Crab Apple

A lovely addition to any edible landscape is the Crab Apple. There are few plants that create greater visual impact and give you something to eat as well. Crab Apple flowers in the spring, the showy blossoms make their appearance before the lilacs bloom. Crab Apple buds may be pink, white or red, and open blossoms may be white to dark purplish red, with many variations in between. Most Crab Apples have single flowers, but a few have semi-double or double blossoms. Apples and crabapples are in the rose family, Rosaceae, in the genus Malus. Crabapples are differentiated from apples based on fruit size. If fruit is two inches in diameter or less, it is termed a crabapple. If the fruit is larger than two inches, it is classified as an apple. Crab Apples can be less than 20 feet tall, but some may grow to 30 or 40 feet. They are hardy from zone 4 to 8, with some cultivars being even hardier. Crab Apples are  adaptable but thrive in rich loam type soil (a combination of clay, silt, and sand). Regardless of soil type, good drainage is a must for tree health. Crab Apples grow best in a slightly acidic soil with a pH of 5.0 to 6.5. Excessively moist areas and low spots should be avoided. But a dry site may be tolerated by crabapples if you can supplement water during the first year after transplanting. Choose a site that receives full sun with good air circulation.

Balled and burlapped (B&B) stock and containerized trees can be planted any time after spring frosts end through fall until about three weeks before the ground freezes. However, bare root trees should only be planted in the spring. Bare root trees become too stressed if planting is delayed past early spring. Dig your planting hole twice the size of the root ball. If you are planting bare root trees be sure to spread out the roots. None of the roots should be cramped or bent to fit into the hole. This can result in girdling (strangling) roots that will slowly kill the tree. Damaged roots should be pruned just above the break or damaged area prior to planting. If your tree is wrapped in burlap make sure all strings holding the burlap at the base of the trunk are removed or these may damage or even kill the tree in later years. If your tree comes in a container, take a sharp knife and slice one inch deep into the compacted root mass, from top to bottom, in at least three different areas. Don't worry you won't hurt it and this will help prevent the formation of girdling roots. Crab Apples must be planted at the original depth they were in the nursery or slightly higher (1-2" maximum). If tree is transplanted too deep the tree can  languish for years, resulting in lackluster appearance and health, and eventually death. Backfill the planting holes with a 50-50 mixture of the original soil and organic matter like compost, or peat moss. Do not pack backfill around the root ball. Instead, use water to help settle the soil around the roots when the hole is three-quarters full. When the water has drained, backfill the hole completely and water again. Place a thin layer of mulch, no more than two inches deep, around the tree to help reduce water loss.

Turfgrasses will compete with the young tree for water and nutrients. Keep turfgrasses away from the rooting area of the planted tree to give it a good chance at establishment and survival. The young tree will need about one inch of water, rain or otherwise, per week. These subsequent weekly waterings, during the first year, are crucial. Crabapples require little pruning. Watersprouts (rapidly growing shoots from branches), suckers (rapidly growing shoots from roots or base of tree), dead, diseased, damaged, and crossing branches should be removed. Occasionally pruning is necessary to open up the center of the plant to sunlight and air movement or to remove a wayward branch.When pruning is done it should be completed before early June. By mid-June to early July, flower buds for the next season are beginning to form in most crabapples. Pruning after July will reduce floral display and fruiting for the following year.

Crab apples are susceptible to apple scab, fire blight and frog-eye leaf spot. Try to select  plant material that is resistant to these diseases. Some crab apples are alternate bearers, blooming heavily only every other year, so you will want to inquire about this when purchasing your tree. Fruits follow the flowers, so alternate-bearing cultivars will fruit heavily only in those years when they produce many flowers. Tree size, flower color, fruit color, and growth habit vary with the cultivar grown. Large fruited types can create a maintenance problem. A few crab apples have good fall color and double flowered types hold blossoms longer than single flowered cultivars. Although the actual time of bloom will vary from year to year, depending on temperature, a total bloom period of up to four weeks can be expected.

Crab Apples make excellent preserves and fruit leathers.


When gathering a large quantity of herbs, use an open-weave basket or containers that allow good air movement. Don¹t stuff herbs into plastic bags, which can heat up and cause rapid deterioration of herbs. Never cut more stems than you can conveniently dry at one time. You can cut back a perennial herb to about half its height and can cut down an annual to a few inches. You can also remove an annual completely near the end of the season.


Organic methods for controlling insect pests

*Check crops often and hand pick any insects present before they become too numerous.

*Encourage natural insect predators when possible.

*Fertilize, cultivate and water to promote vigorous growth. Healthy plants seem less attractive to insects, and those that are attacked are better able to survive and still produce a crop.

*Do not plant crops in large blocks. Mixing different types of plants helps slow the spread of insects that are present.


Stalk Borers

The European stalk borer and the common stalk borer are the two types. They are small caterpillars (less than 1 inch), gray, brown and black in color with a thin white stripe running down their backs an off-white stripe running along their sides. Their heads are black. The adult moth is a whitish gray and has a wing span of only about 1 1/4 inches. Stalk borers should not be confused with European corn borers as they are only similar. European corn borers do much more damage since they will also bore into your corn. These borers are located in southeastern Canada and the eastern United States. They lay their eggs in late summer, early fall in grassy areas and where broad leaf weeds are present. Eggs overwinter in the grass. They hatch in the spring and move over to corn fields. The small larvae feed in the whorls of young corn and as they grow they proceed to hollow out the stems of corn. The larvae feed on the small whorls of new corn and proceed inside the stalk to feed. Corn is their main diet but they are usually finished feeding by the time the plant has 6 or 7 leaves. Because they live in tall grass, usually only the first 3 or 4 rows are affected.


1) Burn Control

Burn grass areas around the corn patch in early march if you have had bad infestations of stalk borers in the past. If not then I do not recommend burning for fear of killing small animals or beneficials in the area. Just cut the grass low and rake it in a pile to burn later. This will kill the eggs.

2) Weed/Grass control

Keep the grass and weeds to a minimum around fencelines, gardens and  pastures. This will ensure the stalk borer cannot lay it's eggs near your corn.

3) Hand Pick

When corn is young, look inside the whorls and pick out any worms you see and drop them in hot soapy water.



*The gardener has something to say, and nature has something to say. A beautiful garden is a harmony of the two.*




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