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Vermont Garden Journal: Cultivating And Rejuvenating Wild Apple Trees

When you find a wild apple tree you like that is still in good shape, you can help it produce more consistently with pruning, mulching and fertilizing.
Stanislav Ostranitsa
/
ISTOCK
When you find a wild apple tree you like that is still in good shape, you can help it produce more consistently with pruning, mulching and fertilizing.

In the fields behind our house there is an abundance of wild apple trees. Some may have been intentionally planted years ago and are the remnants of an old orchard. Others probably grew from seeds dropped by birds and animals after eating the fruits.

Every year I know to check certain ones for the best fruit. We don't grow apple trees in our orchard because we feel blessed to live in a location with all these delicious, wild fruits.

This has been a good year for wild fruits. It looks like an “on” year for alternate bearing and all the rain in spring and early summer has helped the fruits size up nicely. Certainly every year there are blemishes and insect damage on these wild fruits, but for home eating, making apple sauce, pies and cider, they're perfect. Harvest your wild apples when you see a few on the ground. Also, if they come off easily from the tree with a gentle twist and tug, they're ready to pick.

When you find a wild apple tree you like that's still in good shape, you can help it produce more consistently with pruning, mulching and fertilizing. Prune away any shading trees to give it maximum light and air flow. Mow around the base and mulch with wood chips to reduce weed competition. Based on a soil test, apply some lime to bring the pH to between 6.0 and 7.0. In winter, prune out any dead, diseased and broken branches and suckers. Slowly renovate the tree over a period of a few winters, never removing more than a third of the branches in any one year. In a few years, you may be able to bring back an old tree without having to plant a new one.

Now for this week's tip: if you have a large geranium plant you want to bring indoors for winter, take cuttings now to root. It will be easier to find space indoors for the small, rooted cuttings than the big mother plant.

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