nitrogen, magnesium, or boron to your soil or foliage when your trees are in full bloom. This can enhance their fruit set and quality.
- Late spring: You can apply synthetic fertilizers such as nitrogen, magnesium, or boron to your soil or foliage in late spring when your apple trees have completed their fruit set and start to grow new shoots. This can support their fruit development and growth.
- Summer: You can apply synthetic fertilizers such as nitrogen, magnesium, or boron to your soil or foliage when your apple trees are in active fruit growth and ripening. This can improve their fruit size, color, and flavor.
- Fall: After harvesting your apples, you can apply organic fertilizers such as manure, compost, or mulch to your soil. This can replenish your soil’s nutrients, organic matter, and moisture for the next season.
Step 6: Controlling Pests and Diseases of Apple Trees Organically
The sixth step of apple farming is to organically control pests and diseases of apple trees. Controlling pests and diseases of trees involves preventing and treating common pests and diseases of trees using organic methods.
Pests and diseases are organisms that cause harm or damage to apple trees or their fruits. Pests include insects, mites, rodents, birds, or animals that feed on or damage trees’ leaves, stems, roots, or fruits. Diseases include fungi, bacteria, viruses, or nematodes that infect or affect the health or growth of apple trees or their fruits.
Some common pests and diseases of apple trees are:
- Pests: Some common pests of trees are aphids, codling moths, apple maggots, plum curculio, mites, scale insects, leafhoppers, leafrollers, borers, caterpillars, beetles, weevils, thrips, ants, mice, rabbits, deer, birds, or squirrels.
- Diseases: Some common diseases of trees are fire blight, apple scab, powdery mildew, cedar apple rust, black rot, bitter rot, sooty blotch, flyspeck, crown gall, root rot, canker, or mosaic virus.
To control pests and diseases of apple trees organically, you need to use methods such as natural enemies, traps, sprays, and cultural practices. Organic methods are natural or non-chemical methods that provide effective and sustainable control of pests and diseases without harming the environment or human health.
Natural Enemies for Apple Pest and Disease Control
It is organisms that prey on or parasitize pests or diseases. Natural enemies include predators, parasitoids, pathogens, or nematodes that can reduce the population or impact of pests or diseases.
Some examples of those enemies for apple pests and diseases are:
- Ladybugs: Ladybugs are beetles that feed on aphids, mites, scale insects, or other soft-bodied insects. Ladybugs can consume hundreds of pests daily and lay eggs near their prey for their larvae to feed on.
- Lacewings: Lacewings are insects that feed on aphids, mites, scale insects, leafhoppers, thrips, or caterpillars. Lacewings can also consume pollen and nectar as adults and lay eggs on plants for their larvae to feed on.
- Hoverflies: Hoverflies are flies that resemble bees or wasps. They feed on nectar and pollen as adults and lay eggs near aphid colonies for their larvae to feed on.
- Wasps: Wasps are insects that have a slender body and a stinger. They feed on nectar and pollen as adults and lay eggs inside or on the bodies of pests such as caterpillars, borers, weevils, or beetles for their larvae to feed on.
- Bees: Bees are insects that have a hairy body and a stinger. They feed on nectar and pollen as adults and collect them to make honey in their hives. Bees can also pollinate apple flowers and increase fruit set and quality.
- Birds: Birds are animals that have feathers and wings. As adults, they feed on seeds, fruits, insects, or worms and nest in trees or shrubs. Birds can prey on pests such as caterpillars, borers, beetles, weevils, or larvae, reducing their damage to apple trees.
- Bats: Bats are mammals that have fur and wings. They feed on insects, fruits, or nectar as adults and roost in caves or hollow trees. Bats can hunt pests such as moths, beetles, or flies at night, reducing their damage to apple trees.
- Fungi: Fungi are organisms that have no chlorophyll and reproduce by spores. They feed on organic matter or living hosts as parasites or saprophytes. Fungi can infect pests such as aphids, mites, scale insects, caterpillars, or borers and cause them to die or stop feeding.
- Bacteria: Bacteria are microscopic organisms with no nucleus and reproduce by fission. They feed on organic matter or living hosts as parasites or saprophytes. Bacteria can infect pests such as caterpillars, borers, weevils, or beetles and cause them to die or stop feeding.
