Archive for April, 2011

Old Apple Book
April 24, 2011

No, this isn’t a book on old apples, this is an old book on apples, 1915 to be exact.  I’m convinced that we’ve forgotten more about growing apples than we’ve learned since then, as on a whole Americans ate more apples in 1915 than they do now (bananas are our most popular fruit). 

This 500-page tome is a treasure house of knowledge of apple growing, and is loaded with old photos of every aspect of apple culture, from planning to planting to harvesting and marketing- even how to dig your planting holes by blasting them with dynamite (!).  It is a window into our past and I expect to pick up a few pointers for our future.

It is available as a free download on Google Books at,+albert+edmund+wilkinson&source=bl&ots=JvhkI_WcKF&sig=tjdIZyfgyqwHYWhI31UV2UpJcJs&hl=en&ei=6Cu0TffuK6nYiALF5NWvBg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CBgQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q&f=false

M111 Rootstock
April 17, 2011

Well, it’s official; from now on all the trees we graft for sale or ourselves will be on EMLA 111 (virus-certified M111)  rootstock.   It has been a long road getting here but the last 5 years have proven once again that when growing apples in a hot climate, you cannot always listen to conventional wisdom.  I recommend this rootstock for all uses; for large specimin trees to small espaliers on close spacing.  I know this may sound confusing to some, but I’ve thought this out long and hard and summarized my conclusions in a paper you can download at

I’m afraid I’m a late-comer to this conclusion, as my friend Tom Spellman from Dave Wilson nursery has recommended M111 for years for backyard orchardists in Southern California.  I’ll remain in this camp until some other rootstock comes along that proves superior (maybe Hashabi from Israel?).

Death to Earwigs
April 15, 2011

Above is the problem; apple blossoms getting eaten down to little nubs, effectively sterilizing the tree.  No blossoms, no apples.  I was blaming everything from grasshoppers to finches for it, but a midnight foray with a flashlight discovered multiple earwigs (pincher-bugs) devouring the tender blossoms. 

Usually earwigs are benificial, feeding and processing decaying matter under the mulch.  The rest of the year they’re harmless, but this time of year they certainly have a taste for apple blossoms.

Above is a partial solution; Tanglefoot around the trunk and any adjacent structures that can act as ladders for the critters to get up in the tree.  This helped a lot, but I swear some of the little bugs can fly, as one or two still got up in.  Notice that you do not put tanglefoot directly on the bark, but on tap.

Above is final satisfaction.   A shallow dish of cooking oil apparently is irrestiable to the bugs.  They float and swim just fine in water, but sink like a rock in oil and die quickly.  I even find a bunch of slugs in some of the traps, an added bonus.   I have to put a trap like this just about every tree, but my poor blossoms are finally getting some relief.