The wind also blew down about 20 apples from the existing apple tree at the end of the garden. Two thirds of them were maggoty and rotten before they hit the ground. It confirmed what I had suspected that the tree suffers quite badly from codling moth and probably sawfly. Last year I got almost no useful fruit from the, but blamed apple scab which was my own fault due to too frequent spraying with seaweed solution. It got me thinking that it is time to do something about it. If I don't do anything I pretty sure that the pests will transfer over to the newly planted apple trees once they bear fruit. My neighbour also has a large apple tree - it had a great crop last year but this year has almost none. It is probably due to no pruning last year, but it made me think that biennial bearing could be useful pest control strategy for an isolated fruit tree - breaking the life cycle of the pest organism and reducing numbers considerably. I couldn't find anything on the internet, but I suspect I may have read that somewhere? Because I have a number of young apple trees if I am going to reduce the number of pests I will probably need to do something before they all start bearing.
I'm not interested in using pesticides but I have a few possible courses of action:
1. Control measures like picking up all the dropped fruit (I do that anyway), and tying sacking around the trunk to catch overwintering moth larvae.
2. Removing all the blossom and fruit next year to break the life cycle of the pests.
3. Grafting over the apple tree to a new variety.
4. Remove the apple tree completely and perhaps replace it with a different fruit. This might seem a little drastic, but I suspect I have too many apple trees in the garden to be trouble free. On the downside I would probably disturb my asparagus and strawberry beds nearby.
I'm favouring option 3 at the moment. The tree is well established so would give the new variety/ies a head start. The tree wouldn't bear fruit for a year or two so it would also achieve the same result as 2 (although I may have to leave a nurse branch). I don't know what the current variety is but I suspect it is relatively early bearer and I would rather have a keeper. There are some great videos on YouTube with examples of grafting technique and orchard management here by Stephen Hayes. Definitely worth a look. As for what varieties, I would probably use scions from the one or more of the other trees in the garden. A different variety would be nice, but I am not sure where to get the scion wood from and the other trees I have would be the easiest option for now. I don't have to decide until I begin pruning the trees as any grafting would be done in early spring. If anyone has any experience of doing something similar or other ideas I would love to hear about them.