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View Full Version : I'm no longer an organic gardener


Mike
06-29-2008, 11:36 AM
At least for the apples and technically the cherries but their fruit comes and goes so quick I won't be doing much to them while fruited except trying to save the trees.
I got sick of never getting any apples and losing cherry trees to borers.

I'm really torn. I was militant in my organic gardening so using a chemical spray is huge. The only thing that makes me feel better about it is I remember Organic Gardening magazine even admitting it's hard to pull off totally organic apples.
But still, when I think of spraying chemicals in my yard I have issues. What if the kid next door comes out right after I spray, what about my dogs, what about the extra arm I will probably grow?
But it's been so long since I've had apple pie with my apples I'm excited to think I'll probably get some apples this year (even though I decided to spray late I still have some undamaged that should be saved).

And then there's the thought of next year having so many apples I'll be trying to figure out stuff to do with them. I also have at least 2 new trees in the plans and possibly 3 or 4 (5-7 trees total).
I'm like Forest Gump, apple fritters, apple sauce, apple cider, apple wine, apple dumplings, shrunken apple heads, apple brown betty, apple crumb pie, poison apples, apple butter, apple jelly, apple crumb cake ...

bjc1050
06-29-2008, 01:06 PM
I've never sprayed my cherry trees in the 10 years or so that I've had them. Never had many worth picking until this year. There were plenty for the birds, worms, and me, lol. Didn't realize how much work it is to pit enough cherries to do anything with them. So I'm glad to have them just for the birds they attract. You can see photos of them in the other Gardening, Landscaping thread started by JessicaR.

Now if they will just leave some blueberries for us this year, I'll be happy. A couple of my bushes are loaded with berries waiting to ripen. Hope I can beat the birds to them. Fat chance, I think! LOL!

Jan in CA
06-29-2008, 01:32 PM
I don't blame you, Mike. We had two (Gala and Fuji) and we finally pulled them out. The only thing eating the apples were the bugs, birds and rats. Now we have a couple dwarf trees, naval and mandarin oranges, and I'm hoping we get some of them since they have that thicker skin.

We do have to spray for black slugs, ants and fleas occasionally, but we keep it to a minimum and when we do it we keep the dog out of the yard for a couple days till it's been washed off out there a couple times. We don't use poison in the house at all.

I think if you keep it to a minimum and choose times when the kids are away and you can take the dog out elsewhere you'll be okay. I mean organic is preferable, but we do what we can.

Mike
06-29-2008, 03:21 PM
bjc1050,
Sweet cherries or pie cherries? I have tried sweet twice and both times the tree died by the 2nd year (which is the space for one of the apples I'm planning since even if they don't hold fruit until ripe at least they live and give shade).
But now that I'm spraying I may try one again if I find I still have room.
The birds ate the handfull of sweet cherries I had this year when they were still hard and green, but I guess that was enough of a taste that they haven't been messing with the pie cherries much.

I got a plunger type pitter after trying it with a push pin type. My sister just got someone's cherries because they were going out of country on vacation and she forgot to get their stoner, mine's tied up at the moment, I put up 8qts just off the SMALL tree. Plus with gas like it is it's not worth her driving over.
The plunger type will go through a quart in under 30 minutes.

I tried blueberries and never could get them to live.

Jan in CA,
I tried no poison in the house but the mice took over. They'd figure out every trap system I tried. I finally gave in there too with Decon.
I don't spray for bugs because any bug I find gets fed to the spider.

A minimal spray schedule is one of those things I'm torn on. If I could get away with pre and post bloom that would be great. But if I could get as many apples as I should get by spraying every 2 weeks that would be great too. I kind of feel like I've already opened the flood gates and may as well go with it. :)
I'll have to dig for my Organic Gardening magazines and see what type of schedule they suggested for a minimal spray.

The neighbor is planning a privacy fence on top of the terrace so once that's up it should be around 2/3s as high as the tree next to his yard. I was thinking some fence to make dog runs for the days that I spray.

From what I remember my grandparents didn't have to spray their citrus in Florida but I was young then so the topic may have never come up around me.

