How to Grow Apples in the Southern U.S.


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Apple Trees

Be selective when harvesting: only choose peaches that are mature enough for shipping or for immediate marketing. A grower should be familiar with the varieties being grown, as distinctions in color and firmness indicating maturity will differ depending on variety. It is best to harvest peaches in the early morning to minimize field heat in the fruit as well as worker fatigue. Minimizing field heat will also slow the post-harvest ripening and softening process. The most reliable indicators for matured peaches include changes in ground color, firmness, and uniform swelling around the suture.

Ground color refers to the color of the peach on the side facing away from the sun.


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A peach appearing light green is approaching maturation. As the ground color breaks to a white or yellow, this is a positive indication of maturity Figure There should also be a uniform swelling of the peach around the suture so that in a cross-section the peach will be round, not oblong. To minimize bruising and premature softening during storage and transit, peaches should be at a stage of development that is advanced enough to allow the fruit to ripen to a high quality.

Pecans are ready to harvest once the shucks split, allowing the nuts to fall to the ground Figure One tool used for harvesting on a small scale is a long pole. A long pole has a wide, blunt end or grappling claw that is used to shake the limb. This tool may be more economical for smaller orchards. The most effective tool for harvesting pecans is a PTO powered trunk shaker Figure Use caution when latching onto the trunk of the tree. Too much pressure on the tree during shaking may cause the trunk to split, leaving an open wound. For smaller scale orchards, hand-harvested nuts should be picked up frequently to prevent molding or removal by pests.

For commercial harvesters, it is ideal to mechanically rake or blow the pecans into windrows on both sides of the tree to ease in pick up. This can be accomplished through manual labor using rakes and blowers or through mechanical sweepers and blowers mounted on a tractor. It is important to use caution when moving the pecans, either through manual labor or machinery, so as not to crack the pecan shell.

Once gathered in windrows, a push-powered Figure 14 or tractor-pulled harvester can be used to sweep up the pecans and blow the trash out the back. Peaches at various stages of ground color development. Notice the ground color changes in the peaches that are less ripe left and more ripe right. Example of a hand-pushed pecan harvester. Rubber bristles grab the pecans that are then brushed into the bin. Cooling of fruit after harvest is crucial for maintaining fruit quality if holding for any period of time. The most common method for smaller scale production is forced-air cooling Figure The greater the movement of air in your cooler, less time is required to cool your crop.

The shelf life of your crop will be significantly shortened if you are unable to properly and quickly cool the fruit. Regularly sanitize your fruit harvest and storage containers as well as the surfaces of your cooling and storage rooms. Interior surfaces may be disinfected with a 0. In addition to regularly inspecting your bulk boxes, periodically inspect and clean cooling and storage rooms, the coils, fans, and ducts.

By cleaning any dirt or dust that may have accumulated, you will increase the efficiency and effectiveness of your units. Regularly recalibrate thermostats and hygrometers, used to measure temperature and humidity, to maintain accuracy. Rapidly cool the apples after harvest to remove field heat and increase storage life. This range reduces water loss but does not encourage bacteria and fungi. Apples may also be stored in plastic bags, crates, or bin liners to prevent fruit dehydration.

Most peaches grown in North Carolina are sold directly to the consumer as quick as possible. Peaches are:. Maintenance of your storage facilities and the environmental conditions within those facilities is essential for sustaining a productive operation. Large pecan orchards may utilize forced-air commercial dryers to dry the nuts in a large trailer or container. For small pecan producers, the nuts can be dried in a burlap or onion sack in an area with moderate ventilation and warmer temperatures. For storage lasting longer than a year, keep the nuts in a freezer.

Pecans can be sold either cracked or uncracked. If sold uncracked in the shell, the price is determined by the variety, nut size, shell damage, and shell cleanliness. If sold shelled, the price is commonly determined by variety, kernel color, size, insect damage, and form, which can be halves, pieces, and bits.

Apple crates being forced-air cooled. A tarp is used to cover space in between crates, and a fan sucks cooler air through the stacked crates. The most important factor in determining the success of any tree fruit production is researching and planning the market before planting and growing. As a producer, it is your responsibility to plan accordingly for the eventual sale of your product before it is even grown. Potential marketing options include:. By developing a business plan, you will identify your marketing avenue s , business and production challenges, and finally solutions to those challenges.

