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Question

We just bought two new red delicious apple trees. Do you have any care tips? What’s the best place to plant them? How often should they be fed (and what)? And what’s the best, most environmentally sound way to keep away pests?

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  1. Apples grow best in full sun and moderately fertile, well-drained soil. Once you dig your hole, mix the excavated soil with plenty of compost, then throw in some rock dust into the bottom of the planting hole. This will provide phosphorus and flavor-enhancing trace minerals. A combination of bone meal and kelp meal will also work as an alternative. When planting the tree, make sure that the graft union (the knobby growth where the rootstock and the named variety meet) remains 2 to 4 inches above the soil level.

    We fertilize our trees yearly, usually in spring, with aged manure, or a compost mulch mixed with a bit of rock or granite dust. Applying a dormant oil spray in mid- to late-winter will kill off overwintering eggs of pest insects. Coddling moth is a common pest that easily controlled with Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) or trichogramma wasps, which are commercially available online or at garden centers. Red Delicious is susceptible to apple scab, which causes hard, corky spots on the fruit as well as stunting of immature fruit. A sulfur or copper spray will help control scab and other disease issues. Good luck!

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