Is My Apple Tree Sick? (or how to take better care of it)

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Hi All,
I am in USDA zone 8 (Oregon) and I have a question about an apple tree in my yard, the cultivar is Transparent Yellow (or Yellow Transparent) on a semi-dwarf rootstock. I got this tree from a guy in the area who grafts apple trees as a hobby and was thinning out his garden in Oct 2007. The tree is about 6 years old I think he said. (I had actually been looking for this specific cultivar for several years)
Anyway, I planted it according to the generally accepted planting directions, dug a big hole, watered it, mulched it, made sure the tree wasn't planted too deep and all of that. This was around Oct 2007. The tree needs a bit of pruning, I decided to hold off on it for a year to make sure it would survive transplant shock. The one bit of pruning I did do around May of this year was the tree had 3 verticals competing to be the leader, I topped 2 of them and the remaining one I nipped 2 of the top shoots to leave a single one as the leader. This single shoot grew about a foot this summer. So far so good.
Now, here is the part I'm concerned about. This spring (April) the tree flowered, here are the pics of it:
http://www.freebsd-corp-net-guide.com/apple-tree/apr-tree1.jpg
http://www.freebsd-corp-net-guide.com/apple-tree/apr-tree2.jpg
http://www.freebsd-corp-net-guide.com/apple-tree/apr-tree3.jpg
Then in May, most of the flowers dropped off leaving the green fruit spurs (I also own an Indian Summer crabapple tree planted in the front of the house that flowered at the same time as this one did, I assume they pollenated. The Indian Summer produced -lots- of crabapples.)
Then in late May just about all of the fruit spurs withered, wilted, drooped over, got brown and dropped off. The leaves were not affected, just the fruit spurs. The tree produced a total of 6 apples. The apples that WERE produced were perfect. (tasted exactly like transparent yellow, at least like how I remember transparent yellow tasting from 25 years ago) Here are the pics from that:
http://www.freebsd-corp-net-guide.com/apple-tree/jun-tree1.jpg
http://www.freebsd-corp-net-guide.com/apple-tree/jun-tree2.jpg
http://www.freebsd-corp-net-guide.com/apple-tree/jun-tree3.jpg
http://www.freebsd-corp-net-guide.com/apple-tree/jun-tree4.jpg
The apples started dropping in early August, which is normal for this cultivar. However, now the tree seems to be beginning to show fall colors, here's current pics:
http://www.freebsd-corp-net-guide.com/apple-tree/aug-tree1.jpg
http://www.freebsd-corp-net-guide.com/apple-tree/aug-tree2.jpg
http://www.freebsd-corp-net-guide.com/apple-tree/aug-tree3.jpg
http://www.freebsd-corp-net-guide.com/apple-tree/aug-tree4.jpg
http://www.freebsd-corp-net-guide.com/apple-tree/aug-tree5.jpg
http://www.freebsd-corp-net-guide.com/apple-tree/aug-tree6.jpg
Now, I'm not particularly upset about the yield this year - if the tree had produced a big crop of apples I would have pinched most of them off very early since I wanted the tree to put it's energy into establishing it's root system, not producing apples.
But what concerns me is that it -appeared- that most of the blossoms pollenated and were well on their way to producing apples - then just abruptly died off.
I have looked up the diseases of apple trees to see if there is a match to any symptoms. Blossom Wilt is one that might be a cause - but it is supposed to shrivel fruits and damage leaves, and that did not happen. There are no other symptoms.
Unfortunately as Transparent Yellow is (apparently, nowadays) not commercially viable, nobody sells these apples anymore, and there is little information out there other than old charts of when it is supposed to ripen. None of the nursuries in the area (including one of the largest which claims itself as apple experts) have ever heard of this cultivar, and most of them in any case are more interested in selling you a "modern" cultivar with fruit that tastes like warm water, and has been (apparently) genetically engineered to be resistant to everything short of a nuclear explosion, I assume because once they have your money and their door hits your ass on the way out, they don't want to see you again - at least, not complaining about your tree you bought from them.
I am hoping that someone with some of these who has some experience might be able to tell me if what I'm seeing is perfectly normal, or something to be alarmed about. Also I am wanting to know what I should be spraying, and when.
Thanks!
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As far as I know all apple trees need a pollinator. And your tree is diseased because it's living in a garbage dump... sheesh, what a slob!
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wrote:

As I mentioned, I have an Indian Summer crabapple tree that is it's pollenator, and that tree produced a large number of crabapples. As you said, all apple trees need a pollenator - where did that crabapple tree get it's pollen from if not from this tree? And if it got it from some 3rd tree in the area, then why didn't this tree get it from that tree also?

