Thanks to Quinten K. Fadness and his article “Growing Worm-Free, Spray-Free Apples” in Pome News, Volume XXV, No.2, Spring, 2000 and to Ted Swensen I now have Worm- Free, Spray-Free Apples. This has been my lifetime happiest gardening and orcharding experience. As an uncertified organic home gardener I now proudly store or supply family, friends and Halfway House, with prize bug free fruit. Prior to bagging, I was restricted to making apple sauce, apple juice and bushels of compost.
No codling moth worms, no apple maggots, larger apples because of the thinning, less wind-caused damage and no spraying (except maybe for dormant oil and sulfur). All accomplished at the same one time up the ladder.
I average 30-50 apples per hour, which includes thinning. Six of my trees are under 14 feet and are easily reached with an 8′ orchard ladder. I have one standard sized tree (Northern Spy) on which I use a 14′ orchard ladder and still can’t reach all of the apples. Bagging this tree is a real pain but the wonderful large tasty apples are worth the effort.
Thinning the fruit while bagging will result in larger and healthier fruit. The earlier you thin the more significant the effect on fruit size.
Some growers think that if you thin when the fruit is a half inch in diameter or smaller it will have an additional benefit of reducing biennial fruiting characteristics. Other sources claim you need to thin during flowering to influence biennial fruiting. Thinning is a separate complex story and you need additional reading material for a complete understanding of the subject.
I have concluded that thinning and bagging when the fruit is a half inch in diameter is the way for me to go unless biennial fruiting becomes a significant problem. Then, I might consider thinning during blossoming. Since I have more fruit than I need the biennial events have been welcomed leisure easily rationalized as nature’s spiritual cycles to be properly worshiped or at least respected.
I have used both #2 bags and #4 bags. #2 bags are fine for small fruit but I have found them too small for large fruit such as Northern Spy, so rather than stock two sizes of bags I am using just the #4 size.
If brown bags are used, I have been told, they must be removed before harvest so that the sun can color the fruit. I have only used white bakery bags and the apple color has been satisfactory when I removed the bags during harvest.
Bagging Procedure Suggested
(Refine with your own procedure)
The last year (1999) that I did not bag apples, about 95% of the apples were damaged by apple maggots or codling moths. Since then my bagged apples have been about 100% clear of apple maggots and codling moths. Leaves trapped in the bags have occasionally resulted in earwigs leaving frass, but they seldom damage the apples.
You can get bags from Merchants Paper 462555 SE 24th Ave. Portland OR, 503-235-2171 Cost for white has been: $11.25 per 500 for #4. $16.80 per thousand for #2.