Plantgoddess+
06-29-2008, 04:50 PM
Mike what are you having to spray for? I've had pretty good luck with my apples once they got big enough the gophers couldn't kill them by eating the roots off. I just finished thinning fruit on my Summer Treat apple. I do have problems getting apples off my colonnade apple trees I got from Stark. The deer keep them pruned way back and they are short enough they eat what few apples before they're ripe.
Blueberries will benefit from some sulfer worked into the soil before planting unless your soil is very acid already, they also like a moist cool soil so giving them some shade in the heat of summer helps.
A company called Gardens Alive has a long list of organic help for many gardening problems.
http://www.gardensalive.com/default.asp?sid=100309&eid=&bhcd2=1214772462

Mike
06-29-2008, 05:35 PM
Mike what are you having to spray for?
Plum curculio, codling moth, apple maggot and some kind of borer that will kill a plum tree just about the time it gets around to putting out fruit.
The borers don't seem to bother the apples so far but they have killed a pear, a cherry and part of another large cherry, they also killed 3 out of 4 Rose of Sharons. There isn't an organic control for the borers or at least wasn't back when I was learning.
Some years aphids are bad enough to do damage but Safer Soap always got them.

I also have some kind of fungus on the apple trees but it doesn't seem to hurt them. Powdery Mildew is a problem for the cherries most years (like this one), but I've always managed that with sulfur.
And I don't know if it's the specific Cortland I have, the bugs or a disease but they are always misshapen. The McIntosh and Arkansas Black are shaped right.

I'm using a do-all orchard spray since I have a well rounded problem.

If the deer would come into my yard I have Martin Archery that would help me control them :)

When I tried a Santa Rosa Plum I got one plum off it before it died (curculios hit it really bad), best tasting plum of my life.
It was fairly easy to grow a perfect organic plum when it was the only fruit on the tree, I had it in a plastic bag for a while. :)

I used to be on Garden's Alive mailing list. They've really changed since then. Now I'll have to figure out a new place to get Safer brand stuff from.
I tried sticky traps and I don't know how the creepy crawlies got around them but they managed. I even stole one of my great niece's red balls and sticky trapped that without much luck. The tanglefoot would catch the maggot flies but they would escape. I never saw a moth stuck in it. Or a curculio beetle which was what I was really after.

bailsmom
06-29-2008, 06:32 PM
Forgive me for my reply here but I just have to tell you what I saw on a news program a month or so ago.

They were doing a segment in the produce dept, and the guy was going around showing people how to pick the ripest fruit and blah blah blah, then he came to the apples. He held up one that was organic at $4.99/lb and one that was not at $4.29/lb and he says what's the difference between these two apples?? $0.80 cents. Buy the cheaper apple. :roflhard: :roflhard:

I'm all for eating healthy whenever you can, but I'm sorry, even if they are labeled "organic" they have been sprayed with chemicals. Plain and simple. My husband is a Certified Arborist and deals with this everyday. There is practically no way on this planet that you can grow an apple tree without some sort of protection from pests. Especially a large number of trees planted together. Yes, maybe somewhere it is possible to get a few off of a tree here and there, but in the end, the bugs usually win.

I know someone is going to reply to this post with facts and so on, that's fine, but just remember, most, if not all, of the fruit labeled organic in the stores has been sprayed with some kind of pesticide. If you start growing a third eye or something, stop eating the apples. :teehee:

kristaj
06-29-2008, 06:44 PM
My husband was a produce manager in a grocery store for close to 15 years and is now a science teacher. The only times he insists on buying the organic for health reasons is when something is being imported from China. As long as you wash your fruit and vegetables well with soap and water then rinse them they are perfectly safe.

bailsmom - My brother is considering becoming an arborist. What did your husband have to do to become one?

bjc1050
06-29-2008, 07:07 PM
Mike, my cherries are the sour pie cherries - North Star to be exact. They are dwarf trees that are approximately 8 ft.tall. I did use the plunger type pitter, but it's still a lot of work. Tried a crochet hook 1st, but went back to the plunger pitter. It went a little bit faster when I stopped trying to center the cherry on the stem end in the little cup....just plopped them in side-ways and made some freezer jam.

Tried the Hanson's bush cherries a couple of years ago and was disappointed. The bushes were loaded, but the cherries didn't have much flavor. We have one bush barely surviving and plan to replace it with something else this fall.

