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September 19, 2015 

QuestionWe moved to a new home about a year ago and it had an apple tree in the yard.

This spring it bloomed and small apples began to grow. After the apples were about walnut size I noticed a few brown spots on some of them. After about a week half the apple appeared rotten. Eventually all the apples did the same. I don't know what kind of apple tree this is, or how old it is. It's around 20 feet high. Do you know why this happened? Should I have sprayed it with something?

Answer Apples and pears tend to be more forgiving than peaches and plums when it comes to insect and disease issues, but if you want blemish free large fruits, you need to follow a spray schedule.  There are numerous diseases and insects which can attack.  Here is a link to our home fruit spray schedule: .  They also need to be pruned annually as well. 


 March 2014

QuestionI have an 8 year old Granny Smith apple tree that is losing bark on the trunk even though it’s budding as usual. It even looks as if something has bored into the wood in the affected area. What do you think it could be and how should I treat it?

AnswerFrom the picture I would say you have more than a borer. It looks like the tree was wounded some time ago and the outer bark is sloughing off where the tree is trying to callous over. The downside is that it is a wide wound and will have internal decay, which will lead to a weak tree for the remainder of its life. If you really like Granny Smith apples, plant another one to take this one’s place eventually. There are better varieties for Arkansas—Granny Smith apples are somewhat susceptible to fireblight. William’s Pride and Enterprise are two good varieties with disease resistance.

(September 2012)

QuestionWe have 3 apple trees planted very closely to each other.  The apples on one of the trees (the only Winesap) have begun to split open. The apples on all of the trees are healthy, except for the splitting. This has occurred for several years. What could be the cause and what is the remedy?

AnswerApples splitting is similar to tomatoes splitting—it is a problem with water issues.  When it is really dry and we get a downpour the water pressure changes inside the fruit and some fruits split.  Thinner skinned apples are more susceptible than thicker skinned fruits.  The only recourse you have is to keep the trees mulched and try to moderate the moisture levels.  This year, that was tough.  If the fruits are ripe, you can eat them, but do so quickly as they deteriorate fast once split.

(April 2010)

QuestionI am having difficulty with my fruit trees.  Last year my peach tree produced lots of peaches, but they all dried up around the seed before they ripened. I also noticed that quite a few of the leaves and small branches dried up and died.   My apple tree made really good apples but the leaves dried up and died and I noticed yellow spots on the leaves that had several round dots in them. I assumed these to be some kind of insect eggs. The apples also had dark spots on them. I have already cut them back and am hoping that you can suggest some kind of spray, preferably something natural that I can use to solve these problems

Answer      Fruit trees can be challenging for the home gardener, especially peaches which have numerous insect and disease issues.  Brown rot is the most destructive and can wipe out a crop seemingly overnight, especially when we have periods of rain, which were almost constant last year.  Pruning is something you will need to do annually, but a spray schedule is also necessary to produce quality fruit.  Purchase a home fruit spray which has both an insecticide and a fungicide mixed together.  There are organic products as well as non-organic. Start spraying when two thirds of the flower petals have fallen and then continue throughout the growing season, about every 10 days to three weeks depending on the weather.  Your apple tree sounds like it was infested with cedar apple rust.  This disease has two hosts--Eastern red cedars and apple trees.  By the time you see yellow spots rimmed in orange it is too late to spray to control it. The key is to do preventative sprays the first few weeks following bloom.  Orange gelatinous masses form on cedar trees releasing spores which then infest the apples.  Typically apple diseases are a bit easier to deal with since you can usually peel off the damage and still eat the fruit.  Spray schedules, cultural information and pruning guides are available on our Extension website at:

(May 2010)

QuestionI live in northwest Arkansas and we have some small cedar trees at the edge of our lawn that has some orange (fungus?) looking things growing out of grey nuts? They look like a bunch of tentacles and are mushy. Are these harmful to the cedars?

AnswerWhat you are seeing with the bright orange tentacles is the fruiting body of cedar/apple rust on your cedar tree.  This disease has two hosts--Eastern Red Cedar and apples/crabapples.  The disease first starts on the cedar.  During periods of rain in the spring the galls quickly grow  orange, gelatinous tentacles that produce spores which then blow to the developing fruit and leaves on nearby apple and crabapples trees. Symptoms will appear on apple foliage as small round orange spots which then yellow.  Heavy infestations can cause the apple trees to shed foliage and deform the fruit lightly, but the disease is not deadly to either plant.  If you desire clean fruit, fruit sprays are needed in early spring.  They are only effective during the time the spores are active in early spring, and once you see symptoms, sprays are no longer effective.  If you don’t grow apple trees, you can ignore them or simply enjoy their odd appearance.  Here is a link to a fact sheet for more information:

(April 2007)

QuestionI have a three year old apple tree that I got from the Arbor Day Foundation.  I transplanted it two years ago.  It has fruit on it already, so it's top heavy.  The severe weather from a recent storm pretty much knocked it for a loop.  Should I cut the baby apples off of it so it can try again next year?  I have it staked now, so I think it will be OK through the next storm, unless the wind blows in the opposite direction.

