The Importance Of Autumn Apple Tree Sanitation

The health of next year’s apple crop begins now. An important item on the autumn to-do list is apple tree sanitation. Here’s what to do:

  • All fallen apples should be picked up and removed as soon as they drop from the tree, or as quickly as you can.
  • Rake up and dispose of apple leaves without adding them to the compost bin or using them for leaf mulch in garden or perennial flowerbeds. Apple leaves shouldn’t be mowed into the lawn, as is beneficial with other tree leaf types.

Here’s why these sanitation steps are so important:

  • Apple maggot is a seriously common fruit insect problem. Adult flies lay eggs on developing fruit in June. The eggs hatch into larvae that tunnel their way through the apple flesh. When affected apples are cut open, you can see brownish trails, or discolored markings through the apple flesh from maggot feeding. The maggots exit fallen apples and crawl into the soil where they overwinter, ready to emerge again as adults next summer to begin the cycle again. Removing apples as soon as they fall can remove affected apples before maggots have a chance to exit, and so can help decrease the problem next year.

    Apple Maggot injury
  • Apple scab is a common apple disease. It affects leaves by scarring them with circular brown-black lesions, and a portion of the leaves turn yellow and drop prematurely, causing a thinning, less-pretty tree. This also affects ornamental flowering crabs. On fruits, apple scab causes roughly circular lesions on the skin. The fungus that causes the disease can winter in and around the soil on affected leaves and fruits, ready to emerge again next year to begin the cycle again. Raking and disposing of leaves and fruit helps reduce the amount of overwintering fungi.
    Apple Scab disease affecting foliage

    Apple scab disease on fruit

Here’s hoping for a problem-free apple crop next year. Happy Gardening!