Monday, February 22, 2010

Something's Rotten in Eden

We still have quite a bit of snow on the ground at the moment. In some places it's still as high as three feet; in others, the ground is bare.  The wind is responsible for the discrepancy.  Around the tree trunks, it's as though there's a moat of bare ground as the snow swirled around them, but kept its distance when it finally landed.

Last weekend, I was walking the drifts that were still firm enough to hold my weight, getting a bird's eye view of the gardens and assessing the state of things at this point in the winter. I was reminded that we'd lost one of our two apple trees last fall, and I'd been contemplating which kind we should get to replace it.

I walked over to the remaining apple tree and immediately noticed a type of fungus growing on the north side of its trunk. The outer layer of bark under the fungus had separated from the tree and I was immediately alarmed.  I took a few photos of it so I could post them on Twitter and hopefully get some advice as to what was going on here.

That's one of the beautiful things about Twitter. My group of "tweetmates" consists of mostly those as enamored with gardening as I am and they've taught me a lot in the months that I've been an active tweeter. They didn't let me down and within minutes of posting a photo of the fungus, I had two responses with the same answer.

Our tree has a rot fungus.  Which one doesn't really matter. What does matter is that it usually is opportunistic, taking advantage of weakened or dying trees.  I'm wondering if the same thing that caused the other apple tree to rot and die - seen in the photo at right - is now working on this one.  It didn't produce many apples last fall, but I told myself that some years are like that.

Both trees were gifts from my parents when we moved  here in 1977, so we've gotten a lot of good 'Red Delicious' apples over the years. But it's not likely this 32-year-old tree is going to do well, so we've decided to take it down in the spring and just start over with all new apple trees.

We've probably got room for at least three trees in that area, so we'll get a 'Honey Crisp' and two others that will be good pollinators for it. We like 'Gala' apples, too, so maybe that will be one of them.  Hopefully, in a few years we'll once again have good apples to eat from our own trees.

Malus domestica 'Red Delicious' in 2007


F Cameron said...

Sorry that you are losing such good trees. But, you seem to have a good attitude about an opportunity to try more varieties.

Around here, it is cedar rust that gets the apple trees. The galls are quite obvious in those cases.


Catherine@AGardenerinProgress said...

That's too bad about your trees. It looked so nice and healthy in the last one. I have an apple tree so this will be helpful information for me, I'll know what to be looking for.
One of our grafts on our tree is Gala and it has been a heavy producer from the second year we had it.

Kylee Baumle said...

Cameron ~ Cedar Apple Rust is a problem here as well. It seems to originate with the Cedar trees and they're EVERYWHERE here. I've read that if they're within two miles of apple trees, they'll be affected, EXCEPT for certain varieties and 'Red Delicious' is one of those. That's probably why my parents bought that variety. I'd like to try the others though. We'll see what happens with them.
We have a small cedar tree and it gets the galls on them every year. It's now when I go out and pick them off. I HATE when they get wet in the spring and "blossom" into the orange goo. ICK.

Catherine ~ I'm sad about the trees, too, but we kind of saw it coming. I think we need to build up that area of the yard with more soil, because it does tend to be a little more wet there than in other areas. Trees don't like that, but fungus does.
That's good to hear about 'Gala'!

Darla said...

Ah man, no one likes to lose a tree...we have a big oak that has to come down, thinking about it feels like someone let the air out of my balloon!

Lisa at Greenbow said...

It is too bad that your apple trees have succumb to this fungus. They looked so pretty. Good luck with your new trees.

Dave@TheHomeGarden said...


The fungus is awful but the trees were up in years as far as apple trees go. I think they live into the 30-40 year range. Galas sound good. I'm still trying to find some decent apple trees to plant here. We want to buy a little larger than mail order sources usually sell. The Honeycrisp sounds good too.

Nathan (2af) said...

Oh no! Not commercial apple varieties! Might I suggest heirlooms? Check this site out if you haven't already ordered your trees.
The flavor of commercial apples don't even began to compare to heirlooms. Like heirlooms tomatoes and vegetables heirloom apples were bred for flavor and storage not shipping and presentation like the new varieties.

Janet, The Queen of Seaford said...

sorry to hear about the demise of your apple tree. Honey Crisps are tasty, with whom do they need to cross pollinate? Or are they self pollinators?

Unknown said...

I'm sorry about the tree, Kylee, though I'm absolutely no fan of Red Delicious (Golden Delicious, yes, Gala, definitely). Here's hoping that your new trees settle in quickly and give you many years of fresh fruit.

Unknown said...

Do you not just hate it when Mother Nature decides to take something back. But 30 to 40 years is about a normal life span for today's fruiting cultivars, so you had a good run with these.
When you do replant, be sure and pick different spots in the garden for the new ones, to give them fresh soil to grow in.

Unknown said...

bummer! It's no fun to have a family gift die.

Diane said...

Aww, that's sad. I hope the fungus doesn't persist in the soil and infect new trees. Save the wood from the tree and make something out of it so at least you'll have something left of your parents' gift!

Am not much of an apple eater but I do like galas and fujis. And apple pie with ice cream, but that's harder to grow.

Shady Gardener said...

I'm sorry about your trees, but you have actually provided some good information and photos for the rest of us.

Kylee Baumle said...

