Some natural fruit drop is to be expected - the tree is simply thinning out
fruit that it cannot support. If ALL the fruit is dropping, that is symptomatic
of more significant problems. Lawn right up to base of a fruit tree is not a
great idea. Lawns tend to hog nutrients and soil mositure and might be depriving
the tree of the conditions it needs to thrive, Also, to encourage consistant
production, apple trees should be pruned annually to remove excessive interior
branches which may be blocking needed sunlight and to develop new fruiting
spurs. Old spurs will gradually lose their productivity over time and need to be
replaced. Additional fertilizing may be necessary also if the tree has not been
Despite several posts encouraging a regular spray program, a dormant season
spray to help control fungal problems and to smother overwintering insect eggs
is typically all that is recommended for home orchardists in the PNW. There is
no spray product available to the consumer for the control of apple maggots and
coddling moths - these insect pests need to be controlled by trapping. It is too
late in the season for this type of control now - traps should be initiated in
early spring just as the blossoms are starting to emerge and remain in place
through the season. It can sometimes take several seasons before you get very
Finally, 50 years is a good lifetime for an apple tree - commercial orchardists
replace their trees after a much shorter period of time due to a natural decline
in productivity. You might just want to consider your tree simply a venerable
addition to your landscape and take whatever edible fruit it does produce as a
bonus. Plant a new, disease resistant and climate suitable apple cultivar for
serious fruit production.
pam - gardengal
Here's a very good article on the coddling moth. While written in UC Davis,
California, it discusses a number of items that can perhaps be implemented
in your area.
Note the reference to trunk banding. The key here is not so much to deny
the moth larvae a hiding place in which to pupate as it is to provide it a
known hiding place which you then discard (cum pupae). Another website
discussed using a band of pliable plastic foam instead of tanglefoot around
the trunk under the cardboard.
We had a severe coddling moth problem last year with our backyard
apples...almost 50% of the apples showed signs of infestation. I heavily
dormant sprayed the trees (oil and lime/sulfur) during the winter, including
the ground immediately beneath the trees as well as the trees themselves. I
set up coddling moth pheromone traps (which I replace every 6 weeks) and oil
spray every 10 - 14 days. While I still find some apples with evidence of
infestation (which I pick, crush, and bury deep in the compost pile), these
now tend to be the exception rather than the rule.
The other posts are absolutely correct in recommending that any fallen
apples be picked up and discarded. If you decide to toss these into the
compost pile, make sure you crush them (to decompose easier) and bury them
deep in the pile where you don't turn the pile. You don't want the larvae
to reach adulthood!
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