My crabapple tree isn’t one bit crabby

“Fetch me a dozen Crab-tree staves, and strong ones.” – William Shakespeare, “King Henry VIII,” Act V, scene 4 (1612)

M. "Snowdrift" Spring 2017

Crabapple wood is, indeed, a sturdy wood; it also makes an aromatic  barbecue wood and lends itself well to woodworking. In Sunday’s column (Sept. 17, 207), I wrote about my crabapple tree (Malus “Snowdrift”) and how much I enjoy it in the spring when the tree is blooming with masses of delicate-looking pink buds and white blossoms.

I’ve found that my crabapple tree is easy to keep healthy. Although crabapple trees need lots of moisture when they are young, they are not very thirsty trees once  established. I use drip irrigation and water my crabapple tree along with the other plants in my garden berms that require slightly moist soil (this takes an hour of water once or twice a week depending on the temperature). Sometimes I use the soaker nozzle on my hose and supplement the amount of water my crabapple tree gets while it’s working hard to produce all those beautiful blossoms in the spring. I also add compost to the soil around the tree every spring, and I prune away dead, damaged or crossed branches and any suckers that have sprouted after it has stopped blooming. In addition, I measure the new growth of the crabapple tree in late spring and if less than a foot of stem and foliage has sprouted, I add a slow-releasing, high-nitrogen fertilizer to support more new growth.

As you can see from the picture, the birds love my crabapple tree, too; they build a nest in it every year!

I don’t love the crabapples in the fall so much, though. I learned there are hormone sprays that can be applied when the tree is blooming to reduce fruit production. The insecticide Sevin was once used to reduce the amount of fruit produced by trees, but was found harmful to bees. It is now illegal to use Sevin as a fruit inhibitor.
I don’t like to mess with Mother Nature, so I’ll just continue using my crabapples for compost, and enjoying my crabapple tree’s splendor in the spring!

To find out the crabapple tree that is best for you, here is a useful crabapple tree chart online at www.jfschmidt.com/pdfs/, compiled by a wholesale tree grower in the Willamette Valley. The chart describes 40 crabapple trees, with color photographs, so gardeners can find the best tree for their property. The chart even provides information about each tree’s resistance to common orchard diseases such as scab, fire blight and powdery mildew.

Happy fall!

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  • About the Author

    Rhonda Nowak

    Rhonda Nowak is a Rogue Valley gardener, writer and teacher. With more than 25 years of gardening experience and a Ph.D. in literature and language arts education, she combines a love for plants, poetry, and prose in her Literary Gardener blog. ... Full Profile
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