Apple blossoms mean bagging starts in a week or two.

April 13, 2011

As soon as blossoms drop, start bagging the little apples to avoid pesticides.

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I’m an organic gardener and demand that my crops be free of chemicals. Apples are the most pesticide-and-fungicide-laden foods grown commercially and in home gardens.

Growers start spraying trees in late winter and continue, sometimes on a weekly basis, until fruit is harvested five to eight months later—all in the name of producing perfect apples with no blemishes. It’s what we consumers demand: defect-free, flawless fruit.

However, it’s easy to grow perfect, pristine apple without any spray if you bag the apples when they are tiny, shortly after blossom drop. For over 200 years, the Japanese tied little bags over developing fruit. They first used white silk bags they sewed until the 1960’s when plastic bags became readily available. Apples are prized gifts in the Japanese culture, selling for as much as $10 each. Perfection is a must for growers, so they bag each apple when they thin fruit clusters to prevent disfigurement by insects and diseases like cedar apple rust as the fruit grows.

This pristine Ashmead's Kernel apple escapes the cedar apple rust disease (the orange growth on the leaf), because it's bagged.

Bagging apples makes my life, as an apple grower, easier. I don’t have to spray, even organic concoctions. I just bag the apple, selecting one from each cluster when I thin fruit, spacing them about eight inches apart on branches. When it’s time to harvest, I simply snap off the apples from the tree and remove the bag.

A bagged apple is disease-free and picture-perfect, plus it's much larger and more  flavorful than those exposed to disease and insect infestations.

Extra heat gathered by the plastic bag will help to build the brix level (sugar content) in the fruit and contributes to larger size and more flavor. Apples mature a week or two earlier when grown in bags, too, which is a bonus in colder climates like mine.

How to Bag Apples

1. Buy zipper-lock or sliding-lock sandwich plastic bags. Snip off the two bottom corners of each bag diagonally. This allows accumulated moisture to drain away from developing fruit.

2. When set fruit is about the size of a pea, thin clusters to one strong apple; space them at least 8 inches apart on branches. Usually a week or two after blossom drop is the optimal time to bag.

3. Place a bag over each fruit and close the zipper or slide lock around the fruit stem. If the fruit falls off during the process, it wasn’t fully pollinated and would abort on its own later.

After bagging, there is nothing else to do, other than to observe the developing fruit periodically.

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Doreen Howard has written for The Old Farmer's Almanac All-Seasons Garden Guide for 15 years and is the former garden editor at Woman’s Day as well as a photographer. She has grown more than 300 varieties of heirloom edibles and flowers in the last two decades.

In stores now!

Look for Doreen's newest book, Heirloom Flavor: Yesterday's Best-Tasting Vegetables, Fruits and Herbs for Today's Cook. Find in stores everywhere including Walmart and on the Web including amazon.com.

Comments

Would bagging the fruit

By Amber shre

Would bagging the fruit provide any protection against critters? I lose my apples every year to opossums and raccoons who climb the fence adjacent to the tree and eat their fill before harvest.

Critter protection from the

By Doreen G. Howard

Critter protection from the bags has worked for me.  I've had a couple of bags with chew marks on them and several apples that fell off the tree.  But, in general, it works.

I have 50 acre mango farm

By Isaac Agyare

I have 50 acre mango farm with a mix of kent and keitt mangos. This year I lost 20% of harvest due to fruit flies. Would zip-lock be appropriate for these mangos or I should consider Japanese bags?

I see that there is someone

By David Hamer

I see that there is someone selling Japanese apple bags on ebay at
http://www.ebay.com/itm/100-Packs-of-Japanese-Apple-Bags-Organic-Farming-to-Control-Pests-/291089974625?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item43c6508561

It might be worth trying.

I just wanted to thank you

By Mariah Kimble

I just wanted to thank you for this I am going to try this, this year. tried paper bags but I live in Washington with all the rain they fell off or broke this sounds like a much better solution!

Can we also bag guava?

By Vivek

Can we also bag guava?