It IS diseased? That is what I was asking. If your sure it is, then what disease does it have?
Ted
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Not all crabapple pollenates dessert apple well. Your crab apple produces fruit because some crabapple are self pollenating. Your tree produced some apples because most likely there is another apple tree not too distant and one that's in blossom during the same period as yours, but probably too distant to be an efficient pollenator, and probably the wrong type of tree for your fruit to set well, so it will drop. Check with a nurseryman to find out which type of apple tree is recommended as a pollenator for yours, not all are compatible so don't run out and buy just any old apple tree.
You need to do some research: http://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/agriculture/horticulture/pomes/apples/crabapple-pollinators

Mold/fungus/mildew... even though visible manifesting itself in the leaves still the entire tree is affected because it's in the soil too. Clean up all that rotting stuff on the ground at the base of your tree, that entire area looks very shabby... and it's plain to see that your soil is very poor, looks like mostly sand and yellow clay plus who knows what toxins were previously dumped there, especilaly so near a property line, certain pinhead neighbors are apt to toss whatever over the fence (you might want to have your soil tested). And why are all those weeds growing at the base of that poor tree, they're stealing water and robbing what little nutrients are present... I can tell your soil is poor/toxic because even those weeds are struggling. You have a lot of housekeeping to do and at least apply a goodly amount of fungicide to the entire area, drench the soil... then keep that area clean and tidy.
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wrote:

Yellow Transparent is a cooking apple.

There are no real nurserymen left in my city - none that is who are available to any customer, that is. I already tried that route a couple years ago. As I mentioned, none had heard of the particular cultivar. Everyone I talked to only wanted to sell me a Gala apple tree or some such variety that I can buy from the supermarket - why even bother planting one of those when every corner market that sells apples already has tons of those apples.
My read of the local retail nurseries is that they follow fads and fashions, and know nothing about plants anymore. Half the retail nurseries are owned by chains in the first place. And all of them carry the same varieties. Right now the native plants are a big fad so they carry those. But I could go from nursery to nursery writing down varieties and I would end up with a list of perhaps a grand total of 15 different apple varieties. And every one of those 15 would be of an apple available in the supermarket. Most people buy fruit trees that produce fruits they are already used to buying and eating from the supermarket. So that avenue is as they say a dry hole. There is more info online such as the link you posted below.

I did already. In fact I emailed several professional apple experts years ago before getting the tree, including the local extension agent - who had never heard of that cultivar and he e-mailed yet another apple expert in the business, and I talked with him on the phone as well. The only thing useful that this turned up was that I should try to get a pollenator because the most common apple varieties bloom later and bear fruit later. However nobody could give me a variety of pollenator. So I did the only logical thing possible, which was to wait until the tree bloomed, then go around to all the nurseries looking for an apple tree variety that was blooming at the same time. I needed a crabapple because that is the only type of apple tree I can plant on my property in the space I have available (ie: the front street strip between the road and the sidewalk) and the city will not allow true apple trees in that strip, only crabapples - and even then I had to get a variance on the permit for the Indian Summer crabapple since it wasn't on the city's list of allowable trees. No doubt in another 5 years the eco-freaks will have succeeded in exorcising even the few crabapples from the list of allowable street trees and there will only be native trees allowed.
Incidentally, Indian Summer came from the "misc tree" area of Home Depot. Home Depot, unlike the retail nurseries, does not stock regular varieties of trees. Instead they call up the tree growers who supply the retail nurseries and buy up whatever the growers happen to have left that the retail nurseries didn't buy, then they sell them cheap to people who just want "a pretty tree". None of the retail nurseries in the area had crabapples in bloom when I wanted them. I basically just went around to every place that sold trees until I found that one.
I contacted several dozen "grower" nurseries nationally, looking for this cultivar. None carried it. One nursery back east claimed to carry it in a non-grafted native root tree. Good luck with that. A few wholesale nurseries in Canada also claimed to carry it. Do you want a description of all the crap you have to go through to take a tree across the border from Canada to the US and how expensive it is? And this isn't even beginning to touch the nonsense with minimum orders and all of that which the wholesale nurseries have.
This isn't a cultivar that is an espically significant historical cultivar, so the various societies that care about saving "heirloom" cultivars are no help either. Yellow Transparent is equivalent to a 1984 Chevy Celebrity. During their day millions were made. But they were always a workhorse and at this time they have not been gone for long enough for anyone to notice. No doubt in 50 years there will be "heirloom apple tree preservers" out there tearing their hair out wondering why nobody bothered saving a specimen of yellow transparent, just as there will be old car buffs tearing their hair out wondering why nobody bothered saving 1984 Chevy Celebrities. But right now there are not - because most are like you who seem to think that it's an ordinary enough tree that info should be readily available.
30 years ago this cultivar had a limited success as a commercial apple. What I need to find is some old retired geezer farmer who at that time had an orchard with some of these in it, and who remembers all about their habits and how to make them happy and how to get them to yield well. I've had no luck with that and in fact I've only come across one orchard within a 50 mile radius that has a few of these trees, and it's a hobby orchard and the guy that owns it just did the old trick of 40 years ago he planted 20 apple trees, and all 20 are completely different cultivars, and all planted in the same orchard within 25 feet of each other - so of course, he has no clue what is pollenating what.
The entire thing is an experiment. It may not work. But the alternative is sitting on my butt doing nothing, being pissed at the dumb supermarkets who only want to carry something like 5 apple varieties, all of which have only been bred to have 10 month shelf lives and skins made out of what appears to be red stainless steel - so they can be shipped on the cheapest freight carrier from Mexico and still be salable.

