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Johnny Appleseed's Contribution To The American Landscape

Blossoming Apple trees in an orchard
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iStockphoto
These rows of old apple trees in an orchard may have been planted by John Chapman, or Johnny Appleseed, as he was known.

It's apple season! In grade school, you may have heard of a character called Johnny Appleseed. Most of what you learned is true, as he was a real person who did travel the Appalachians and Midwest states, planting apple orchards from seed. We'll separate some facts from fiction.

Johnny Appleseed’s real name was John Chapman. He was born in Massachusetts in 1774. By the 1800s, his family moved to Ohio, which was considered the frontier at that time.

Chapman’s family had an apple orchard, so he was well-versed in growing apples. He began to plant apple trees from seed. Chapman embraced the teachings of Swedenborgism, which was seen as a bit eccentric. He was also an early convert to vegetarianism.

In the early 1800s, a frontier law stated that you can own a tract of land if you can prove that you have a permanent establishment on it. Chapman then began planting apple orchards to take ownership of acreage.

Chapman traveled, planting apple seeds and creating nurseries and orchards. He would then sell the land to other settlers.

Planting mostly apples to be used to make apple cider, the orchards he created also provided great genetic diversity of apples all across the country.

At his death, Chapman had over 1,200 acres of land in his name.

Q: I know that you should prune back lilacs right after they bloom, but I was unable to this year. Is it still OK to prune them back now? And I have a crabapple tree which has been growing nicely for the past four years, flowering and producing fruits as expected. This year however, there is a lichen or scale type growth which has appeared on almost all the branches and trunk of the tree. What can I apply that would get rid of this growth? - Susan, in Keene Valley, NY

As far as lilacs go, if you prune them now, you’ll prune off the flowers for next year. The best time to prune is in the spring. Right after they're done flowering, you've got about a six-week window.

Though, if the lilacs are overgrown, you can just cut the tree way back now and don't worry about the flowers.

Seeing lichens growing on crab apple trees is common, especially if your crab apples trees grow in shade.

As long as the crab apple tree is growing strongly, there’s no need to do anything.

Q: I have a question about my blueberry bushes. Several years ago I got 10 blueberry bushes from the local nursery, and have been enjoying berries for breakfast and the red foliage in the fall. However, there is a stranger in the patch: one of the bushes, (looks like a blueberry bush, leaves look like blueberry leaves), has fruited for the first time this year. But the berries, which are in the form of blueberries, are pale red! What do you think I have!? - Nancy, in West Windsor

This blueberry is a new variety called, “Pink Lemonade.” This bush will grow pink-fruited blueberries that have a mild flavor.

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Mary Engisch is the host and reporter for Weekend Edition Saturday and Weekend Edition Sunday on VPR.
Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally recognized garden writer, radio and TV show host, consultant, and speaker. Charlie is the host of All Things Gardening on Sunday mornings at 9:35 during Weekend Edition on VPR. Be part of the fun and send your gardening questions here, for Charlie to answer on the air. Plus, find lots of great gardening tips and information for all seasons here. For more gardening information, check out Charlie's website, Gardening with Charlie Nardozzi. Charlie is a guest on VPR's Vermont Edition during the growing season. He also offers garden tips on local television and is a frequent guest on national programs.