FAQ’s about the Apple Growing Practices:
How many varieties of apples do you grow?
We currently grow more than 30 varieties of apples. A couple varieties have been recently planted and are not yet producing.
Why are the apple trees grown on trellises?
We grow our apple trees on trellis systems (the newer orchards) because this is a technique used in high density orchards to provide stability for the tree, a way to train the tree, and allows for more production per acre. Tuttle’s staff is regularly involved in continuing education and analyzing the latest research to find the best ways to grow apples.
What type care do you give to the trees throughout the year?
Winter: all of our trees must be pruned in the winter. We begin pruning in December and work until March to prune all 5000+ trees that we have. The pruning helps to allow light to enter the tree, produce large size fruit, remove any diseased wood, and lengthen the life of the trees. Pruning can be a hard a cold job, but it’s necessary for having good apples.
Spring: The trees are carefully monitored for when they are a “pink” stage which means they will be blooming soon. Local beekeepers are contacted to bring in bees to help pollinate the trees. Good pollination is essential for a good crop. The spring is also the time when the trees are treated to prevent fireblight (a disease that can kill trees) and apple scab.
Spring is also the time we plant new orchards. Young trees (the look like sticks) are planted and carefully trellised to help them to grow properly and to protect them.
Summer: You trees are irrigated to make sure they are staying strong. Traps are placed in the orchard to look for moths (the insect that causes wormy apples). When a problem is detected, trees are treated to keep the apples in good condition.
Fall: Apples are monitored for their sugar levels and are picked at the stage of ripeness that is best for flavor and storage. Apple are all picked by hand and transported into our cold storage refrigeration until ready to be washed and sorted. We also use a Smart Fresh treatment on some varieties to preserve the firmness through the winter months. This treatment is a natural treatment that prevents the ethylene that apples naturally produce from over-ripening the fruit (causing soft apples).
Do you grow GMO apples?
No. Apples are grown from grafting and not seeds so GMO is not something that typically done with apples.
Are your apples grown organically?
We grow our apples sustainably, but we are not organic. We use the integrated pest management system (IPM) here at the orchard to care for our plants and trees.
The Indiana Department of Environmental Management defines IPM as: “a system that focuses on reducing pests by using a series of pest management techniques that are safe for the environment and children and use both non-chemical and chemical methods.” In following IPM practices, we use a combination of biological, chemical, behavioral, cultural, and genetic factors to control pests in the orchard. In using IPM, spraying is not our only method of eliminating bugs and other pests. Instead we use things like sampling plant nutrition, planting more disease resistant varieties, using natural predictors to control pests, and others to control pests. A great deal of research has been done by Purdue University and other universities in the country to develop safe, good growing practices that can bring a balance to controlling pests through chemicals and other methods.
The term Organic refers to growing produce without the use of genetically modified organisms or synthetic pesticides. There are three main reasons why we do not o grow our apples to be labeled organic. Here are the three:
Location: The warm, wet weather conditions with frequent rains during our growing season here in the Midwest are ideal for growing crops; however, they are also ideal for the growth of insects, diseases, and weeds. Because of our Indiana climate, growing saleable quality organic apples in a large setting is almost impossible. There are also some very dangerous fungi and bacteria such as fire blight that can affect and often kill the trees. Organically grown apples in the grocery store most often come from dry aired climates where disease and insects are much less and trees are often watered through irrigation. They are often shipped long distances loosing some of their nutritional value.
At Tuttle’s we work within our Indiana climate to use sustainable, healthy growing practices. Our trees are sprayed with carefully tested, approved fungicides and insecticides several times over the growing season. However, we do our best to reduce our use of chemicals as much as possible and spray only when necessary…especially since they are very expensive. It is important to recognize that organic apples are also sprayed with copper or lime sulfur to protect the trees and apples. Many of the pesticides we use are a synthetic form of copper.
Quantity: Here at the orchard, we have about thirty acres of apple trees…that’s exactly 4303 trees. It can take a lot of time to care for each tree. In the world of growing organic apples, there are practices that may be practical to apply in your backyard garden which are not possible when you have over 4000 trees. For example, some pests can be trapped or manually removed from the tree to prevent them from damaging the fruit. However, it’s just not practical for us to pull bugs off trees all day long. Instead, we use an integrated pest management system which is a combination of cultural, mechanical, biological, and chemical controls to keep pests at bay. For example, to control the red spider mites that like to attack the trees and suck juices from the leaves, we find that they have many natural predators like ladybugs, lacewings, and other mites. We also try to use chemicals that don’t kill these natural predators, but encourage them to kill the harmful mites. All of our apples are safe to eat right from the tree. Any chemicals that are used have been applied early in the season and have broken down to a safe level prescribed by the manufacturer before you pick them in the fall.
Quality: Apples grown organically on a large scale in Indiana tend to have a very poor quality. They might be suitable for processing, but would not be apples you would want to purchase for eating. Here at Tuttle’s our goal is to grow high quality apples that families can enjoying picking and eating right from the tree, and we think we’ve succeeded. We follow all government regulations and suggested practices to ensure that when you’re enjoying that fresh picked apple you are eating a healthy, safe fall treat.