- Beneficial nematodes: Beneficial nematodes are microscopic worms that have no eyes or mouth. They feed on living hosts as parasites by entering their bodies through natural openings or wounds. Beneficial nematodes can infect pests such as caterpillars, borers, weevils, or maggots and release bacteria that kill them.
Traps for Apple Pest and Disease Control
Its devices capture or kill pests or diseases. Traps include sticky traps, pheromone traps, light traps, barrier traps, or exclusion nets that can attract or deter pests or diseases. Some examples of traps for apple pests and diseases are:
- Yellow sticky traps: Yellow sticky traps are traps that have a yellow color and a sticky surface. They can attract and capture pests such as aphids or leafhoppers that are attracted to the yellow color.
- Pheromone traps: Pheromone traps have a synthetic chemical that mimics the natural scent of a pest’s mate. They can attract and capture pests such as codling moths, or apple maggots attracted to the pheromone.
- Light traps: Light traps have a light source that emits ultraviolet or visible light. They can attract and capture pests like moths or beetles attracted to the light.
- Barrier traps: Barrier traps have a physical barrier preventing pests from reaching the apple trees. They can deter or capture pests such as plum curculio or weevils that crawl or fly to the trees.
- Exclusion nets: Exclusion nets are nets that cover the apple trees and prevent pests from reaching them. They can exclude or capture problems such as birds or squirrels that feed on the apple fruits.
Sprays for Apple Pest and Disease Control
Liquids that repel or kill pests or diseases. Sprays include botanical sprays, mineral sprays, biological sprays, or homemade sprays that can discourage or destroy pests or diseases. Some examples of sprays for apple pests and diseases are:
- Neem oil: Neem oil is a botanical spray extracted from the seeds of the neem tree. It can repel or kill pests such as aphids, mites, scale insects, leafhoppers, thrips, caterpillars, borers, beetles, weevils, or ants by disrupting their feeding, growth, reproduction, or behavior.
- Kaolin clay: Kaolin clay is a mineral spray made from fine white clay. It can repel or kill pests such as plum curculio, leafrollers, caterpillars, borers, beetles, weevils, or maggots by creating a protective film on the apple leaves and fruits that deters their feeding or oviposition.
- Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) is a biological spray made from a bacterium that produces a toxin that kills certain insects. It can kill pests such as caterpillars or borers by paralyzing their digestive system when they ingest it.
- Garlic oil: Garlic oil is a homemade spray made from garlic cloves and vegetable oil. It can repel or kill pests such as scale insects, ants, caterpillars, borers, beetles, weevils, or maggots by emitting a strong odor and taste that deters their feeding or oviposition.
- Copper sulfate: Copper sulfate is a mineral spray that is made from copper and sulfur. It can prevent or treat diseases such as fire blight, cedar apple rust, black rot, bitter rot, sooty blotch, flyspeck, crown gall, root rot, or canker by inhibiting the growth of fungi or bacteria on the apple leaves, stems, roots, or fruits.
- Sulfur: Sulfur is a mineral spray that is made from sulfur. It can prevent or treat diseases such as powdery mildew, scab, rust, rot, or scar by inhibiting the growth of fungi on the apple leaves, stems, or fruits.
- Baking soda: Baking soda is a homemade spray from sodium bicarbonate and water. It can prevent or treat diseases such as black rot, bitter rot, sooty blotch, flyspeck, or canker by raising the pH of the apple surface and creating an unfavorable environment for fungi.
Apple Farming: Cultural Practices for Pest and Disease Control
These actions modify the environment or management of apple trees to prevent or reduce pest and disease problems. include sanitation, pruning, mulching, weeding, watering, fertilizing, thinning, harvesting, or storing.
Some examples of cultural practices for apple pest and disease control are:
- Sanitation: Sanitation is the practice of removing and destroying infected or infested plant parts or debris from the orchard. Sanitation can prevent the spread and survival of pests and diseases. For example, you can remove and burn fallen leaves, fruits, or branches affected by scab, rust, rot, or maggots.
- Pruning is the practice of cutting off unwanted or diseased branches and shoots from apple trees. Pruning can improve the shape, health, and productivity of apple trees. It can also improve light penetration and air circulation, reducing pest and disease pressure. For example, you can prune out fire blight-infected branches or water sprouts that harbor pests.
- Mulching: It applies a layer of organic material such as straw, wood chips, or leaves around the base of apple trees. Mulching can conserve soil moisture, suppress weed growth, moderate soil temperature, and add organic matter. It can also prevent soil-borne diseases such as crown gall or root rot by reducing soil splashing and contact with the trunk.