There is no rotting stuff because I mow that area a couple times a year. There is a compost pile in the background that is mostly layers of grass clippings and pulled weeds. I do not mow weekly or even monthly. Often the grass goes to seed. I also do not water the lawn, once the spring rains stop the lawn goes brown.
We have several bad vine type weeds that every fall I pull as much as I can out. But they are in the fence and in the neighbors yard and come through the fence and it is pointless to try to eradicate it as long as the neighbor on the other side of the fence does nothing.

It is mostly clay.

The house was built in 1911 and before that the entire area was a brickyard. It is what it is.

It is only grass growing within a 2 foot radius of the tree base. And of course it likes to grow there since I water the tree there. I could pull it but the tree is in a lawn and the grass would just come back in. I do not let the weed from the fence encroach on the tree.
In the wild I have observed trees in the forest having no problems growing in a meadow of grass. I thus am unlikely to be convinced that grass at the base is a problem.

The lawn beyond the tree area, which is a mix of grass and weeds, is struggling because I don't water it.

Thanks. I don't mind the delivery if you can give me something useful.
Ted
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Hi Ted!
Look at <http://www.tomsofmaine.com/apple/heirloom/default.asp
Yup same guy that makes toothpaste.
Bill
--
Garden in shade zone 5 S Jersey USA

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On Wed, 27 Aug 2008 05:51:06 -0700, "Ted Mittelstaedt"
<big snip>

So from what I can tell you are trying to find out what was used to cross pollinate the old Yellow Transparents?
I live pretty close "The Ridge", which is world renown for apples and other fruit. Used to have a pair of trees just to the north of me, one was red and the other was purported to be a transparent. As far as I know they are still there with a ton of brush grown up around them. Only the deer know for sure :)
An old abandon orchard to the west of me had transparents too. Pretty sure the owner is still with us and I could probably ask him. Better yet try asking this guy first:
http://www.hrt.msu.edu/staff/st_schwail.htm
If he doesn't know, he will know who to ask. We still have quite a few old time orchard growers around here. If that is the Phil I think it is he grew up on a farm/orchard in this area.
Let us know if you find out anything useful.
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Leon Fisk
Grand Rapids MI/Zone 5b
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All one needs is to search the net, plenty of info.
Seems the Yellow Transparant need a pollenator, can even pollenate itself but not from the same tree, needs a partner.
http://www.grandpasorchard.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=trees.plantDetail&plant_id=78
http://www.oldvaapples.com/descriptions.htm
Seems if the OP spent half as much time researching as posting much gaseous verbiage he'd have found the answer before posting here.
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Useful: http://www.starkbros.com/access?action=product&productID=2884&collection=0
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wrote:

ignore Shelly. he makes things up as he goes.

have you tried contacting Trees of Antiquity? http://www.treesofantiquity.com/index.php?main_page=index they not only carry Yellow Transparent (one of my favorite pie & sauce apples) but many other heirloom fruit trees. i'm sure they can answer your questions far better than an idiot on the opposite side of the continent from you.

you can find 15 varieties of apple in local nurseries? i think i can find maybe 5 or 6, one of which is always the misnomered 'Delicious' yuck! i can only find decorative crabapples, those with pretty flowers but tiny useless fruit.

