Pome Fruit: Apples and Pears

Apples and pears, botanically referred to as pomes, pomes, are excellent candidates for the home garden, as long as you are committed to the attention to detail and pest management that the crops require.

Advantages of homegrown pome fruit are numerous. You can grow varieties that are not readily available in grocery stores, control the level of pesticides used, and gain a greater understanding of the processes of nature that interact with the tree to produce these wonderful fruits. Remember, however, that producing high-quality apple and pear fruit requires careful observation as well as knowledge of how to respond to various pest problems that you may encounter.

Because apples and pears have many insect and disease pests, growing quality fruit in Pennsylvania is difficult without some pesticide use. Home gardeners are encouraged, however, to purchase disease-resistant varieties if they are available. Although these varieties are not resistant to all diseases that occur in Pennsylvania, they are resistant to the major ones. Pesticides still might be required, particularly in wet seasons, but their application rates can be reduced greatly. Under normal conditions, a home gardener might have to apply pesticides six to ten times to produce fruit of reasonable quality. If scab-resistant apples are planted, a gardener might need only two to three pesticide applications to produce quality apples.

The soil should be prepared thoroughly by deep cultivation either by hand or with a rototiller before planting.

Generally, apple trees need fertilizing each year.

Watering the young tree in late June might be desirable, depending on the rainfall up to that time.

Recognizing where the flowers and fruit develop on the different types of tree fruits is important. Their location as well as the fruit species will determine how the different species are pruned and trained.

Generally, fruit trees are pruned to develop a desired tree shape, to maintain the tree at a desired size, to make spraying easier, to improve fruit quality, to improve tree strength and induce branching, and to improve air circulation within the tree, which will reduce the potential for disease.

The practice of fruit thinning apples, pears, and stone fruits is much discussed but little understood.

The diseases and insect pests of apples occur at different times during the growing season, depending on environmental and biological factors.

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Pome Fruit: Apples and Pears

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