Severe cold was tough on apple trees

I get several garden questions each season, and although I can’t answer most of them, I usually can find someone who can. Last week, I was on the asking question side of the phone.

At the end of my orchard I have a mulch pile and a brush pile that I frequent almost every day. I started to notice that the leaves on my Connell Red apple tree were turning yellow, drying up, and falling off. It looked a lot like fire blight, but I have never had the disease in the 30-some years of my orchard.

I called Jim Birkholz, even though I know how busy he is this time of the year. Jim owns and operates the Pleasant Valley Apple Orchard and pick your own strawberry patch. He also teaches classes on apples during our Spring Series of classes. Jim has close contact with the University of Minnesota on pest and disease control of fruit trees.

When I shared with him my problem, I am ashamed to say I was almost relieved to hear that others are also having a problem with the Connell Red this year. When Jim started to notice the same problem, he consulted with others; they are also quite sure that the severe cold this past winter is the cause.

I have never had a problem with any variety of apple tree, but I understand the past couple of winters have been more severe on fruit trees, especially Connell Reds. I asked if any of those stressed trees could come back next year. Jim said it was possible, but if any trees looked stressed, he replaces them. He also stated that there are so many new varieties that have become popular that they are replacing older varieties, including the Connell Red.

Connell Red and its cousin Fireside are my favorite apple.  Given my age, deer problems, etc., I won’t replace my stressed trees with any tree. I hope that come next spring some of my stressed trees will rebound. I also hope that other orchards might escape my problem, because I sure like my Connell Red.

The Chisago County Master gardeners will present our Fall Series of Classes beginning Tuesday, Aug. 5, with  “Pickle Making – Dill and Bread & Butter Pickles.”

The class will be held at the North Branch Area High School. For more information and to register, call 651-277-0151. Also, come visit us at the Almelund Threshing Show in Almelund Aug. 8-10.

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