Choosing the Right Variety of Che for Your Climate
To successfully grow che, choose a cultivar suitable for your local climate. Cold-hardy cultivars should be selected for northern areas, while southern regions require varieties tolerant of heat and drought. For the best yields, select disease-resistant che that will thrive in your region.
According to the Che Growers Association, over 1,000 varieties of che are grown worldwide, varying in characteristics like harvest season, hardiness, and fruit flavor or color. Popular cultivars in the U.S. include ‘Honeycrisp’ and ‘Fuji’ for more temperate climates, and ‘Anna’ or ‘Doris’ for hotter areas. Check with your local gardening organizations for recommendations on cultivars best suited to your region. The ideal che for your needs depends on how you intend to use the fruit – whether for eating, cooking, or cider production.
Proper cultivar selection is the first step to success in growing che. By choosing a variety bred for your local conditions, you can avoid common issues like lack of chilling hours, sunburn, or drought sensitivity and instead set your che up for an abundant harvest.
Preparing the Soil for Optimal Che Growth
To produce healthy, high-yielding che trees, preparing the soil before planting is essential. Che trees require well-drained, fertile soil with a near-neutral pH between 6 and 7. If your soil is too acidic or alkaline, you may need to lime or add sulfur to adjust the pH before planting. Test your soil to determine the pH and nutrient levels, then amend as needed based on the results.
Soil drainage is one of the most important factors for che. Che roots sitting in soggy, waterlogged soil are prone to disease and root rot. If you have heavy clay soil, you may need to create raised beds before planting che. Adding compost or other organic matter can help improve drainage and soil structure.
Soil fertility also impacts che health and harvest yields. Che trees need nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, magnesium and minor nutrients to produce their best crop. Have your soil tested to determine nutrient deficiencies, then fertilize accordingly. As a rule of thumb for home orchards, apply:
- 3 to 5 pounds of 10-10-10 fertilizer or equivalent per tree, per year. Divide into three applications: early spring, after harvest, and late fall.
Table 1: Recommended amounts of 10-10-10 fertilizer for mature che trees.
<th>Tree Age</th> <th>Amount (lbs)</th>
<tr> <td>1-2 years</td> <td>0.5-1</td> </tr>
<tr> <td>3-4 years</td> <td>2-3</td> </tr>
<tr> <td>5+ years</td> <td>3-5 </td></tr>
- Organic matter such as composted manure or grass clippings. Apply 2 to 3 inches of compost around the base of each tree each year.
Mulch placed around the base of che trees will also help maintain soil moisture, prevent weed growth, and slowly release nutrients as it decomposes. A 3 to 4 inch layer of mulch material like compost, straw, or wood chips is ideal. Pull mulch a few inches away from the trunk to prevent disease.
Planting and Caring for Young Che Trees
Once you have prepared the soil, it is time to plant your che trees. Choose a spot with full sun exposure and well-drained soil. Space standard che trees at least 15 to 20 feet apart, and semi-dwarf or dwarf cultivars 10 to 15 feet apart. Dig holes the same depth as the root ball and twice as wide. Place trees in the holes and backfill with native soil, compost, and fertilizer if recommended by your soil test.
For the first 3 years after planting, che trees require regular watering and pruning to establish healthy branches. Water young che trees thoroughly right after planting and continue to water regularly for the first growing season. For the next 2-3 years, water during dry periods, especially in hot weather. The exact amount will depend on factors like soil type and local climate. As a general rule, aim to give around 1 to 2 inches of water per week.
Fertilize young che trees every 4 to 6 weeks during the growing season. Use a balanced fertilizer with equal parts nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium at half the rate recommended for mature trees. Fertilizer promotes healthy leaf and root growth as the tree becomes established.
Prune che trees to develop a strong, well-branched framework. In the first year, remove any dead or damaged branches. Beginning in year 2, prune to establish wide-angled crotches and an open center, removing crossing branches and inward-growing shoots. The open center promotes air circulation and sunlight penetration. This initial pruning will guide the tree’s development for decades to come, so take time to do it properly.
