Our Yellow Delicious apple tree was loaded with apples and they were growing well, then one day we went out and there was not an apple on the tree and there weren’t any on the ground. What could have happened to them?
The Gardener’s Answer
Hello, Joe in Kentucky: Apples have their share of insect and disease issues, especially if they are not growing in ideal conditions or if we plant trees that are not disease-resistant varieties, but in your case this does not seem to be the issue. The only logical answer to this question is an animal, most likely squirrels or deer. Apples are a favorite among humans as well as wildlife, and once they find a source of food it is difficult to deter them. As you have discovered, they and their friends can eat all the fruit off your tree in a matter of hours, leaving no remnants behind. This is especially true if your tree is young and not at its mature height. Deer can take fruit off the tree up to 6 feet. The key is to start early in terms of protecting your fruit so it is allowed to ripen and you can enjoy it rather than the wildlife. There are many organic granular and liquid sprays that are available specifically for this purpose, but they have to be used early and reapplied according to product recommendations. Netting is another option, as well as hanging moth balls in your tree. Unfortunately, the crop for this season is gone but next year you will know to protect the tree early enough so you can actually harvest and eat the fruit. If you want more specific information on growing apples in Kentucky you can visit www.ca.uky.edu/anr/PDF/Growing%20Fruit%20at%20Home%20in%20Kentucky.PDF.