Out in the Orchard: Falling Fruit

It’s my turn to blog a bit about my City Fruit world. I’m Barb Burrill, the orchard steward coordinator. I support the volunteers who take care of 11 orchards on public land in Seattle, and coordinate orchard care with Seattle Parks grounds staff.

I became involved with City Fruit as a volunteer orchard steward for the fruit trees along the Burke-Gilman Trail in Wallingford. That orchard started with six trees and now has 41. Learn more about the orchards that City Fruit volunteers manage at the orchard stewards web pages.

If you have a fruit tree or two in your yard, or your neighborsCodling moth damage on apple
do, you notice when fruit starts falling on the ground. Falling fruit can be a sign of fruit ripening on your tree, or, if it’s too early for your fruit to be ready, it’s probably evidence of insect damage.

For apples and pears, take a look at the fruit on the ground and see if it has the tell-tale exit holes of codling moth larvae (see photo at right.) The rust-colored material is what the codling moth larva leaves behind when it exits the apple: chewed material and excrement, called “frass.” Just makes you want to take a big bite out of that apple, doesn’t it?

You can still use fruit that has codling moth damage – just cut out what the worms have damaged. Codling moth larvae typically focus on the core of the apple, so most of the apple’s flesh is left intact.

Keeping a clean orchard floor is an easy way to reduce the local fruit-infesting insect population. Pick up any fallen fruit within a couple of days and dispose of it in your curbside compost bin – not your home compost pile – before the maggot can crawl out of the fruit and continue its life cycle.

Cleaning up fallen fruit will help reduce the overwintering population of insect pests and keep all nearby fruit trees healthier. Have a chat with your neighbors if your sidewalk is gooey with squashed fruit. Or put on your garden gloves and help pick it up.

Neighbors under 18 might enjoy making a game of throwing the fallen fruit into the compost bin. Thanks to our orchard steward volunteers from Lakeside School for showing us how that’s done.

Enjoy the rest of summer! And keep watering those fruit trees every week.

Barb Burrill is the orchard steward coordinator for City Fruit.
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2 Responses to Out in the Orchard: Falling Fruit

  1. Ariel Westfall says:

    I just moved into a house with a large apple tree. It got heavily pruned back so didn’t produce a lot this year, but all the apples had this moth larvae in them. How do you prevent that? Is there a spray or service we can get to prevent that? Thank you!

    • Barb Burrill says:

      City Fruit does not use any pesticides or any type of spray in our fruit tree care regimen.

      Several maintenance tasks will help your tree be more healthy and pest resistant. City Fruit has several printable quick reference guides on their web site that describe these tasks in more detail.

      To reduce codling moth and apple maggot damage, keep the ground beneath the tree as clean as possible by picking up fallen fruit and leaves so the insect pests do not overwinter in the ground. Winter pruning will increase air and light circulation. In the spring, within 40 days of full bloom, thin the apples to one per cluster plus at least 6″ apart to encourage larger, healthier fruit. At the same time you should cover each remaining apple with a paper or nylon pest barrier to prevent the insect pests from laying their eggs on the apples and starting the cycle all over again. The covering can remain on the fruit until it is harvested.

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