Vermont Garden Journal: Apples

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I’m Charlie Nardozzi and this is
the Vermont Garden Journal. What fruit is associated with the names John, Betty
and Steve?  It’s the apple. That would be
Johnny Appleseed, Apple Betty and Steve Jobs. Okay, I admit the last name was a
trick answer, but you get the point. Apples are the All-American fruit but,
many gardeners shy away from growing their own apple trees. But with new
varieties and techniques apple growing can be easy for a homeowner even with a
small yard.

The first task is variety
selection. For a small yard, plant dwarf and semi-dwarf trees. Standard sized
trees grow 40 or more feet tall and produce an abundance of fruit. However,
they start maturing later and require lots of space. Dwarf and semi-dwarf trees
grow a more manageable 10 to 20 feet tall. These produce sooner, and though not
as long lived as standard-sized trees, are easier to care for.

The second consideration is
disease-resistance. Apples in the Northeast get many diseases, such as apple
scab. Grow resistant varieties, such as Liberty
and Williams Pride. You’ll still have to control for insects such as apple
maggot, but at least you won’t have to spray so often for diseases.

Finally, plant your trees on a
north or east facing slope, if possible, on well drained soil. Try to avoid
south-facing slopes because the trees may bloom too early in spring and the
blossoms get killed by a late frost. On heavy clay soil, amend it well with
compost and plant on a mound to improve water drainage. Poor drainage results
in stunted or dead trees. Mulch well around the base and consider planting
ground covers of clover, yarrow and comfrey to build up the fertility of the
soil and attract beneficial insects.

Now for this week’s tip, for St.
Patrick’s Day skip the green beer and buy your loved one an oxalis plant. Often
called the shamrock plant, oxalis varieties come with green or burgundy red
leaves and grow easily indoors as a houseplant, but don’t let your pets eat the
toxic, sour leaves.

Next week I’ll be talking about
some new annual flower varieties for your garden. Until then, I’ll be seeing
you in the garden.

Planting Apple Trees
Growing Oxalis

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