Mike
06-29-2008, 08:27 PM
He held up one that was organic at $4.99/lb and one that was not at $4.29/lb and he says what's the difference between these two apples?? $0.80 cents. Buy the cheaper apple.
LOL, since I don't eat the skins that's kind of how I feel about organic apples. I'm more worried about my dogs and wild birds (except the ones that eat my cherries, which are mostly English Sparrows). I grow organic, I don't eat organic.
But a bug free organic apple for only 80 more is a great deal.

I got apples the first year my trees put out fruit. I was amazed because my neighbor had an old tree he never did anything with and his son wouldn't let him spray. It was downhill ever since.

Organic fruits are sprayed but the chemicals used are certified to be OK for the organic label. It's not that they'd be safe to drink but you can eat the fruit sooner than you can after they've been sprayed with the other.
Like nicotine will surely make you sick and may kill you but it doesn't last on the fruit.
The stuff I was spraying could be eaten the next day. The stuff I'm spraying now needs 2 weeks.

The way the organic certification works the farmers aren't letting anything that would jeopardize that near their dirt ... unless the difference is only 80, then they might care as much. :wink:

Mike, my cherries are the sour pie cherries - North Star to be exact.
That's my favorite. It's also the one the borers completely killed. That's what I got the 8qts off this year and it's only been there a couple of years. It comes to about chin high on me.
I just barely needed a ladder to reach the top of my old one.

I put up 4qts off my Montmorency today, I think it took me longer to pick them than to pit. I don't center, they roll down the chute and I plunge. If I go off to one side I plunge again.

That's good to know about Hanson. I've thought about getting some of those. I think I'm going to try and sprout some of my North Star seeds to give away and keep as a back up for when the borers get this tree.

If you ever make pie cherry wine the tartness calms down after about 10 years :)
I've got so many cherries frozen and so many more on the tree I think I'm going to switch to juicing and jelly, I think I have something that will juice without pitting.

Mike
06-30-2008, 08:16 AM
I'm more worried about my dogs and wild birds

Something else I'm worried about is that by spraying the trees I will kill some beneficial insects throwing my property out of balance and have to end up going chemical on everything.

I don't get tomato horn worms and the only time I did they had parasites from the beneficial wasp (I wish that wasn't before digital cameras, that would've been a cool picture). I also don't get the huge slugs everyone else around here has and I don't want to get them.

Cynamar
06-30-2008, 10:11 AM
I don't blame you for being upset. Sometimes you have to use something. If you've tried natural remedies and they haven't worked you shouldn't feel guilty. Just only do it when you have to.

Plantgoddess+
06-30-2008, 07:52 PM
I'm thinking it's the difference in climate between you and me. I live in an area with commercial orchards within 15 miles so I can't transport my tree fruit, but we have very low humidity here with high daytime temps and 40's to low 50's at night. I get wonderful crops of apples and the few with worms get tossed over the fence to the horses. I have absolutely no problem with my Delicious pear tree aside from having to prune it with a chain saw every few years. For a semi-dwarf it gets huge. I garden organically, but on fruit trees it's more laziness than health reasons. My Cortland apples also are misshapened but they still taste great.
I have very limited arable ground and I still want to plant a few more trees. I love the Jazz apple and the Pink Lady. It's amazing how long they hold up in storage without losing crispness or flavor. I'm very picky about my fruit.

Debkcs
07-01-2008, 12:58 AM
If you're having problems keeping birds off of blueberry plants, try netting them, it's the only thing that really worked for us.

Cherries I just leave for the birds, however, plums I try to get for us, especially the green gage, as they are fairly rare.

Mike
07-01-2008, 07:20 AM
I'm thinking it's the difference in climate between you and me. I live in an area with commercial orchards within 15 miles so I can't transport my tree fruit, but we have very low humidity here with high daytime temps and 40's to low 50's at night. I get wonderful crops of apples and the few with worms get tossed over the fence to the horses. I have absolutely no problem with my Delicious pear tree aside from having to prune it with a chain saw every few years. For a semi-dwarf it gets huge. I garden organically, but on fruit trees it's more laziness than health reasons. My Cortland apples also are misshapened but they still taste great.
I have very limited arable ground and I still want to plant a few more trees. I love the Jazz apple and the Pink Lady. It's amazing how long they hold up in storage without losing crispness or flavor. I'm very picky about my fruit.
High daytime temperatures and low nighttime is what apples desire I think. That's probably why eastern Washington is known for apples and we're not.
Low night temperatures over the summer could be why my Arkansas Black has been doing so good the last few years.
But we do still have all the corn fields increasing humidity. We are close to the same climate.

