Saturday, May 22, 2010

Apple socka and late frosts

I just came in from the orchard with sad news. The late frosts kept most of our fruit from setting. There are a few cherries, some apples and some plums but there are MANY trees with no fruit at all. Very sad.

I was investigating the trees so closely because I went out to put little tiny nylon socks on the baby apples. This sounds goofy I know, but I was doing it to prevent apple maggots. We had a few last year and I decided to nip this problem in the bud (so to speak).

Apple maggots are as common as apples in this part of Western Washington. So, it isn't surprising we got them, but I still want to figure out how to help them not choose our apples for their homes. I decided to try a two pronged approach of ridding the orchard of them.

First approach are the goofy looking little nylon socks. Buying them in bags of 300, it is a project to put them out. Climbing on ladders and searching under leaves, you place one of these socks over each baby fruit when they are less than an inch big. Then the apple grows into the sock providing the apple maggots with a physical barrier that supposedly prevents the maggots and coddling moths to boot. I have never done this before so I can't tell you from experience how well it works but my gardening friends love them. It is a bit tedious to put all the little socks on the fruit babies, but it is also pretty nice being out there in the gentle spring sunshine listening to the creek all full of water from this morning's rain. Charlie stayed with me the entire time hunting things in the grass. We had a good time.

Apple maggots are a huge problem where we live. But like all pests, they are a sign that the vitality of the plant is somehow compromised. For this reason, I am planning on brewing as much biodynamic compost tea as I can and spreading it in the orchard as often as I can manage. I have heard of many people doing this and experiencing a dramatic increase in the health of their fruit trees. I figured I would give it a try. I certainly have the compost to make the tea with...thank you Kaitlin!

It is easy to brew this tea. All you need is a 5 gallon bucket, a fish bubbler and some tubing, some compost and a zippered net bag and lastly some micronized endo powder. Fill the bucket with water, turn on the bubbler and stick the tubing down under the water (I hold my tubing in place with a rock). Then put some compost in the zippered net laundry bag and float it in the water. Add the micronized endo powder (which helps the good bugs grow in the compost tea) and let it all brew for a day. Spread like you were watering the trees. Easy as pie. You can buy a fancy compost brewer for hundreds of dollars or you can make one of these for $20-$25. Either way, the brew is mighty powerful stuff, especially when made with biodynamic compost.

We already painted the trees with biodynamic tree paste mid winter. And if we get a chance we will dig the grass out from the base of the tree and put a good layer of compost around each tree. Hopefully, all this will be enough to stop those pesky apple maggots in their tracks. I like apples too much to see them get wormy.


  1. We have this problem with our apple trees too and it's very frustrating because I love apples. I've heard about apple booties before, where did you get them? I didn't realize it was time to put them on already.

    I will share this post with my husband because he's the alpha gardener in our family and will probably want to brew your tree tea.

    Thanks for the info.

  2. connie a good nursery would have them this time of year, and possibly raintree nursery online. I got mine from the Seattle Fruit tree grafting session.