Library Bookwatch: Volume 4, Number 2
Apple trees can be grown in almost any climate zone and are to be found in dozens of different variations around the world. Now with this newly revised and significantly expanded edition of Michael Phillips "The Apple Grower: A Guide For The Organic Orchardist", anyone can plant, nurture, and harvest organically grown apples of any variety whether it is for their own private consumption or for commercial distribution and sale. All relevant aspects are covered from considerations of climate and soil, to cultivar selection and planting, to orchard maintenance and care, to apple pests, diseases and spraying, to harvesting, storage, and transportation, to marketing locally (including pricing, niche marketing, advertising, and more). Informed, informative, and thoroughly 'user friendly', Michael Phillips' "The Apple Grower" is necessary reading and an essential reference for anyone seeking to grow, harvest, consume, and/or sell organic apples.
Suburban Hobby Farmer
Every specialized area of gardening has its own preeminent guide book. For growing apples organically, it’s The Apple Grower, the classic guide written by Michael Phillips. Although written primarily for the professional orchardist, backyard apple growers can learn a ton from this book.
You may be thinking about buying your first apple tree from Wal-Mart or you may have several cultivars on M111 rootstock from Fedco. In either case, beginner, expert or somewhere in between, there’s something to be learned from this master orchardist’s deep experience growing apple trees.
Continue reading this review.
by Carl Demrow
As anyone who has ever planted a few apple trees knows all too well, growing apples can be a perplexing and frustrating endeavor. The trouble is that apples are very attractive to many of nature’s creatures besides humans. And at least one of these creatures, from deer to apple maggot flies, and from the roundheaded apple tree borer to mice (not to mention the long list of diseases that also affect apples), is sure to be working for its share of the fruit (and in some cases the tree) every day of the year. But if you’ve ever baked a pie made from your own apples, or pressed a batch of cider from them, the trials and tribulations all seem worth it with that first bite or sip.
Michael Phillips’ revised The Apple Grower has as much help as you’ll find anywhere to get you to that first bite of pie or sip of cider. The previous edition, published in 1998, was the bible for many backyard orchardists and commercial organic growers. The new edition, boasting color photos and expanded and better-organized chapters, is a real treat for anyone interested in apples. The new edition’s chapter on diseases and pests will be helpful to those left scratching their head about who or what is eating the apples or trees they are trying to grow.
Phillips sprinkles tributes to other apple growers throughout the text. These persistent and dedicated souls, along with Phillips, are exploring uncharted territory: they are trying, without the use of traditional pesticides and chemicals, to keep ever-evolving pests and diseases away from trees that are themselves not evolving. All named apple varieties are genetic dead ends. A Macintosh today is genetically identical to a Macintosh from a century ago, but the bugs and diseases have spent that time evolving to break through the trees’ defenses.
Phillips presents intriguing ideas about orchard soils. Since people started growing apples in orchards, those orchard soils have largely been bacterially based, meaning that fertility has been maintained by the addition of bacteria-laden manure. Sheep and cattle were allowed to graze the grass and eat dropped apples, adding manure to the soils, and often the orchard was formerly pasture or hayfield, where manure was regularly added to maintain fertility. Bacteria-based soils are great for grasses and hay crops, but not necessarily for trees.
Phillips argues that apple trees are still, well, trees, and like other trees, they prefer forest soils, which rely mainly on fungi to break down organic matter such as bark, wood, and other plant matter to maintain soil fertility. Phillips believes that this soil is what apple trees naturally want, and that it makes them healthier and better able to deal with pests and diseases. He has been experimenting with using fast-growing comfrey in his orchard, cutting it down to add rotting plant matter and to stifle the growth of grass, which can rob an apple tree’s surface feeder roots of nutrients. He advocates adding composted branches, bark, wood chips, and even excess chunks of sheetrock to your orchard to promote the fungi in the soil and deter grasses.
Phillips’ style is more writerly than reference. His homespun stories about his many years of trying to outwit and outmaneuver the legions of apple-loving creatures are both entertaining and packed with tips. Phillips’ extremely handy compendium of orchard tasks has always served as my basic plan of attack for what to do in my orchard, and the revised and expanded edition will be a welcome addition to my library. I have no doubt that over time it will take on the grimy, thumbed-through, and well-used look of my copy of the first edition of The Apple Grower.
Amazon.com Editorial Review
The demand for high-quality, organically grown food is skyrocketing with people's gradual understanding of the health risks and dangers of chemical pesticides and "industrialized" farming, yet good organic apples are still hard to find in many places. Phillips has employed hard work and keen observation of nature to make the best use of our great-grandparents' experiences and techniques. He then examines the latest scientific knowledge of apple pests and their life cycles to produce a thorough guide to growing wonderful, delicious varieties of apples in an orchard that is safe for animals, birds, and children playing under its tree branches. Each chapter has practical advice for the backyard fruit grower, and while this book is filled with useful facts and tactics, Phillips also adds a gentle, Earth-friendly, philosophical writing style that makes for quite an enjoyable read.
Now that organically grown foods are the latest culinary craze, the time has come for the organic orchardist. Phillips, who grows apples without artificial pesticides or fertilizers in Northumberland, New Hampshire, provides instructions on growing and marketing. Selecting the right site (weather, soil, drainage, and proximity to markets are considerations) and understanding the role of micro-organisms are top priorities, he insists. Phillips gives instructions on planting, pruning, and training the trees, and on protection from frost. There are chapters on pests and diseases, organic spraying, harvesting, and marketing. Interspersed throughout the text are tips for backyard fruit growers, a bit of earth-friendly philosophy (Phillips' style of writing is best described as cornball), and lots of black-and-white photographs and illustrations. A valuable basic guide for novice backyard and commercial apple growers. George Cohen
(reprinted with permission of the American Library Association)