You can't transport your fruit? The west has some strange fruit laws.
I never understood how some of the states figured that their state line will hold back insects or how paying for a tag to cross the line with plants saves them (my mother had a greenhouse and she bought cactus for resale on vacation one year).
I wonder if in your case the commercial operations offer a better choice for the bugs. Where for me they only have a few neglected yard and woods trees to pick from so they eat where they can.

I garden vegetables organically more because I'm cheap. There's no real need for all the sprays and chemical fertilizers, just plant a little extra for the bugs, squish them and rake the leaves for the neighbor.
The apple thing was because of the chemicals though. Now I'm having what must be a paranoia thing and I'm smelling pesticide in the house.

I think I picked the Starkspur Arkansas Black because of how long it's supposed to store. But with the bug issues I've never really been able to put that to a good test. Besides, I'm left wondering who has this fridge that can store all these bushels of apples from Oct. to Jan.
I think I did have some good ones before the bug problem got out of hand and they lasted quite a while in the fridge.
It's also likely the color was what got me to pick it, I seem to do that a lot when going though the catalogs.

Good to know it's not a disease making my Cortlands shaped like that. But they were the ones hit the first and worst by the bugs.

If you're having problems keeping birds off of blueberry plants, try netting them, it's the only thing that really worked for us.

Cherries I just leave for the birds, however, plums I try to get for us, especially the green gage, as they are fairly rare.
I think my problems with the blueberries was the acidic soil. We're clay here. And I planted them on the top of an east/west terraced hill that you would think would thaw quickly but is the last place to thaw.
I never got any fruit to get to worry about the birds.

I'm tempted to go for a plum again since I'm spraying but I think I'll hold off and see how the spray does for the borers and curculios. If there's any problems with those on the apples and cherries they be much worse on the plums.

Plantgoddess+
07-01-2008, 04:55 PM
I'm with you with the cheap. I use Round up and blackberry brush killer in the outlying areas because the county has a weed board and they can fine you for harboring noxious weeds. Guess who spreads the seeds? The birds and deer!
When I had my perennial nursery I even sold my plants potted in compost made by the county and so didn't have to fertilize the plants. I did have to weed pots throughout the growing season.
My biggest pests are deer and gophers, I don't even pay much attention to bugs. I am experimenting with an egg spray for the deer, if it works I will go back to a full veggie garden next year. Last year they ate everything but the corn. Who knew they liked onions. What the deer didn't eat the tops off of the gophers ate the roots.
I gave up veggie gardening while I had the nursery and never had deer problems in the past, but I have hope I'll outlast them.
Did you ever try the Organic Gardening tip of picking some of the bugs causing problems and blending them with water and spraying on the plants? I had some success with that many years ago when the garden meant the difference between eating well and not.

CountryKitty
07-01-2008, 05:00 PM
Hi Mike,
I sympathize---I'm a regular on organicgardening.com and ought to have a solution for these things, but I'm just now seeing some of them...my trees didn't produce the past 2 years even tho' they were just old enough, thanks to late freezes. Did finally take out a young Bartlett because fireblight was eating it alive while not even touching the Duchess and Seckle trees within 20 yards of the Bartlett.

Japanese beetles are a seasonal plague here--in the evenings I usually go out and gently brush them off the bushes and lowest branches and hand feed my chickens, but with a batch of shy new hens sounding the alarm everytime I come into the yard they're ALL avoiding me right now.

I'm also considering a very inorganic 30-30 slug as a deer deterrent in the garden.....

Mike
07-01-2008, 10:14 PM
Did you ever try the Organic Gardening tip of picking some of the bugs causing problems and blending them with water and spraying on the plants?
LOL, not in my blender.
I mainly rely on companion planting, rotation and leaving a safe haven for the beneficials (your weed patrol would have a field day).

I'm amazed the deer didn't eat your corn but ate the onions.