Trees of Antiquity has it on dwarfing rootstock, conventionally grown, available for 2009 planting season. http://www.treesofantiquity.com/index.php ? main_page=product_info&products_id3 they know their trees. i really think they can tell you a cross pollination cultivar. and they're on the west coast.

it's from the 1870s. it *is* considered an heirloom variety. it is currently out of favor because it doesn't ship well & has a *very* short "shelf life". it's NOT a 'keeping' apple.

i would imagine it had *very* limited success as a commercial variety, since it doesn't hold or ship worth crap. i'm trying to remember if there was a big craze for dried apples 30 years ago that might account for some interest in it commercially. seriously, the fruit rots on the tree even, if you don't pick it as soon as it's ripe.

yup. shipping apples. pretty & pretty inedible. lee
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Ted, these garden groups are infested with very rude people and organic fanatics. All the regular people, the nice people who use to be here and were helpful to everyone are gone. Apparently driven off by this small group of fanatics. You would be better off taking a few leaves (in a plastic baggie) and your questions to your nearest Agricultural Extension center. They will give you real truthful information without insulting you and pushing organic "cures" on you, blaming every problem everyone has on "poisons." They will give you advice on both organic products and chemical products. Some chemical products are no better than the organic products they recommend here. I wish I could help you with your apple tree problem but I don't grow apples. Your Ag. Agent will tell you what type are adapted to your climate and answer your other questions without insulting you and blaming everything on "poisons."
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Since you've nothing useful to offer why don't you STFU. All you're doing is putting folks down and offering no help at all... get lost.
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wrote:

She's right. You're wrong. But then you are ALWAYS wrong. What a maroon.
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There seems to be no middle ground on these NGs. If you don't buy into the organic BS 100% they try and run you off. And God help anyone with the nerve to tell them their organic products are often as worthless as many of the chemicals out there these days. Insects, spiders and bugs are gaining tolerance to more products every day. This group was much better balanced in the past.
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Since you've nothing useful to offer why don't you STFU. All you're doing is putting folks down and offering no help at all... get lost
The help I offer is the "TRUTH." I'm not pushing "miracle cures" like some of you. Maybe you should get lost if you can't handle the truth since this is a Public Forum.
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Also, you might check out the Home Orchard Society: http://www.homeorchardsociety.org/aboutus /
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It could be (either, or, or some combination of) lack of good pollination and/or the tree realizing that it didn't have enough roots left to invest all that energy in apple production this year. If it was six years old at transplant time, it lost a *lot* of roots. The roots recover at a growth rate of about 18" per year. Overall the part of the tree below ground wants to be roughly the same size as the part of the tree above ground, so it can take several years for the roots to catch up on an older transplant like this, and in the first year after transplant usually you do not get fruit because the tree has to spend a lot of energy regrowing its root system.
Your tree doesn't look particularly diseased, but I'm not an expert on this. It certainly looks less diseased than my two trees, which are producing a lot more apples. I am also in zone 8 in Oregon (Willamette Valley). Mine were 3-yo from the nursery, and this is now their second season in the ground in my yard. The first season they flowered like crazy but dropped them all before setting fruit. (Actually, there was one apple that had set on one of the trees, but a small child thought it would be the perfect thing to use as a missile, so it got picked when it was still only an inch in diameter.) This second season they have set a lot of apples, despite having chronic issues with leaves that get brown spots and turn yellow and fall off. Apples are very closely related to roses, so I assume this is similar or the same disease (black spot?) that does the same thing to all our rose bushes every year. (A primary reason I have never been a fan of roses, and we have already removed most of the ones the house came with and diversified the flower garden.) Your pix showed a few leaves possibly suffering from the same malady, but not nearly as many as on my trees. Since I don't like to pour toxic chemicals all over my yard, I just let them be and will be happy with however many apples they can produce in the face of this. There are other apple trees in the neighborhood that are completely neglected and apparently pretty disease-free, so I'm hoping that as mine become more established and their roots catch up with their tops, they will have more energy available to spend in fighting off diseases. That which doesn't kill them only makes them stronger. I hope. (The squirrels are also getting a lot of the crop too -- darn weed species! Oddly the apples seem to have distracted them from the sunflowers this year, but I'd rather it was the other way around.)
Utopia in Decay http://home.comcast.net/~kevin.cherkauer/site
Kevin Cherkauer

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Thanks! I hadn't considered that the root system might be the issue. I watched the tree being dug up and there were several 5m roots that were cut to get it up out of the ground. The guy I got it from assured me that trees in Oregon grow like weeds and it wouldn't hurt it.