Will bagging work on lemons

By NanNuk

Will bagging work on lemons and tangerines? Something keeps stripping the rind off of my young citrus fruit. I am in zone 8b. Thanks!

Bagging would probably work;

By Doreen G. Howard

Bagging would probably work; I'd think that the fruit would ripen sooner, too. It's worth experimenting with a few.

I've seen paper bags on

By Mary Flaum

I've seen paper bags on apples blossoms. do you recommend them? do they work ok? thanks

As far as I know apple

By Doreen G. Howard

As far as I know apple blossoms need to be cross-pollinated with another cultivar to set fruit.

Does bagging prevent fungus

By MiserableOl;dFart

Does bagging prevent fungus disease? We have a lot more problem with fungi here in the Catskills than insects. And what do you do with CAR? I haven't found any way to get around spraying for that one.

Yes, bagging prevent fungal

By Doreen G. Howard

Yes, bagging prevent fungal diseases IF you bag fruit at pea-size, before infestations.

Bagging quinces?

By Stephen Hughes 2

Is there any point to bagging quinces? Does it make them sweeter? I have an extremely productive quince tree that produces marvelous fruit… although, now that I think about it, last year for the first time they were infested with these bright red worms.

Re: Bagging quinces

By Doreen G. Howard

I have no experience growing quince, but it wouldn't hurt to experiment.  Bag 20 percent of them on trees and see if there is a difference.  Let us know, too, as plenty of readers are interested fruit growers.

Bagging

By adfreed

Can bagging be done with pears too? I am new to gardening this year. I was lucky to inherit 3 apple trees with the purchase of my first home. I moved into the home in June of 2010 and the apples looked small and ugly like the picture. I have to ask, how many bags fly from your apple tree? How many should I expect to put on?

Re: Bagging

By Doreen G. Howard

Yes, you can bag pears and Asian pears.  They, too, have hard flesh.  I have seven minature apple and Asian pear trees that I bag.  They all are under eight feet in height.  I use about 300 bags for all of them.  But, if you have standard size trees, you will need more bags.  Remember to cut off the corners so that moisture drains.  I cut them when I watch TV at night.  No bags fly off my trees, unless the tree aborts an apple that is not fully pollinated.  It would do that normally.  Those are called drops, and you see them under most trees in late spring or early summer.

soft flesh fruit

By conniejfoster

It seems to me that maybe paper bags or natural fabric bags might work on the soft flesh fruit you mentioned. The reason I was thinking it might work is both paper and natural fabrics "breath" and won't keep in the heat and moisture.

Re: soft flesh fruit

By Doreen G. Howard

I've tried waxed paper on grapes and peaches.  They didn't work, because Japanese beetles and bird pecked through the bags, letting disease and other insects in.  Fabric may work, but it would have to be a thin, light weave.  If you use them, let us know your results.

Persimmons

By Rev. Al Shaw

What about Persimmons? can you bag them?

Please respond to my email at;
alnee@tularosa.net

Re: Persimmons

By Doreen G. Howard

Persimmons have soft flesh, like peaches and plums.  They rot in the bags due to excess heat and moisture.  Apples are hard fleshed and not effected by either.

bagging apples

By Suzanne Fine

Can plastic bags be used in zone6-7? I am in Northern Maryland, and I have heard of using paper bags, but I wonder if the heat that would accumulate in plastic might be too much. Variety in question is Liberty. Thanks

RE: bagging apples

By Doreen G. Howard

You can use plastic bags.  The heat gathered by it means more flavor and sweetness, plus apples with ripen a couple weeks sooner.

peaches

By cgallow

can you bag peaches the same way?

Re: peaches

By Doreen G. Howard

Peaches, apricots, cherries and other stone fruits have soft flesh that rots in bags.  Sorry!  However, you can bag pears and Asian pears.  I bag both of them in my little orchard, and they are terrific.

Bagging fruit on the tree

By Susan Zhang

Bagging fruit on the tree we are the professional factory for fruit protection bag making machine.Our machine could produce different kinds of paper bag for protective fruit.Bag dimension could be adjustable.Used for grape,apple,pear,peach,mango and so on please visit our web for details www.ysh666.com

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