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Carpenter Costin Blog

Caring for Crabapple Trees

The colorful pink, red, and white blooming crabapple trees are a welcome sight every spring across the northeast. These beautiful ornamental trees dot our landscape with pops of color and practically scream, “Spring is finally here!” 

After the harsh winters we experience here in Massachusetts, the sight of these flowering trees can’t come soon enough for many of us anxious to get the planting season going. 

4 Seasons of Joy 

If your property happens to be lucky enough to have one of these deciduous trees, you know that they are enjoyable all year long. They begin their spring season with leaves that bud and bloom with fragrant flowers in colors ranging from startling white to soft pinks and deep reds. 

Once the flowers fade during the summer months, the small red and pink fruits that are produced attract birds of many species and squirrels looking to get their fill as well. 

During the fall months, like many other trees in our region, the crabapple tree puts on an equally spectacular show of color as do its cousins the Oak and Maple. 

During the early winter the crabapple tree will still have some bright fruits and they will stand in contrast to the white snow our region often gets, leaving homeowners to be in awe of its beauty year round. 

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Caring for Your Crabapple Trees 

Given that these trees can add so much to your landscaping all year, it is a good idea to make sure that you are caring for the health and safety of your tree. 

Watering

While crabapple trees do not need extra watering and tend to be drought resistant, it is a good idea to water the tree at the base if your area is suffering a prolonged drought. Otherwise they can usually thrive with the regular rainfall in our region. Check out Gardening Know How for specific watering solutions.  

Access to Light 

As with all things living, your trees need access to light to survive. If your crabapple trees are under a canopy of taller trees, you may want to prune and trim those trees to give your crabapple tree adequate access to the light it so needs to thrive. 

Soil: Erosion & Fertilizer

Crabapple trees are pretty low maintenance trees but they do need care when it comes to making sure there is no erosion of the soil around the base of the tree. In addition, you will want to make sure the soil is healthy and has enough nutrients to nourish the tree throughout the year. Soil testing can help with this and fertilizer can also aid with growth. 

Pruning & Disease

Crabapple trees need very little pruning unless you see dead or damaged branches from storms or disease. Apple Scab is one such fungal disease that can negatively impact crabapple trees. 

Proper pruning, raking, and destroying infected leaves can help lessen the disease for the next year’s growth. We also recommend a topical fungicide to prevent spread of the disease. 

Enjoy four seasons of joy with these beautiful trees. Drop us a picture of your crabapple and tell us what you love about them. 

Apple Scab: A Fungal Disease

Apple Scab: A Common Fungus

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Apple and Crabapple trees are very popular across our region; however, without proper care they can become infested with unwanted apple scab, effectively devastating the leaves and fruit.

Apple scab is a fungus that can infect the leaves and fruit of both apple and crabapple trees, and also mountain ash and pear trees. Scab appears as a brown velvet-like lesion, and it thrives during the wet periods of the spring and summer. It needs to be treated during the growing season.

 

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How does Apple Scab affect my Tree?

Apple scab will be more of a problem to susceptible crabapple cultivars. Once the tree is infected the leaves will eventually turn yellow and fall prematurely. Highly susceptible crabapple trees can lose a majority of their leaves by mid-summer. This will cause the tree to become much weaker. Apple scab does not kill your trees but it can greatly affect its aesthetics as well as the growth of the fruit and yes, crabapples are edible! In severe cases it can reduce or completely eliminate the fruit yield for an entire growing season.

The Disease Cycle

Apple scab overwinters on leaves that are infected that had been shed already. Once the rainy days start to come in spring, the spores then are expelled from the infected leaves and are moved around by air currents and splashes of rain where they can then start new infections. If the weather is favorable (rainy/moist) it can enable the leaf spots that are infected to mature and produce new fungal spore which will reach the nearby leaves and in turn spreading the disease. Excessive rainfall in the prime seasons (spring and summer) often results in the disease coming back again with more severity.

How to Manage Apple Scab

  • Proper care measures include pruning in the late winter or early spring to increase airflow and remove any infected areas; however, it is best to prune when conditions are dry. Pruning during wet periods can actually aid in the spreading of scab.
  • Raking and destroying the leaves as they fall should reduce the severity of the disease next season as the fungus overwinters on partially decayed leaves.
  • Topical fungicide applications are also recommended every year to help prevent infestation on susceptible trees. 
    • Chemical fungicides are used for two purposes:
      1. Preventative: Sprayed on the leaves and fruit prior to infection. This will help effectively prevent the fungal spores from germinating or penetrating the host.2. Curative: Applied shortly after infection can hinder the development of the fungus which will limit the progression of the disease.

Being aware of scab now will help you prevent it next season. If your apples and crabapples were not treated for scab this spring, we recommend inspecting them to see if scab has developed. If so, we recommend you take the proper care measures beginning next March or April in order to prevent apple scab.

Pest Management Consultation

If you have any questions or concerns please don't hesitate to reach out to us at 877-308-8733! All estimates are free of charge. We look forward to hearing from you.

Editors Note: This post was originally published in July 2011 and has been revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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