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May/June 2006

Maintaining Apple Trees

We have noticed a large increase in interest of having a home orchard. This is a great way to get kids interested in gardening, and to truly enjoy the fruits of your labor. Apples will be the main focus of this article, and we will discuss other fruits in later issues.

Michigan provides a wonderful climate for the production of apple trees, and with some information in hand, you can have great success. Information on pruning of apple trees comes from Clemson Extension bulletin HGIC 1351, and more detail can be found at their website: www.hgic.clemson.edu/factsheets/HGIC1351.htm/  (click on this site, the refresh page will pop up, delete the backslash at the end and hit enter) Visit this site for a graphic on correct pruning and more information.


Pruning tools should always be sharp and clean (Use a 10% bleach solution to disinfect tools). Light pruning may take place during the growing season as needed, but major removal of branches should take place during the dormant season. There are several types of branching growth that must be removed to maintain overall shape and tree health:

-rubbing or crossing branches

-shaded interior branches

-suckers

-branches growing downwards

-any branches competing with the leader

Apple trees should be well watered and fertilized to promote the best fruit growth. “Treetone” made by Espoma, is a great organic, natural, granular fertilizer to use. Deer and rabbits are notorious branch and bark chewers. Take precautions to minimize animal damage, as this could cause permanent injury to your tree.

Apple trees will need regular treatment to keep foliage and fruit free of fungus and insects. Mann’s Landscape stocks and easy to use “Fruit Tree Spray” made by Bonide that combats both of these issues with each spray application. Hand-picking of caterpillars and beetles would be a more integrated pest management option.

Apples do not self-pollinate; they require pollen of another variety of apple to fertilize flowers and produce fruit. Nearby planted crabapples will also do the trick. If you fear that the nearest crabapple is too far away, you can pollinate the flowers by transferring pollen with a Q-tip, if you so desire.

Mann’s Landscape carries a variety of apple trees in the spring, specific varieties may be available for special order.

Container Gardening

Container Gardening is a hot new trend that is here to stay! It is a great way to add color to any space, especially those where digging is difficult or not practical. It is also a great way for people with physical limitations to garden, since large pots create a high workspace for those in a wheelchair.

Typically, container gardening utilizes mostly annuals (plants that live for one summer long growing season). But now, woody ornamentals and perennials are emerging as worthy components of planters and pots.

Fernleaf Buckthorn ‘Fine Line’ is a “Proven Winners” selection that provides vertical height and a delicate foliage texture in a spot that will be partial to full shade. Hydrangeas are another outstanding selection to add all-summer color and vertical height to any planter. For evergreen interest, spiraled Arborvitaes and Dwarf Alberta Spruces are excellent choices.

Grasses are a wonderful perennial option to add four season interest to your pots. They also add vertical height, which gives you a professionally planted appearance when paired with lower growing annuals for continuing color. Other perennial options include plants that tend to be repeat bloomers such as geranium, salvias, and coreopsis.

To obtain optimum plant growth when container gardening, use a soilless mix. This product is sterilized to be disease and weed free, and provides needed drainage for container grown plants. Using a slow release fertilizer, such as “Osmocote” will provide season long feeding to your plants.

Special care is needed when maintaining container grown plants through the winter. Pots will most likely freeze solid during the cold months, which may result in plant injury. To maintain optimum plant health, pots should be placed in a protected area such as a cool garage or gardening shed.

For your convenience, we currently stock all plants and products discussed in this article.

One thing to remember to forget

There is an old adage that dictates that there are certain windows of opportunity to plant shrubs and trees, only during the spring and fall. This advice is incorrect. It is actually ok to plant anytime of the growing season. Plantings during the hot summer months may require more frequent waterings, but any plants will during a dry spell. Transplanting, however, is a different story. Ideal times for transplanting of shrubs and trees is during times of cooler temperatures since plants may be in shock from the process. Excessive heat may compound these problems. If you are in doubt about when to plant your trees and shrubs, please ask us, we are happy to give you the correct information.

Ask Olivia

Dear Olivia,

My Dad sat me down and told me that because of high gas prices, my allowance is going to be cut in half. I am just a kid, why do I have to feel the pinch? But what I am really upset about, is that I wanted to spend more money on my garden this year. I Need some tips and suggestions for penny wise gardening.

Dear Friend,

I know household finances can be tough for everyone, I know this as well as anyone as I am the daughter of small business owners! But there are many things you can do to stretch your dollar and enjoy your garden. Here are some tips:

1. When you purchase your seeds this year, try to purchase heirloom varieties. You will be able to save seeds from these flower heads and vegetables to grow again next year.

2. Start your own compost pile. Using compost will enrich your garden and help lessen fertilizer costs

3. Take cuttings of grandma’s perennials and new soft green growth on shrubs. Plants such as catmint, hydrangea, vinca, English ivy, red twig dogwood, butterfly bush, as well as many others can be started with a little rooting hormone (with your parent’s help). It may take a little longer to get larger plants, but this will save a lot- ask around for divisions of plants such as daylilies, many are happy to share! Organize a neighborhood plant exchange!