- Weeding: Weeding is the practice of removing unwanted plants that compete with apple trees for water, nutrients, light, and space. Weeding can improve the growth and yield of trees. It can also reduce pest and disease problems by eliminating alternate hosts or hiding places for pests and diseases. For example, you can weed out plants that harbor aphids, leafhoppers, or rust spores.
- Watering: Watering is applying water to apple trees to maintain adequate soil moisture for their growth and development. Watering can improve the vigor and fruitfulness of apple trees. It can also prevent water stress, making trees more susceptible to pests and diseases. For example, you can water your apple trees regularly and deeply during dry periods to avoid drought stress or wilting.
- Applying nutrients to apple trees to supplement their natural supply from the soil is known as fertilizing. Balanced fertilization enhances apple tree health and productivity by preventing nutrient-related susceptibility to pests and diseases. Moderate, well-timed fertilization, considering growth stage and soil tests, avoids nitrogen extremes for optimal results.
- Thinning: Thinning is the practice of removing some of the fruits from apple trees to improve the size, quality, and color of the remaining fruits. Thinning can increase the yield and profitability of apple trees. It can also reduce pest and disease problems by improving air circulation and light exposure around the fruits. For example, you can thin out some fruits when they are about an inch in diameter to avoid overcrowding or touching.
Step 7: Harvesting and Storing Apples
The seventh and final step of apple farming is to harvest and store your apples. Harvesting and storing your apples involves:
- Harvesting the fruits from your trees when they are fully ripe and suitable for either eating or processing.
- Handling them carefully to avoid damage or decay.
- Keeping them in a cool, dry, dark place prolongs their shelf life and freshness.
Harvesting Your Apples
It would help if you used indicators, tools, and techniques such as color, firmness, flavor, maturity index, hand picking, clippers, baskets, or bins to harvest your apples. Harvesting your apples is selecting and collecting the fruits from your trees that have reached their optimal quality and value. Harvesting your apples can maximize your yield and profitability.
Some indicators, tools, and techniques for harvesting apples are:
You must use color, firmness, flavor, or maturity index indicators to determine the best time to harvest your apples. Different apple varieties have different indicators of ripeness and readiness for harvesting. Some general guidelines are:
- Color: Color is the change in the skin color of the apple from green to yellow, red, or other shades, depending on the variety. Color can indicate the degree of ripening and sweetness of the apple. However, color alone is not a reliable indicator of ripeness, as some apples may change color before they are fully ripe or retain their green color even when they are ripe.
- Firmness: Firmness is the resistance of the apple flesh to pressure or squeezing. Firmness can indicate the crispness and juiciness of the apple. However, more than firmness is needed to be a reliable indicator of ripeness, as some apples may lose their firmness before they are fully ripe or retain their firmness even when they are overripe.
- Flavor: Flavor is the taste and aroma of the apple. Flavor can indicate the balance of sugar and acid in the apple. However, more than flavor is needed to be a reliable indicator of ripeness, as some apples may develop their flavor before they are fully ripe or lose their flavor after they are overripe.
- Maturity index: It combines several indicators such as color, firmness, flavor, starch content, seed color, and ethylene production that can provide a more accurate measure of ripeness and readiness for harvesting. The maturity index can vary depending on the variety, climate, and management practices. You can use a maturity chart or a maturity kit to determine the maturity index of your apples.
It would help if you used handpicking, clippers, baskets, or bins to harvest your apples. Tools can help you pick and transport your apples safely and efficiently.
Some general guidelines are:
- Handpicking: It is the method of plucking the apple from the tree by hand. Handpicking can prevent bruising or damage to the apple and allow you to select and sort the best quality fruits. However, handpicking can be labor-intensive and time-consuming.
- Clippers: Clippers are tools that cut off the apple from the stem with a blade or a scissor. Clippers can speed up and ease harvesting and reduce fruit drop or loss. However, clippers can cause injury or infection to the apple or the tree if not used properly.
- Baskets: Baskets are containers that hold or carry the harvested apples. Baskets can be made of wood, metal, plastic, or fabric. Baskets can be attached to your body or placed on the ground or in a cart. Baskets can provide convenience and comfort for harvesting and transporting your apples. However, baskets can cause bruising or damage to your apples if they are overloaded or mishandled.
