on January 26, 2008
I LOVE this book.
I'm particularly impressed with the density of information: too many hobby farm/small farm books take a once-over-lightly approach, but this one is deep on detail. I also appreciate the discussion of seedling trees: typically I've seen them ignored or dismissed as irrelevant. The discussion of root stock is a help too; before this I've seen it only discussed in terms of it's limiting factor on size, but this also introduces issues of hardiness and climate appropriateness. The book is incredibly thorough while reminding the reader that there are no "cook books" to growing organic orchards, it's still an art and science that is being developed.
I spent the first few years of my life on an old-fashioned orchard and have never recovered. Now, after 30 big-city, corporate years the world is circling back to the kind of orchard I've always longed to have, and this book is filled with invaluable information on how to proceed. Next year I'm headed back to the country, this book in hand, to make a home and create a backyard cider orchard. I know it's hard work and the best of it may happen after I'm gone, but this book gives me the courage to begin and information to guide me as I figure it out.
I hope within 5 - 10 years I'll be toasting the author with my own apple cider!
on February 22, 2006
The Apple Grower: A Guide for the Organic Orchardist
by Michael Phillips, 320 pages, 8x10, softcover, 2nd
edition. Whether you consider yourself to be a novice
or an experienced orchardist, if you want to grow
apples organically, this is the book for you. For many
decades apples were high in toxic residues, but
thankfully, that is finally changing. A great deal of
research is underway on lessening the use of synthetic
poisons in the orchard. The results in the past few
years are heartening. Since The Apple Grower first
appeared seven years ago two important products for
the organic orchardist, Surround and Entrust, have
become available. It is now quite possible to grow
very decent apples organically. This revised and
expanded version includes apple growing basics from A
to Z, as well as the latest research and strategies
for successful organic orcharding. A lot of us have
been begging Michael to update his book and we're
thrilled with the result. He has read the studies,
done the interviews, tested the products and found an
effective way a way to organize the information and
communicate it to the rest of us. Even if you already
have the first edition, you still need this
on July 12, 2007
I have only read the first few chapters, (and have browsed ahead), but so far it's great! They really go into detail about how apple trees grow.
It reads a little like a textbook, but not too dry. We have 9 apple trees in Mid-Missouri and are hoping to expand and improve in the future. I think this book will be a big help. If you just have a couple trees in your yard and just want to know how to prevent disease, repel bugs, or what fertilizer to use, this book may be a little more in-depth than what you're looking for. No doubt you would find useful information here, but it may be a little more detail than you needed.
on June 30, 2016
“The Apple Grower” is an excellent book, but not one for the casual apple grower. That doesn’t mean that another, simpler book would be better for the casual apple grower. Rather, it appears to me (very much a non-expert) that apple growing isn’t possible to do casually, so “casual apple grower” is a very small group, consisting of those who pick a few apples of varying quality from their trees and let the rest drop. So, if you’re like me, and planning on planting and maintaining ten or twenty apple trees for my family’s own personal use, this book shows you very well how to do that. But it doesn’t make it sound easy.
Phillips pitches primarily to an audience who are small scale organic apple producers for profit. To make a profit, you have to have saleable apples in large quantity, which means fairly large, flavorful, and not damaged (unless you are making cider, a topic Phillips covers, but not in detail). To achieve that with organic methods, rather than with frequent spraying of organophosphate pesticides, requires constant attention and work, all of which Phillips covers very well. But reading “The Apple Grower,” I conclude that someone like me can do a lot less work, and accept a much higher rate of attrition from pests, yet obtain a plentiful supply of apples for eating, cooking and cider. That still means a lot of work, though, if for no other reason than to damp down the amount of insect and other pests attracted by apples. However, I don’t think readers like me should therefore be discouraged from growing apples with a disciplined organic approach, even if it’s not as easy as setting out some plants, relaxing, and harvesting.
Phillips covers siting an orchard in detail, and also discusses briefly other fruit trees in the context of a mixed-fruit orchard. He discusses, throughout the book, how to enrich the soil—his approach, as seems current among organic devotees, is a permaculture approach, viewing the local ecosystem, from fungi to predators, as a coherent whole. So, for example, he discusses at length whether mown grass, unmown grass, or tilled cover crops make the most sense for directly underneath and between trees. Phillips also discusses cultivar selection, noting that ultimately small changes in geography can make different cultivars desirable, and also that what you want out of the apples dictates which cultivars you choose. Occasionally, he assumes the reader will have equipment available that a casual apple grower is unlikely to have, such as a tractor to till—but the small-scale, not-for-profit grower can doubtless figure out how to accomplish necessary tasks without such equipment. Throughout the book Phillips has interesting sidebars, which (unlike in some other books) are not filler, but add detail or color to topics he’s covering. Some of the most interesting of these concern apple advice from earlier times—the early 20th Century or the 19th Century, and how much of that advice is still valid (and was often forgotten in the days when chemical sprays became the norm).
“The Apple Grower” discusses care of trees, from planting to pruning, and spends a lot of time on apple pests and their (organic) control. Phillips is particularly enamored of a new kaolin spray called “Surround”—so much so that it’s either extremely good or he owns stock in the company! Finally, Phillips discusses harvesting and marketing apples. All of this is well written and seems to have the appropriate level of detail. Yes, every so often Phillips gets a bit touchy-feely, with occasional odd mentions of the astral theories of plant life of some guy named Rudolf Steiner. But that probably just proves how close to his subject matter he is, and is a recommendation, not a criticism.