On-farm retailing, which may or may not include PYO, allows for customers to visit your farm. Benefits of PYO operations include reduced labor costs; elimination of grading, packing, and storage costs; direct payment to producers; and potential customer participation in harvesting.

Disadvantages to this method of marketing include assumed liability of accidents by the producer; reduced demand because of poor weather and the costs associated with providing a retail service on-site. Selling your fruit through a roadside stand, either permanent or mobile, provides an opportunity to sell directly to the customer. This form of marketing is highly variable based on the sales you will experience from day to day.

Farmers markets are another form of direct marketing. To secure your space at a farmers market, you will typically apply for a space and pay any associated fees. You will need to provide your own tables, cashbox or register, display signs, receipt book, scales for weighing, and high quality products.

The Internet may be an attractive marketing option for some growers in this networked culture. This form of marketing will require a working knowledge of a computer, how to manage a website, and the processing of orders. If you do not plan to sell your product over the Internet, social media websites offer you as the grower, or farmer, an opportunity to showcase your orchard and products to the community. Boyette, M. Postharvest Cooling and Handling of Apples. Hall, C. Parker, M. Growing Peaches in North Carolina. Growing Pecans in North Carolina. Growing Apple Trees in the Home Garden.

Taylor, K. Harvesting and Handling Peaches. Walgenbach, J. Publication date: June 8, AG In addition, the two Universities welcome all persons without regard to sexual orientation. URL of this page. Receive Email Notifications for New Publications.

NC State Extension Publications. Related Publications. Site Selection Site selection is the single most important factor in establishing an orchard. Sunlight Fruit trees need full sunlight to achieve maximum fruit quantity, size, quality, and coloration. Temperature Temperature extremes, nighttime temperatures, temperature fluctuations, and length of growing season determine what fruit trees are suitable for an area.

Air Drainage Just as proper soil drainage is important for tree roots see Soil Drainage , air drainage is important for regulating temperature and avoiding stagnant cold air in the orchard. Print Image. Figure 2. Cold damage in apples. Soils Soil pH and drainage are important factors to consider for fruit and nut trees. Soil Type and Drainage With proper drainage, fruit trees can grow in many soil types. To test soil drainage: Dig a test hole 18 to 24 inches deep in the proposed orchard site.

Fill the hole with water. Observe how quickly the water goes through the soil. Standing water left in the hole after twenty-four hours indicates there may be a drainage problem. Cultivar Selection Fruit crops that can be grown in North Carolina are listed in Table 1 and varieties are listed in Table 2.

Table 1. Location and potential success of fruit tree crops throughout North Carolina. Rootstocks Most fruit trees are grafted or budded. APPLES Size-controlling rootstocks are used to control vegetative vigor and reduce tree size as well as shorten the time between planting and fruiting. PECANS For pecan trees, make sure that the graft union is at least 3 to 4 inches above the soil line Figure 4 after the trees have settled. Table 2. Cultivar recommendations for North Carolina.

Some varieties are self-fruitful. Others require pollination see note 1. Summer rots are the most serious disease problems and can destroy an entire crop. No varieties are resistant to apple scan, powdery mildew, cedar apple rust, or fire blight. In warmer regions, red varieties may not color well. Rootstocks will affect production style. Trees on dwarfing rootstock will need to be staked. Fire blight is the biggest concern. Fruit sensitive to bruising. Plant at least two varieties of the same type to assure optimal nut size and production.

Most Chinese and hybrid chestnuts are highly resistant to the chestnut blight fungus. Many people prefer the hybrid chestnut varieties, citing superior quality over the Chinese varieties. No serious disease problems except nematodes. Fruit may drop prematurely as a result of drought or excessive shade, moisture or fertilization. Are grown on own roots. So not require pollination by other varieties. Nectarines should be planted only on 'Lovell' or 'Halford' rootstocks on heavier soils.

The lack of hair on nectarines makes the fruit more susceptible to diseases than peaches, and a multipurpose fungicide and insecticide spray program will be required. Many varieties were developed in California and may not do well in North Carolina. Only varieties that require at least hours of chilling are recommended. Guardian rootstock is recommended on sandy soils. Do not require pollination by other varieties. A multipurpose fungicide and insecticide spray program will be needed during the growing season. Ideally, you should plant so that the spot at the base of the trunk where roots begin to form -- known as the root flare -- is level with the top of the soil.

