Orchard Maintenance

cover of a vintage pamphlet about fruit tree blights and with an image of a blighted tree
Blight of Pears, Apples, and
Quinces Leaflet (United
States. Dept. of Agriculture),

Spraying for disease or pest control was not a common practice in the nineteenth century orchard.  All apples were used by farming families: badly damaged fruit was fed to livestock; slightly blemished apples were used for cooking.

Worms were a common infestation of the apple orchard.  The apple codling moth laid its eggs on the blossom end of the young apple and the larva burrowed into the core of the developing fruit.  The farm wife, encountering a worm or worm hole in an apple, simply cut out the infected part of the flesh and used the remaining apple.

Fireblight, a bacteria that grows in the sunken areas of the bark, was--and is--a pest common to apple trees.  In dry weather the bacteria is spread by insects, in wet weather by the rain.  Fireblight affects the blossoms, causing them to shrivel and darken: they appear to have been burned.  There is no cure for fireblight and it is difficult to stop its spread.  Each infected branch must be cut into deeply enough to remove the disease, cutting out all cankers and discolored wood.

A large orchard of 1900 growing several varieties of apples would begin to bear in late June and continue bearing through early November.  The early varieties, prized as cooking apples, tended to be soft and tart.  The varieties that ripened later in the season tended to have firmer flesh and were better suited to keeping over the winter.