When I was about 14 years old (quite a long time ago) a neighbor who was really into roses helped me to grow and prune the 8 roses in my parents front yard. That yard was basically barkdust and roses. I ended up entering some of them in the Portland Rose Show that year and the following year and ended up winning some ribbons. I remember Black Spot as well as some of the other rose diseases. Roses are the type of plant that you either spend a lot of time working on them or you just ignore them and hope that occassionally you get a nice flower. But they don't look good unless you give them constant attention. And they also don't look good unless your constantly at them with the fungucide and the pesticides. When I grew up and bought my own home I didn't put any roses in.

If I had my way I would have planted several apple trees in the front strip between the sidewalk and the street. Unfortunately the City of Portland got real pissy about people putting apple trees in that section and banned fruit trees in that strip years ago. The only thing you can put in now is ornamental trees. That's why I put the Indian crabapple in that strip.
Ted
Well in my case I'm really limited in what I can do with the yards. The first problem is both are small - the back is about 12 feet wide by 20 feet long, and is on the north side of the house.
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Ted,
Apparently we are not just in any old zone 8's in Oregon, but both in Portland. But you sound like you could be a native, whereas I am a transplant. I think I've been here long enough now though that my root system has recovered. ;-)

They do grow like weeds, but even a weed will be set back by having that much of its root system removed. The older the tree, the higher a percentage of its roots are lost during transplant. It might take a few years to recover 100%, as it will probably take several years to grow roots out five meters again.
None of my fruit trees have produced more than a few token fruits in their first year after transplant, even though they all did flower that first year. Since you got some apples in the first year, hopefully you are getting good pollination from somewhere, and next year you will get more fruit. Not all varieties can pollinate each other though, and sometimes pollination is only unidirectional (variety A can pollinate B, but B cannot pollinate A).

Congratulations!
Occasionally I find someone who has rose plants that are healthy without chemical intervention, but this seems pretty rare. I've always thought they have beautiful flowers but the plants themselves are just butt ugly. (They are also closely related to blackberries, which are even butt uglier plants.) The prior owner of our house was a nut for roses, so there were about a dozen and a half of them in the yard. He used to chemicalize them to fight the fungus, but we do not. Generally they look great in the spring, then lose pretty close to 100% of their leaves to black spot during the course of the summer, then get more leaves in the fall. During all this time amazingly they still produce blooms -- sometimes quite a lot of them -- but there is is really nothing worse looking, IMO, than a past-its-peak rose blossom on the end of a dead-looking stalk with nothing else on it but thorns.
This year one of the three remaining rose bushes we have not removed is actually holding most of its leaves with very little disease, even now in deepest August. Perhaps its immune system has finally caught up with the program. Or perhaps it's just luck. Or the cool summer. Take your pick. My impression is that roses have been bred so heavily for huge spectacular blooms that pretty much everything else -- like a halfway decent immune system -- has been stripped out of them through in-breeding.

I learned from a book on the "home orchard" that one can put up to four semi-dwarf fruit trees in a single hole, in a square only 18" on a side. I didn't try four, but I did put two plums in one hole and two apples in another hole, where each pair was selected to be mutually cross-pollinating. To be on the safe side, I also picked all varieties that are self-fruitful, however supposedly such trees will produce more and better fruit if they are cross-pollinated. This is a great way to pack in the multiple trees needed for cross-pollination when you don't have a lot of space (and my yard is similar in size to yours, although I am more blessed with sun). Another way is to get those trees with branches of multiple different varieties all grafted onto the same trunk, but then you are at risk of losing a variety if a branch dies, and also as the tree grows further any new branches are going to be whatever variety the trunk is, which may not be a desired one. So this approach seems more limited to me, and the trees cost more as well.
Utopia in Decay http://home.comcast.net/~kevin.cherkauer/site
Kevin Cherkauer
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Also remember that the original or maybe old growth apple trees did not produce heavy crops every year. The tree seemed to know (teleology(?) speaking) that energy would be better spent in root food for storage as starch. The apple trees now demand heavy crops every year. Maybe yours is one of the good old ones! I have often wondered what old growth forest or fields with apple trees would be like. I guess they would be in Russia. I wonder what their true companion plants are?
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