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Grandpa’s Apple Orchard: 5-Step Plan for Healthy Apple Trees

9/6/2012 4:52:41 PM

Tags: elder wisdom, apple orchard, apple trees, Megan Harris

Etienne and MartheThis story is from Daby Napthine and submitted as part of our Wisdom From Our Elders collection of self-sufficient tales from yesteryear.  

My grandfather owned and operated an apple orchard and mixed produce and animal farm in southern Quebec. Growing organically was the only way anyone knew how to grow back in 1910. To control insects in his orchard he recommended a 5 step plan for healthy trees. The attached photo was taken around 1943 of my mom and Grandpa.

1. Prune hard after the last frost and before the leaves unfurl.

2. Never leave fallen apples or branches lying around.

3. Only mow your orchard once. For my grandfather, this was right before the apple blossoms opened to encourage the pollinators to move into the trees. I remember the orchard in the springtime was carpeted in dandelions, the flowers we gathered to make jellies and the leaves were salads. A natural overgrown environment, for some reason, encourages healthy trees.

4. To control aphids, make a mixture of 50/50 Borax (sodium borate) and fine powdered sugar. Place in containers with a hole just big enough for an ant to enter and place near trees. No ants, no aphids. This also works well to prevent ants indoors.

5. Lime every other year and be generous with well rotted manure, extending the fertilizer as far as the branches reach.

Photo by Daby Napthine 

Please send email submissions to with the subject line “Elder Wisdom” or send mail to attn: Heidi Hunt, Re: Elder Wisdom, Mother Earth News, 1503 SW 42nd St., Topeka, KS 66609 

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Sheila Hart
1/30/2013 6:01:25 AM
Where do I put the lime?? And how much do I use? Is the lime in a powder form that I use?

9/15/2012 3:52:11 AM
I forgot to mention that our orchard is in Idaho, and our winters are cold, but maybe not as cold as the ones in Quebec.

9/15/2012 3:51:20 AM
I appreciate how our grandparents did things without chemicals. I am going to try this advice on all the apple trees we have on my husbands old farm place where we have a very old apple orchard. It still produces lots of apples but the trees are very old, and they get lots of insect bites and worms. Thanks for posting this.

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