Bagging apples on a tree

Credit: Gardenwise Online

Q: In this year’s fall issue of GardenWise magazine (available now in stores), you show apple expert Derry Walsh bagging each and every apple on her tree! Please tell me more!

Like you, our team was very intrigued by Derry’s strategy of bagging apples while they are still growing on the tree. Of course, we asked her to tell us more and here is what she had to say:

The bags!! The home gardener in B.C. has a problem with codling moth and apple maggot is coming our way (already reported in Abbotsford and Point Grey). With codling moth, the apple is still able to be used… just cut out the core… but with apple maggot, the apple flesh is tunneled by the maggot and the apple cannot be used.Derry Walsh

Ted Swenson in Oregon and other home gardeners have been working to find a barrier to the apple maggot. The bags are one method of reducing the damage. They act as barriers to the pests.

I don’t bag every apple because I have thousands of apples, but I bag a representative number on each tree and I bag about half of the apples on my cordons which hold my most precious apples.

I, and others, started with Ziplocs and clothes pins. Then we moved to a lighter-weight plastic bag made in Thailand which has a draw-string closure (used for storing jewelry and other small items). I had to buy them by the thousands! Then the West Cascade Fruit Society (Seattle, WA) started selling beige stocking bags and I bought a few hundred to use.

Now the stocking bags are coming in white and I’m going to try them next spring. The stocking bags are better because they are stretchy and you don’t have the build-up of moisture that you get in the plastic bags (despite cutting the corners off to drain the bags). One can just twist the stocking at the top of the apple and it stays closed enough to deter an apple maggot fly, and I think a codling moth.

ApplesThe bags go on when the apple is ping-pong-ball size or smaller. I usually put them on when I am thinning my apples in early June. My quandary is that I don’t have codling moth in my orchard and I’m not sure why. I don’t spray any pesticides, but someone suggested that the codling moth flies in the upper third of the canopy of the apple tree and when they approach my trees they hit the plastic shelter. No one has come up with a better reason and the neighbourís trees are riddled with codling moth.

In spring 2008, 300 bags cost USD$20 plus shipping. I’ve emailed them to get the current price and I plan to buy a few thousand before my fall events.

To find out more about Derry Walsh’s work, check out her website: Derry’s Orchard & Nursery