Michael’s Apples Releases May 2012 Edition of the Fruit Tree Care Newsletter


Michael’s Apples May 2012 Fruit Tree Care Newsletter:

Spring has sprung, at least my fruit trees are in full bloom, the cover is off of my cold crops and the codling moths are returning. May is the time to thin fruit, monitor and spray for pests, visit local plant sales and plant the summer garden (not quite yet….).

Educational Opportunities:

I will be giving a talk on growing berries to the Elko Garden Club on June 1 at 12 noon at the Elko County Library. Deserts will be available! Valerie Hellwinkle, the Elko Garden Club President, has extended an invitation to Michael’s Apples Newsletter recipients in the greater Elko area to attend. See you there!

Fruit Trees for Sale:

I have a few fruit trees left for sale. Email me at michael@michaelsapples.com if you are interested. If they don’t have homes by May 6, they will be spending the rest of the year in Paradise Valley.

Local Plant Sales:

The Annual University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Plant Faire will be held Saturday, May 19 at the UNCE Western Area/Washoe County Extension office located at 4955 Energy Way.

The gate (it is a horse race) opens at 7 a.m. and lasts until 11:30 am. Note that the early bird gets the tomato plant—last year the line was 60 people deep 30 minutes before the starting bell.

A large variety of flowers and veggies are for sale at ~$1.50/four inch pot; some ½ gallon pots of flowers, shrubs, and grapes are also available at varying (low) prices. To receive an email reminder of the sale and an advanced copy of the plant sale list, email Master Gardener Program Coordinator Wendy Hanson Mazet at hansonw@unce.unr.edu.

It’s a real deal for a good cause. Be sure to say hi; I’ll be with the tomatoes.

The May Arboretum Society’s annual Spring Plant Sale held at Rancho San Rafael Park is on Saturday, June 2 from 8 a.m. to 12 noon; the plants are natives and ornamentals suitable for growing in the Reno area. For more information, visit the Washoe County Parks Workshops & Special Events website.

Local Food Resources:

Fallon, home of the Hearts of Gold cantaloupe, has several farms with websites including:

You can get on their mailing lists for updates and availability of fruit and vegetables.

For other local and area producers of fruit, vegetables, honey, beef, eggs, and more, check out the Nevada Grown website at: www.nevadagrown.com .

Codling Moths:

Codling moths are the most damaging pest of apples and pears. The poor- to non-existent fruit crops the last few years may work to our benefit this year as the codling moths could not complete their cycle due to the lack of a host; however, we must be ever vigilant. I have some traps left for sale; 3 traps for $15. Put the first trap out at full blossom (yesterday).

For more information about codling moths, visit UC IPM Online’s Codling Moth Management website.

Do take a look at their discussion and link on Bagging Fruit. I have bagged several hundred apples in past years with mixed results; some of the apples already had codling moth eggs laid and/or hatched when I put on the bags. So, if you plan to bag the apples, I suggest thinning, first (and only) spray, then bagging the fruit. The easiest bags to affix were the cheap ‘zip-lock’ sandwich bags. 


Thinning is an important step in producing larger, tastier fruit and will also help prevent damage from insects. Cherry trees do not need to be thinned; apples, pears, apricots, plums, peaches and nectarines will benefit from thinning.

Fruit should be thinned when the fruit is ¼ to ½ inch in diameter; after the fruit is an inch in diameter, it is too late to improve fruit quality by thinning. To thin, first lightly run your fingers over the fruit; a good number of the fruits will fall off as some fruits were not completely fertilized or the tree is selectively pruning itself. Then, remove any damaged/deformed fruits. Note that apples and pears form on clusters with the center fruit larger than the rest; those are the ones I leave on the tree.

This year, I’m thinning apples and pears to 12” apart per limb; peaches and nectarines 8” apart and plums and apricots 6” apart. The object is to leave as much fruit as possible, but remove enough so that the remaining fruits will not touch when mature (insect larvae tend to bore into fruit where they touch).

Sevin, an Insecticide, can be used on fruit trees to thin apples. Read the label instructions! The amount of thinning varies between varieties, age of tree and is not exact; the label instructions give a range of dilution to use. If you have a large, old apple tree and want to try thinning with sevin, I’d start out with 1/3 to ½ the recommended range on the packet and adjust each year until you get the desired effect.

Pests and Diseases:

Pests and disease seen in May include aphids, powdery mildew, and the first codling moth hatch. Look at the growth tips of the limbs for the dull gray coating that is powdery mildew. Generally, only one or two limbs will have it on new growth. Prune off the infected portion back to a branch or bud, dispose of the affected sprouts, and spray a disinfectant (like Lysol) on your pruning tools afterward.

Aphid damage will also occur on new growth and will appear as curled, deformed leaves especially on peaches, nectarines, and cherries. If only one or two places are infected, just squash the little bugs. If the whole tree is infected, it will be too late for dormant oil, but attach a spray nozzle to your water hose and spray water into the affected limbs from all sides. Aphids do not like humidity and the force of the spray will knock the aphids off and onto the ground. Being fat boys (actually all females) with skinny legs, the aphids will not be able to get back into the tree. Spray the tree daily, if possible in the morning, as the aphids knocked off the tree will slowly cook in the noonday sun.

Other items for May:

Yes, it is too early for tomatoes; I put mine in the ground on Memorial Day weekend no matter how much snow is on Peavine; ok, I cheat a little earlier in that week if the 10 day forecast is without frosts/freezes. I cheated even earlier with a hoop house. Beans, squash, cukes and most other vegetable seeds can be planted about the same time.

Enjoy the spring weather and get planting!