A common cause of the death of young trees is planting them too deep in the soil. After you have finished planting, add a layer of mulch about 3 inches deep around the base of the tree. Apply the mulch in a doughnut shape, not a cone shape.

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Keeping mulch away from the trunk prevents the mulch from trapping moisture against the bark. Young apple trees need regular watering to help them establish their roots. Most of the tree's feeder roots are in the top 6 inches of the soil. Give your tree a slow, deep soak rather than a fast, short spray that will not sink far into the soil. Avoid directing water at the trunk as that can damage the bark. Apples, like all fruiting trees, grow best when they are regularly fertilized.

Apply a slow-release fertilizer three times a year: once in spring as the buds are swelling on the branches, again in early summer as the fruit is developing, and finally in fall to encourage root production through winter. If your tree is planted in a lawn area, do not rely on lawn fertilizer to support the tree. Lawn fertilizer is quick-dissolving and will be absorbed by the grass before the tree roots can get it.

Apple trees are most sensitive to fungal diseases when humidity is high. If you suspect problems with your tree, clip off a small portion of the affected limb and consult an arborist or your local AgriLife extension agent. Don't let fall stop you from adding apples to your urban garden. There are several varieties available at your nearby nursery. Plant them now for fresh homegrown apples next year.

By submitting, you agree to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Don't miss a story. Like us on Facebook. Get Unlimited Digital Access Your first month is less than a dollar. Red Gala apples. It is important to choose an apple variety suited to your climate and winter temperatures. Site and climate. Apples grow best in full sun away from constant wind. An apple tree that fall in partial sunlight is not likely to fully yield. Apples grow in Zones 3 to 9.

Apples generally do not grow well close to the ocean where temperatures remain moderate most of the year. Late spring frosts can kill apple flowers they bloom in late spring after peaches, cherries, and almonds , and early fall frosts can damage fruit. Choose a variety suited to your growing region. Apples grow best in well-drained loamy soil, although they will grow in more sandy soil or in soil with some clay.

They grow best in a neutral soil pH of 6. Most apple varieties have flowers that contain male and female parts and so are self-pollinating. These trees will set fruit without cross pollination. However, many varieties are self-infertile and require a pollenizer.

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How to Grow Apples - Harvest to Table

Even trees that are self-pollinating may have a better fruit-set if there is cross pollination. Apples can be pollinated by bees and insects or by pollen that floats on the wind. Plant your apple tree within 40 to 50 feet of another apple tree that blooms at the same time or graft a branch from a suitable pollinator onto your tree. Flowers that are only partially pollinated will tend to bear fruit that prematurely drops.

Planting and spacing. Apple trees can be purchased either bareroot, balled-and-burlapped, or in a container. Bareroot trees are available in the winter and early spring when the trees are dormant and without leaves. Plant bareroot trees in spring as soon as the soil can be worked and before the trees begins to significantly leaf out.

These trees are commonly grafted and without branches, and so are called whips. Make the planting hole large enough that the roots can be spread out fully. Look for the soil line on the tree and plant the tree at that level or an inch or two deeper. If the tree is grafted, set it in the hole so that the graft is visible when planted. A balled-and-burlapped tree is a tree whose roots are in soil; the roots are enclosed in burlap.

Balled-and-burlapped trees are commonly available in spring also; however they may be found later in the year. Plant a ball-and-burlapped tree by positioning the tree in the planting hole at the same depth that it was growing at the nursery. After positioning the ball into the hole, remove all twine or rope used to hold the burlap and ball together. Then open the top of the burlap so that water can penetrate the soil ball. Slide the burlap out from under the fall and lightly tamp in soil around the root ball.

A container grown tree can be planted any time during the growing season. Remove the container carefully and plant the root ball at the same depth as in the container. Space apple trees so that they have full room to mature. Consider the variety of tree when placing the tree in the garden, yard, or orchard. A standard tree will require 20 to 30 feet of growing space; a semi-dwarf will require 15 to 20 feet and a dwarf tree will require 10 to 15 feet.

For a small garden, choose a dwarf tree or a tree trained as an espalier or column or small bush. After planting, water each tree in thoroughly and fertilize with high-phosphorus liquid starter fertilizer. Water and feeding. Newly planted apple trees require moderate watering weekly. Set the water on low and allow it to seep into the soil allowing; roots will follow deep watering and become well established. Established apple tree require only infrequent watering but be sure to water all trees during prolonged dry periods. Apple trees will grow 8 to 12 inches each year. Feed apples with a mulch of aged compost applied liberally around the base of the tree once or twice a year, in spring or in late fall after leaves have dropped.

