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A Beginner's Look Into Growing Apples

Shalayne Smith-Needham: Utah is a great place for growing apples. The warm summers and cold winters helped create an optimal environment for many varieties of apple. Shawn Olson is a retired USU extension agent in agriculture and horticulture who has helped with all aspects of apples. Thanks for being here today.

Shawn Olsen: Thank you very much.

SSN: First, what suggestions do you have for those who are wanting to plant apple trees?

SO: Well, there's a lot of really good varieties. I think the first thing is to consider how you're going to use it, you want it for fresh eating, to watch out for juice or for making desserts.

Also, it's good to look at semi-dwarf apples, so they don't get too large. They're easier to take care of. And some of the important things are proper pruning, fruit thinning, and then being aware of pest problems and dealing with those as needed.

SSN: You just talked a bit about pruning, when is the best time to plant and prune new trees?

SO:  The best time to plant is in the spring, that’s when the trees are most available. Pruning is generally done in March. Apples are trained to generally train to a central leader system with the main trunk and then several sets of branches coming off that. And the key is to make sure that the branches are spaced out, so you get good light penetration down into all parts of the tree.

SSN: What are some common mistakes that growers should avoid?

SO: Apples need full sunlight, they need good soil. The other thing is making sure that you're willing to set up to control pests as needed. For example, apples will get codling moth or the worm in the apple, but there's been research done at USU that shows you can spray two or three times and only get about 10% damage. There are ways to manage the pest and not have to take up too much time and effort. The other thing is to thin the fruit as needed so there's room for each room to grow and they're well-spaced along the branches.

SSN: Well finally, what can one do to ensure the health of new and established apple trees?

SO: they meet good watering. After they're planted. just dig down on the soil a few inches make sure the soils stay moist.

The other thing is to start training the tree as soon as you planted and in the first two years to establish a good structure and branch structure. And there's not a lot of crossing or diseased or dead branches.

SSN: All right, Shawn Olson is a retired USU extension agent in agriculture and horticulture from Davis County.

For more information, check out these links:

When are apples ripe?

Apple Production and Variety Recommendations for the Utah Home Garden:

Training and Pruning Apple Trees:

Shalayne Smith Needham has worked at Utah Public Radio since 2000 as producer of Access Utah. She graduated from Utah State University in 1997 with a BA in Sociology, emphasis on Criminology. A Logan native, she grew up with an appreciation for the great outdoors and spends her free time photographing the Western landscape and its wildlife.