If you live on the East Coast and love organic apples, you may have noticed that most organic apples come from faraway Washington state, or even another country. That's because east of the Mississippi, more insect pests and higher humidity levels make it harder to prevent disease when growing organic apples. And although it's easy to think of Washington state as consistently drenched, thanks to its rainy city rep, growers there actually raise organic apples in the desert area of the state. But by picking the right trees and maintaining them with tips from the Rodale Institute and organic apple expert Jim Travis, PhD, professor of plant pathology at Pennsylvania State University in State College, you can grow organic apples in your backyard even in the country’s easternmost states.
(Find seasonal recipes, inspiring imagery, and gardening tips every day inside the Rodale’s Organic Life 2017 Calendar!)
In fact, Travis says this part of the country may one day be the best place to grow organic apples. "We live in a lush environment with beneficial insects (like these 14 you should be welcoming into your garden) and organisms that could help us grow organic apples here even better," he says. "Someday, it may actually shift, and the East Coast may be the best place for organic." One of Travis's students is working on developing a beneficial fungi and bacteria solution that will attack apple scab, the number one problem for organic-apple growers. And there are pheromones available that can trick male pests, making it harder for them to find female friends.
But even without these advancements, there are steps you can take to grow delicious, organic apples in your backyard, without spraying your trees.