A half pound of evenly-balanced fertilizer for each year the tree has been alive to a maximum of 10 pounds per tree per year can be applied. Low levels of potassium, calcium, or boron can reduce growth and fruit quality. Test the soil for its nutrient content. Spread gypsum on the soil to raise the calcium level. Yields can be improved with a foliar feeding of seaweed extract when buds begin to show color, again after petals fall, and once again when fruits are less than 1 inch in diameter. Care of young trees. Allow apple trees to become well-established before fruiting.

During the first two years, handpick off flowers and young fruit not allowing them to develop; this will give the tree increased energy to establish its roots. In the third year, allow the tree to bear a small crop. Do not allow a limb to become so burdened with fruit that it will bend or break. Thinning fruit will ensure the quality and size of the crop. Thinning will also reduce the tendency of some apple varieties to alternate-bear that is bear fruit every other year. A few weeks after fruit sets, some fruit on the tree will naturally drop off. Apple trees produce more blossoms and fruit than is necessary for a full crop.

Additional thinning will benefit the tree. The rule of thinning fruit is to allow plenty of room for fruit to develop. Look for clusters of fruit and remove smaller apples in each cluster before the fruit reaches 1 inch in diameter.

Growing apple trees in the North American climate

On larger trees, you can leave two fruits on each spur and on dwarf trees leave one fruit on each spur. One method is to remove all the fruit on every other spur. It is probably best to break up all clusters leaving just a single fruit. Fruit that touches another fruit can be susceptible to disease or pest attack. Apple trees, like most trees, benefit from pruning.

Current Season (12222) Apple Crop Data and Facts

Pruning will allow the apple tree to produce quality crop. Apple trees tend to be naturally vase shaped having no central leader but several scaffold branches. Prune an apple tree so that plenty of light and air can penetrate into the center of the tree. One guideline is to prune so that a bird can fly directly through the tree without touching its feathers on a branch. That means pruning out dense, crossed branches. Apples are susceptible to a number of insects that are very difficult to control without preventative spraying.

Among the pests that attack apples are scale, apple maggots, codling moths, fruitworms, leafhoppers, and mites. Many pests can be controlled with pheromone-bated insect traps and spraying.

Apple Trees

Apple trees are susceptible to many fungal diseases that are difficult to control without use of preventive spraying. Cedar-apple rust cause yellow-orange spots on leaves and fruit. Powdery mildew results in a dusty white coating on leaves and fruit. Apple scab results in greenish brown lead and fruit spots. Fireblight is marked by blossoms that appear watersoaked and twigs that look black and scorched. The best preventative approach to apple diseases is to choose varieties that are resistant to the diseases in your region.

Apart from disease-resistant cultivars, prune trees regularly to allow for ample sun and air penetration into the crown of the tree and prune out any diseased branches, leaves, or fruit. Keep the garden or orchard clean of dead leaves and branches and plant debris. For some fungal diseases, spray early in the season with sulfur or copper every week until symptoms disappear. For home gardeners, many pests and diseases may not interfere with a harvest. The fruit appearance may be affected, but the quality may remain.


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Apples come to harvest from midsummer through late fall. The best way to know if apples are ready for harvest is to taste them; select one and try it. Also consider skin color and fruit drop. Apples are usually ready for harvest when they reach full color; full color may vary according to the variety. A mature apple will come away from the tree easily; lift the apple up and twist in a rotating motion. It should not be necessary to cut an apple from the stem. Late ripening apples usually come to harvest more quickly than long-maturing early and mid-season varieties. There are many apple varieties to choose from.

Consider first your region and the number of chilling hours. Next consider the space you have to grow an apple tree.

How to Grow Apples in the Southern U.S. How to Grow Apples in the Southern U.S.
How to Grow Apples in the Southern U.S. How to Grow Apples in the Southern U.S.
How to Grow Apples in the Southern U.S. How to Grow Apples in the Southern U.S.
How to Grow Apples in the Southern U.S. How to Grow Apples in the Southern U.S.
How to Grow Apples in the Southern U.S. How to Grow Apples in the Southern U.S.
How to Grow Apples in the Southern U.S. How to Grow Apples in the Southern U.S.

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