Are you having trouble getting quality apples without spraying for insects like apple maggots, coddling moths and stink bugs? If red ball sticky traps, the method I use, are not giving you the results you want, why not try bagging your apples? It’s not as complicated as it looks.
Apple bagging may seem pretty new-fangled to many gardeners, but different forms of fruit bagging have been carried on for generations in China and Japan.
About three weeks after apple flowers drop off and the fruits are about ½ to ¾ inches (1.25 to 2 cm) in diameter, thin the apples to one fruit per cluster. Choose a healthy, intact apple (avoid any apples with a crescent-shaped scar, sign it has already been visited by the plum curculio).
Now, insert the fruit into a ziplock sandwich bag (or staple a recycled plastic bag around it) and seal as firmly as you can. Cut off the lowest corner with scissors so any moisture caused by condensation can drip out.
This barrier will stop insect pests from laying their eggs on the growing fruit. It will also prevent some apple diseases, like sooty blotch and flyspeck and will keep birds and (usually) squirrels at bay too. Bagging will have no effect, though, on more pernicious diseases like scab, rust and fire blight. To control those, you need to grow disease-resistant apples.
Come harvest season, just remove the bag (dry it and store it for next year) and you’ll have a worm-free, pest-free apple!
Obviously, bagging will be easiest to carry out on dwarf or at least semi-dwarf trees.
This method will also work with pears (although they have fewer insect problems than apples and I personally don’t find they need it), grapes, kiwis, etc. You can also bag stone fruits (plums, peaches, nectarines, etc.), but they tend to rot under the high humidity of a sealed plastic bag, so instead use as a barrier something that allows excellent air circulation, like an old nylon stocking, attaching it with a twist tie. You can, for example, buy boxes of inexpensive disposable socks that will do the job nicely.
Easier Than It Sounds
Bagging sounds like a lot of work, but if you’re thinning your apples anyway, it only takes a few extra seconds… and you can prepare the bags ahead of time by already cutting off a corner. And it saves big time on spraying time, so you end up getting better results with less effort.