An interesting article recently appeared in the New York Times, promoting a new book by apple grower Michael Phillips, who has spent the past 20 years growing organic apples at his farmstead, Heartsong Farm. A new book by the orchardist emphasizes soil building and biological controls including the use of comfrey, nettles, and horsetail in orchard management.
His original book, titled The Apple Grower: A Guide for the Organic Orchardist was published in 1998 and broke ground on the idea that apples and other fruits might be successfully raised without pesticides, widely thought to be impossible. Phillips did advocate for the use of copper and sulfur sprays, which are common to man organic orchards.
The new book will be published by Chelsea Green and is due out next month. Called The Holistic Orchard: Tree Fruits and Berries the Biological Way, phillips contends that he can successfully raise apples through careful species selection, and the use of only neem oil (an extract from the neem tree), soil building practices, and a spray containing fish fertilizer, nettle, and horsetail. These ideas are of interest to both the commercial and home fruit grower.
Check out the article and the publishers website for more information on the book. Don’t forget that Cornell University has excellent manuals on organic apple (2009) and grape (2011) production, available as a free PDF download on the Cornell Fruit Homepage. The classic guide for home growers is also available for free: Cornell Guide to Growing Fruit at Home at the gardening resources page.