Corn ear worm is the only garden bug I really have a problem with and the BT is too expensive. I found planting early or late confuses them enough.

Japanese beetles are a seasonal plague here
The fake lady bugs or the metallic looking ones?
My aunt had a good organic control for the metallic ones on her roses. She paid us a bounty that we took across the street to the candy shop.
The fake lady bugs were really bad here for a while and would eat my cherries, once they're punctured it attracts everything else.

For tree disease I had good luck with Sulfur which is a certified OK organic spray and copper which I don't think is OK by the certification laws but IMO is. You have to read the labels because there are certain trees you can't use one on but can use the other.
I liked my Bartlett but I couldn't ever figure out how to pick it at the perfect time. I had one that was perfect and the rest were hard or mushy. I liked my neighbor's Moonglow better.

The worse critter problems I've had with the trees are puppies. The AR Black still has problems left over from a dog who lived long and is long dead.
I do have raccoons coming after the corn the last few years and I was hoping they wouldn't discover the apples.

Archery is organic :)

Plantgoddess+
07-02-2008, 06:02 PM
I tell when my Delicious (bartlett type) pear is ready by when the fruit starts to fall out of the tree. When I find a few pears on the ground every day, it's time to start picking. I give several boxes away every year and my horses get all the ones that hit the ground. I actually like my pears fresh off the tree. I like my pears crunchy.

Mike
07-02-2008, 10:08 PM
If I let mine fall they were soggy inside. I don't think I ever got enough to let some fall and pick the rest.

I like sour apples (and don't like the bland kind that are tagged as eating type) so I don't mind them being picked a little early.
Plus from what I understand when they get that dusty coating that means they are ripe so they do have a sign.

sinistral_needler
07-02-2008, 10:56 PM
Seriously, with all the years that I chomped down apples from my grandfather's chemically sprayed garden, I can't say that my extra arm really bothers me too much. It actually comes in handy for scratching my back ....


HA!


Seriously, I never had anything bad happen to me .. and I ate a LOT of his apples.

Plantgoddess+
07-03-2008, 02:55 PM
The Delicious pears start falling when the flesh has sweetened but the pears are still hard. I still have to let them sit and finish ripening for a week or two. My tree is also 15-20 years old.
I too like my apples a little on the green side so I start picking one off the tree every couple of days and sampling. My horses are just on the other side of the fence so if the apple is not ripe enough yet I just toss to the horses. They get all the windfalls and damaged fruit.

Mike
07-10-2008, 02:42 PM
Now that I've taken a new interest in checking my apples daily so has my dog.
Being a bird dog he's always been interested because he smells birds up there and droppings below. Now when I'm out there constantly looking up in the tree he's also walking around the trunk looking up.

Tropicflower24
07-10-2008, 03:49 PM
From what I remember my grandparents didn't have to spray their citrus in Florida but I was young then so the topic may have never come up around me.

I don't know if this has already been posted..... I didn't have time to read the whole thread. If it's anything like Cali, which I don't know never being to Florida..... In Cali (around where we lived) they didn't spray, but they used smudge pots to keep the bugs away. They had those burning alot. Not sure what was in the pots tho.......

We are gardening organic due to health problems within my family..... We just planted a orchard.... *happy dance* But who knows how it will go.

Mike
07-10-2008, 04:11 PM
We are gardening organic due to health problems within my family..... We just planted a orchard.... *happy dance* But who knows how it will go.

You can try bagging the fruit with baggies.
Sounds like a lot of work to put a ziploc on each fruit and I'd be amazed if they'd stay on around here in a storm but I did something similar in order to get an organic plum before the borers killed the tree.

There's no way I'd be able to do that with my semi-dwarf but I never thought of doing it with the dwarf apples.
I don't know how much that would've helped since I think a lot of the bugs are hitting me before or right after petal fall. That's why even bagging I was only able to manage a single plum.

davespurl
07-10-2008, 09:31 PM
I know that you are trying hard....but I've grown up in the Apple state (Washington) and I've eaten all kinds of apples for many, many years.. When I was a kid we never even washed them first. At this time I still only have 2 arms and 2 eyes. I would think if I'd been "poisoned" I would know by now. I applaud your organic efforts, but if what you really want is apples, then you should do what you gotta do, ya know?