AnswerI hope you have been pruning it every year in late February.  From the time you plant a new fruit tree until the end of its life, it needs annual pruning.  This is how you create structure and support to bear healthy, large fruits.  It is unusual for an apple tree to begin bearing at three years of age, but it is possibly a dwarf.  The key is no to load it down too heavily until the tree has the structure and size you want.  Once a tree begins bearing fruit, it devotes a great deal of energy into fruiting, and doesn’t put as much effort into growing.  You need to decide if the tree is large enough and strong enough to support a crop.  What you may want to do is thin the fruits a bit.  Leave only one or two fruits per branch.  Staking a tree is a short term approach to supporting it.  Make sure the staking is not so tight that there is no natural movement of the trunk, and also make sure there are no wires or ties that could cut into the trunk and wound it.  Wrapping the ties with a piece of hose or soft material can help to prevent that.  Take a good assessment of your tree.  If you need help with pruning, contact your local county agent or get a copy of the home fruit pruning guide from your local extension office.

(Feb. 2009)

QuestionMy family lives in Fayetteville and we used to have a mostly shaded back yard.  Since the ice storm, we have had to remove several large trees.  We will have a lot more sun back there now.  I would like to plant an apple tree in place of the trees that were lost.  Is there a variety that would work better than others?

AnswerKeep in mind that you really need two different varieties of apple trees for cross pollination.  William's Pride, Pristine, Gold Rush and Enterprise have the best disease resistance available.  Here is a link to our home apple fact sheet:

(September 2006)

QuestionI would appreciate any advice in regards to insects, fertilizing, and watering of my outdoor plants.  I live in the country and have 8 acres.  About two of those acres I maintain.  I have Crepe Myrtles, Carolina Jasmine, Ivy, Pampas Grass, Junipers, numerous Holly bushes, Roses (climbing and for cutting), Wisteria vines on a tree and on a chain-link fence, Apple, Pear and plum trees and Azaleas.  Each plant seems to have different requirements.  I find myself watering all the above every other day.  I fertilize at the appropriate times and spray for insects (preventive, systemic), and diseases.  My Apple tree didn't flower this year.  Instead, it developed rust spots.  My plum tree had one flower on it and the pear tree had about 10 fruit.  These 3 trees are about 2-3 years old.  I find that my Roses require lots of attention due to problems with insects, diseases (rust, black spot, mites, etc.).  It is wearing me out!  I give all the above plants as much attention and care with the products available. It seems as if I am the only one in my area doing such.  I marvel at other yards with the same plants and wonder what they are doing or not doing to maintain those plants.  I never see anyone outside watering like I do.  My soil is a mixture of dirt, sand and clay.  I amend the soil each time I plant something new.  I guess what I'm asking is:  Once a plant is established, is it necessary to water like I'm watering?  If I don't, the plants appear to stress.  Also, how do I control my insect problem.  I fear that this year I may have over used some products and killed the good insects and left the plants prey to opportunistic insects and diseases.  Help, please.

AnswerOne thing to be aware of is that frequent watering makes plants demand more, because it encourages shallow roots.  Infrequent, deep watering encourages  a deep root zone.  However, every yard is different.  Rocky soils, those with steep slopes and in full sun require more water than level yards with great soil.  You have also picked some pretty needy plants.  Fruit trees require quite a bit of maintenance, including spray schedules and watering. They also often don’t begin to bear fruit well until they are 5-8 years of age.  Hybrid tea roses also require constant care.  Many folks are opting for low-input plants which require less care—if you want roses, try the new environmentally friendly roses, like Knockout, or the antique roses.  Mulching is also something that I would strongly encourage.  It helps to retain moisture and moderates the soil temperature.  The azaleas you have also need water.  Grasses, junipers, Carolina jasmine, hollies and wisteria should be much lower maintenance.  Gradually wean them from their daily water needs by applying more water when you do water,  and applying it less often.  It isn't something you can reverse overnight.  Many people with automatic sprinkler systems make this mistake.  Monitor for insects and diseases and spray as needed.  For the fruit trees and roses, preventative sprays are often best.

(June 2006)

QuestionWe planted a few young apple trees last year. They leafed out well, even had a few flowers and now small fruit--they have been growing great, but a few weeks ago I noticed some of the leaves looked black and wilty. I at first thought it was just because it was because they were still young but it doesn’t seem to be outgrowing it. Can you tell me what is wrong by this sample? What can I do to save the tree?


AnswerThe plant sample you sent has fireblight--a bacterial disease. Generally succulent, rapidly growing twigs and shoots are most susceptible. There is no sprayable cure, but the disease pressure should stop now that hot weather is here. This has been an extremely prolific fireblight year. Just cut out the damage 6-8 inches beneath where it is visible. Sterilize your pruning shears after each cut with rubbing alcohol or a Clorox solution. Be sure to clean and oil your shears when you are done pruning.

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