Darla ~ Exactly! Sorry to hear about your oak. I can relate to that, because a storm took out half of a very large oak (over 200 years old) in our back yard a few years ago and the other half is living on borrowed time. :-(

Dave ~ Yes, that's what I'm being told by others, too. They've lived a good life. Talked to an orchard owner yesterday and he said bigger isn't better. He prefers half-inch diameter trunks, because larger ones have much of their auxiliary roots severed when they're dug for transplanting and it sets them back a bit anyway. He thinks the smaller ones take right off, so not much difference in size in the end.

Nathan ~ I'll check that site out. Thanks! We just really LOVE Honeycrisp for eating and they keep well. I figure if they taste that good from the grocery, they'll be even better right off the tree. Have you eaten a Honeycrisp?

Janet ~ No, Honeycrisp aren't self-pollinators, but I'm told they will cross-pollinate with crabapples as well as other apple trees. I found a pollinating chart for apple trees online and yes, Galas will work for that. :-)

jodi ~ Red Delicious aren't my favorite either. I refuse to buy them from the grocery. Tough skins, bitter skins, not the best flavor at all. BUT...they are not affected by cedar-apple rust, which is a problem here. We have lots of cedar trees all around us, all of them infected with the galls. So that's an issue I'm rather concerned with by planting other varieties, but I'm willing to take the risk.

Rick ~ The problem is, even with an acre of land here, existing trees and underground sewer lines dictate location of these trees, and we'll have to plant them in the same location. We can vary the actual holes by several feet, but that's about the best we can do. :-(

Michelle ~ Yes, that's the hardest part of this!

Diane ~ We've saved wood from other sentimental trees here and my dad made coasters out of them. I think I'll try to come up with something else for the wood from this tree.
Growing apple pie and ice cream...LOL...if you get that figured out, let me know. I'll blog about it. ;-)

Shady Gardener ~ Well, hopefully someone will learn something occasionally from all our blogs. That's what I love about blogging. I've learned so much from others!

Anonymous said...

Pretty cool blog. If you haven't heard, Toledo Grows is putting on their annual free seed-swap. Here's a little more info:

Seed Swap
Saturday, February 27, 2010
12:00 - 3:00 PM

Wildwood Metropark
Ward Pavilion
5100 W. Central Ave.
Toledo, OH 43615

Free and open to the public!

Diversify your garden by exchanging seeds and learning new skills! No matter your gardening ability, you’ll enjoy the chance to interact with other gardeners, while swapping favorite seeds, houseplants, bulbs, et cetera.

Live entertainment by the Root Cellar String Band and activities for kids!

Free Workshops
Saturday, February 27, 2010
at Toledo Botanical Garden

10:00 - 11:30AM From Plant to Plate: Easy, Tasty Vegetables to Grow (TBG Conference Center)
10:00 - 11:30AM All About Gourds (Children’s Ed Building)
10:00 - 11:30AM Bugs & Birds in the Garden (TBG Conference Center)
1:30 - 3:00PM A Creative Approach to Herbal Gardening (Children’s Ed Building)
1:30 - 3:00PM Troubleshooting Your Vegetable Garden (TBG Conference Center)
1:30 - 3:00PM Container Gardening (TBG Conference Center)
3:30 - 5:00PM Preserving the Harvest (Children’s Ed Building)
3:30 - 5:00PM Gourmet Vegetables for Fun & Profit (TBG Conference Center)
3:30 - 5:00PM Raising Chickens (TBG Conference Center)

Participating organizations:
Ben Sells Greenhouse, Bench Farms, Junior League of Toledo, Maumee Valley Herb Society, Metroparks of the Toledo Area, Naturally Native Nursery, Nothing But Nature, OSU Extension Master Gardeners, Quarry Farm Gourds, Rupp Seed, Titgemeier’s Feed & Garden, Toledo Lucas County Public Library, Toledo Museum of Art, Weston A. Price Foundation, Wild Ones

For more information email

Kylee Baumle said...

Sustain Toledo ~ Thanks for the information! I'll post this on my Our Little Acre Facebook Fan Page, too.

Melanie J Watts said...

Kylee, Sorry to hear about the fungus killing your trees. I hope when you cut down the tree you manage to eradicate it.

Kate/High Altitude Gardening said...

Hi, Kylee;
So sorry to hear that you are losing another tree. That's heartbreaking considering their history. I was recently at a master gardener's meeting and learned that the Golden Delicious is an excellent pollinator for any kind of apple tree.

Christine B. said...

I have been resisting doing the twitter thing but it sounds like it was really useful to you. Maybe I will have to rethink my stance.

Do let us know what varieties you end up planting.

Christine in Alaska

joey said...

Thanks for info and photo shoot, Kylee. We've lost 1 apple tree (heart sank cutting it down ... held the kids swing and many pinata for the children's parties growing up). Left is my beloved one in the front ... so old, bark beautiful, too heavily pruned by Edison when they come through 'pruning' lines ... that makes my heart sing watching it grasp its last years. (Kudos on your 1st place photo)

kate smudges said...

It's sad to see trees die, especially ones that hold a special meaning. I'm glad to hear that you are looking ahead to their replacements. That is a great thing about Twitter ~ someone usually knows the answer to gardening questions.

Darla said...

Congrats on your win over at GGW!

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