Thursday, May 29, 2014

Quest for Apple Trees

Part of my plan for our 12 acres is to grow an orchard.  When I think about the types of fruit I want to grow, the first that comes to mind are apples!  I eat an apple almost every morning, either cooked with oatmeal on cold mornings or sliced on top of waffles with yogurt for warm weather.  I also love to bake (and eat) apple pies.  Every year we go apple picking and I cook little mini pies that go into the freezer.

Picking apples in the rain in Upstate New York, fall 2013

However, when I started researching what kind of apples to grow I hit a brick wall.  Problem number one is that I don't want to use chemical sprays.  I want organic apples.  Problem number two is that I live in a hot, humid climate.  It appears that problem one and two do not combine well.

On the NPR station I listen to there is a program from Clemson University about gardening.  People call in with their gardening questions and several times I've heard questions about apple trees and the response has always been that they don't grow well in South Carolina, so don't bother trying.

But I really, really want apples!

After much Google searching, I stumbled upon another blog : Growing Days and found that I was not alone.  The blogger (oddly also named Julie) is in South Carolina as well and had heard the same Clemson University advice against apples.  However, she had met the author, Creighton Lee Calhoun, Jr, of a book titled: Old Southern Apples: A Comprehensive History and Description of Varieties for Collectors, Growers, and Fruit Enthusiasts.  She was able to talk to Mr. Calhoun about her quest for an apple variety to plant and his recommendation was a Blacktwig apple.

Now I just needed to find this Blacktwig Apple.  Through more Google searches I stumbled upon Century Farm Orchards in Reidsville, NC.  They specialize in growing old Southern apples and pears that are disease resistant!  They had the Blacktwig apple available and the description makes it sound even better.  "Unparalleled fresh eating quality" and all important, "resistant to several apple diseases."   I ordered two Blacktwig apples and the owner of Century Farm Orchard has been helpful to recommend another variety for pollination, Summer Banana.  This variety also sounds delicious!

I received and planted my apple trees.  I put up a four foot fence around each one.  I learned from my pecan tree planting that deer protection is essential.  The apple trees are also somewhat close to the pond where we have very active beavers.  Hopefully my apple tree enclosures will be deer and beaver proof!

All went well with the baby apple trees until mid-spring.  Small green caterpillars began munching away at the leaves.  I managed to hand pick them off the trees and no new ones reappeared.  They have put on new leaves and will hopefully recover from the attack.  However, I am concerned about how to deal with these caterpillars in the future.  Eventually the trees will be too big for me to hand pick, so I will need another technique.  And today I noticed that the apple tree leaves have reddish orange blotches.

I have a feeling my quest for apples is just beginning!.

This post is shared at Green Thumb Thursday at Grow a Good Life.


  1. Of all the fruits that you can grow, I love apples the most. I was hoping to plant apple trees this year but, with all the other expenses & work I've had in expanding the bed areas, I decided to defer until next year. I hope your apple trees aren't too badly set back by the caterpillars. Those orange spots look like they may be rust - I don't know too much about it but I do have a plant on my property (have no idea what it is) that gets this every year.

    1. I've heard of rust from cedar trees around here, but I haven't looked into what effect it has on apple trees. I'm hoping not too much because I don't want the poor saplings to get overwhelmed with caterpillars and rust in their first year.

  2. I hope your apple trees do well against all odds! I have thought about trying to grow apple trees but have been afraid to. I llike to dehydrate them and we can lumpy apple sauce. Would you how to make your mini pies and what you use for a pie tin? Nancy

    1. I use half pint canning jars. This is the website I got the idea from:
      They are delicious and adorable and make great gifts too.

  3. Good luck on your apple search. I'm in prime apple territory so have a million varieties to choose from. Of course I'm always struggling with my figs and rosemary as they really aren't hardy here.

  4. Good luck with your apple tree, and hope it will grow well. We planted 3 trees and also have problems with caterpillars and deer stripping them down so I'm also looking for organic way of keeping healthy apples.

  5. Great post! I've never heard of a Blacktwig Apple. We had a few apple tress here when we bought the place but they've never managed to give us more then a few each year. Maybe it's time to try something new. :)

    Thanks for posting this on Green Thumb Thursday. I hope you'll stop join us again this week!


  6. Hi Julie, I admire you for trying to grow apples organically even with all the challenges you face. I hope they do well for you. Thank you for sharing this post at Green Thumb Thursday. I have chosen it as my "Featured Post" this week. Please feel free to swing on by and grab your featured button.