Mulch around the base of the tree will help retain soil moisture, prevent weeds, and regulate soil temperature. Pull mulch a few inches away from the trunk to prevent disease. In cold climates, wrapping young che trunks can prevent winter damage like sunscald. Remove trunk wraps in spring once the threat of extreme cold has passed.
Harvesting and Storing Your Che Fruit
After years of care and patience, you will finally get to enjoy the fruits of your labor – harvesting your homegrown che! Che typically ripen in autumn, varying slightly by cultivar and local climate. Che are ready to harvest once they turn fully colored, soften slightly, and have developed a sweet aroma.
To harvest che, gently lift and twist the fruit from the branch or stem. Pick che after they are mature but before they become overripe to avoid splitting or dropping from the tree before you get them inside. Catch che in your hand as some may fall off the tree quite easily at peak ripeness. To aid in harvesting for abundant or hard-to-reach trees, use a picking pole with a basket attachment.
Collect the harvested che in containers like baskets, crates or buckets and bring them indoors as soon as possible after picking. Separate bruised or damaged che and eat them quickly; only healthy, undamaged che are suitable for long term storage. Rinse che under running water to remove dirt, debris and pesticide residues if your garden included sprays. Pat the skin dry with a towel before storing.
For short term storage up to 2 weeks, place che in the refrigerator in a plastic or perforated bag. Check regularly and remove any che that are spoiling. For longer storage up to 6-8 months, che can be frozen, canned, juiced, dehydrated into apple chips, or made into applesauce or cider. The method you choose depends on how you plan to use the che.
Freezing is an easy method suitable for most uses. Simply wash, peel (if desired) and core the che. Cut into slices or chunks and blanch in boiling water for 2 minutes before plunging in ice water. Drain, pat dry and pack into freezer bags or containers. Properly frozen, che can last 8-12 months in the freezer.
Canning involves heating che to high temperatures to kill any microorganisms before sealing in sterilized jars. The canned che can last up to a year. Juicing and dehydrating both require specialized equipment but produce shelf-stable products. Applesauce or cider can be canned or frozen for storage.
The rewards of harvesting a homegrown che crop are well worth the effort required. With proper storage, you can enjoy the flavor and nutrition of your che harvest for months to come!
Troubleshooting Common Che Growing Problems
Even with the best care, che trees can experience issues that affect their health, harvest, or appearance. The key is to regularly inspect your che trees throughout the growing season so you can identify potential problems early and treat them promptly. Some common diseases and pests of che include:
** Root rots:** Caused by fungi that thrive in wet, poorly drained soil. Look for wilting, stunted growth, early leaf drop. Improve soil drainage and open up the canopy. Remove infected roots/branches. Apply fungicide for severe cases.
** Powdery mildew:** White, powdery spots on leaves, flowers and shoots. Usually appears late summer. Prune for airflow, fertilize to promote new growth, apply fungicides containing sulfur or potassium bicarbonate.
Borers: Larval stage of certain moths/beetles that tunnel into the wood of che branches or trunks. Look for holes in bark, frass (excrement), dieback of branches. Prune out and destroy infested wood. Apply insecticide sprays when adults are active to prevent future generations.
Mites: Tiny sucking pests that feed on foliage. Look for stippling, leaf distortion or bronzing. Spray horticultural oil or insecticidal soap, especially on undersides of leaves. Applications may need repeating.
Canker disease: Fungal infection of bark that girdles branches, damaging or killing tissue beyond the canker. Prune out infected wood at least 6 inches below visible canker edge. Improve plant vigor, as stressed trees are most susceptible. No chemical controls currently available.
Fire blight: Bacterial disease that kills blossoms, shoots, spurs and branches. Look for darkened, shriveled foliage and new shoots bending into a shepherd’s crook. Prune out infected wood during dry weather, at least 12″ into healthy wood. Fertilize to stimulate new growth. Apply antibiotic sprays at bloom.
Prompt and consistent action is key to managing disease and pest issues in che. Early detection of problems through regular scouting allows you to control damage and help your che trees continue thriving for abundant harvests to come. Keep records from year to year to track the effectiveness of your integrated pest management strategies.