- Bins: Bins are large boxes that store or transport large quantities of harvested apples. Bins can be made of wood, metal, plastic, or cardboard. Bins can be stacked or loaded on a truck or a trailer. Bins can provide efficiency and economy for storing and transporting your apples. However, bins can cause bruising or damage to your apples if they are not padded or ventilated.
It would help if you used techniques such as picking by hand, cutting with clippers, placing in baskets, or loading in bins to harvest your apples. Strategies can help you harvest your apples with care and quality.
Some general guidelines are:
- Picking by hand: Picking by hand is the technique of gently twisting or pulling the apple from the tree by hand. Picking by hand can prevent bruising or damage to the apple stem end or skin. It would help if you liked by hand when the apple is ripe enough to detach easily from the tree without breaking the stem.
- Cutting with clippers: Cutting with clippers is cutting the apple from the stem with a blade or a scissor. Cutting with clippers can prevent fruit drop or loss and allow you to reach higher or lower fruits. It would help to cut with clippers when the apple is too hard or soft to detach easily from the tree without breaking the stem.
- Placing in baskets: Placing in baskets is the technique of putting the harvested apples in baskets attached to your body or placed on the ground or in a cart. Placing in baskets can provide convenience and comfort for harvesting and transporting your apples. You should place your apples in baskets gently and carefully, avoiding overloading or dropping them.
- Loading in bins: Loading in bins is the technique of transferring harvested apples from baskets to stacked or loaded containers on a truck or a trailer. Packing in bins can provide efficiency and economy for storing and transporting your apples. You should load your apples in bins gently and carefully, avoiding overloading or throwing them. You should also pad and ventilate your bins to prevent bruising or rotting of your apples.
Storing Your Apples
You must use methods such as refrigeration, controlled atmosphere, or modified atmosphere to store your apples. Storing your apples is keeping them in a cool, dry, dark place that prolongs their shelf life and freshness.
Some methods for storing apples are:
- Refrigeration: Refrigeration preserves apples by maintaining low temperature and high humidity, slowing aging, and retaining quality for weeks or months. However, refrigeration can also cause chilling injury or loss of aroma if the temperature is too low or too variable.
- Controlled atmosphere: Controlled atmosphere storage involves sealing apples in a room or container to manage oxygen, carbon dioxide, and ethylene. This method prolongs freshness for months or years, but imbalanced gas levels can lead to texture issues or disorders.
- Modified atmosphere: Modified atmosphere is the method of storing apples in a plastic bag or film that modifies the levels of oxygen, carbon dioxide, and ethylene inside. A modified atmosphere can mimic the effects of a controlled atmosphere but with less cost and complexity. However, a modified atmosphere can also cause decay or off-flavors if the bag or film is not perforated or breathable.
In this blog post, we have guided you through the basic steps of apple farming, from selecting trees to harvesting and storing apples. We have also shared some tips and tricks on how to grow apples organically and sustainably.
Apple farming is challenging but rewarding and enjoyable if you follow these guidelines and tips. It can provide delicious and nutritious fruits you can eat fresh or process into various products. Also, improve your health, income, environment, and community.
We hope this blog post has helped you learn more about apple farming techniques and inspired you to try it. If you have any questions, please feel free to leave them below. We would love to hear from you and help you with your farming journey.
If you liked this blog post, please share it with your friends and family who are also interested in apple farming.
Thank you for reading, and happy farming!
I am Gaushoul Agam,
𝐂𝐨-𝐅𝐨𝐮𝐧𝐝𝐞𝐫 & 𝐂𝐄𝐎,
As an experienced SA Horticulture Officer in the Horticulture Wing of the Department of Agricultural Extension, Ministry of Agriculture, Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, I am dedicated to advancing agriculture and farming.
With a mission to address global food safety challenges amid a growing population, diminishing arable land, and the impacts of climate change on agriculture, I founded ToAgriculture. Through this platform, I empower readers with modern agricultural techniques, effective pest and disease control, and sustainable agricultural management, leading to a more secure and prosperous future in agriculture.
With over four years of expertise in field crops and seven years in horticulture crops, my knowledge spans fruit and vegetable farming techniques, adept pest-disease management, proficient irrigation strategies, and the art of grafting. Join me on this journey of discovery as I share insights and experiences to guide readers toward a sustainable future.
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