New England Orchard Pruning, ‘IPM,’ and Apple-plum Combo

APPLES ARE SO AGREEABLE. Invite them to breakfast, lunch, or dinner and they will feel quite at home. It doesn’t matter where you place them — they get along equally well with peanut butter, pears, and pork chops. Apples make everything around them taste better.

Take apples for a walk, bring them in the car, put them in a lunchbox. They thrive wherever you put them, in whatever company. Bubbe’s Apple Cake is bursting with apple-cinnamon flavor, but the slices are coated with plum jam and almond extract.

Bubbe's Apple Cake (Russell Steven Powell photo)
Bubbe’s Apple Cake (Russell Steven Powell)

It keeps well for several days but is best eaten fresh, so it makes an ideal dessert when friends are coming over. Or if it’s just you, Bubbe’s Apple cake is a relatively wholesome way to satisfy that sweet tooth.

We’ve seen various versions of Bubbe’s Apple Cake online and over the years; for our version we used some whole-wheat flour and punched up the apple flavor even more! We made this with two McIntosh and two Honeycrisp apples, creating a superb taste and texture. You can use any New England-grown apples.

Bubbe’s Apple Cake

½ c whole wheat flour

¾ c white flour

1 t baking powder

½ t salt

4 large New England apples, peeled, cored, and cut into thin slices

1 c plum jam

juice of 1 lemon

3 eggs

¾ c sugar

½ c canola oil

1 t vanilla extract

½ t almond extract


Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour an 8”-square baking dish.

Combine flours, baking powder and salt in mixing bowl, and set aside.

Place apple slices in large bowl. Add jam and lemon juice and stir until slices are coated.

Beat eggs well. Gradually add sugar and beat until mixture is almost fluffy. Stir in flour mixture. Add oil and extracts, and continue to stir until batter is well blended.

Spread half of batter evenly in prepared baking dish. Cover with apple-jam mixture. Spoon remaining batter on top. Sprinkle lightly with cinnamon.

Bake for about one hour, until top is golden brown.


Integrated Pest Management (IPM)

GROWING FRUIT in a humid climate is much more difficult than it is in an irrigated desert. Frequent precipitation creates a fertile environment for agricultural pests, so New England’s apple farmers have to deal with a number of diseases and insects. Scab, a fungal disease, is a major pest problem in the Northeast.

In addition to scab, New England apple orchards can be damaged by sooty blotch/flyspeck, plum curculio, apple maggot, or fruit moths. The disease fire blight can be devastating in some years, and mite management is an ongoing concern. Insects like sawfly and leaf-rollers cannot be ignored. Weeds, rodents, deer, or fungal fruit rot can cause problems.

Integrated Pest Management, or IPM, is an ecologically and environmentally sustainable way to manage these insects, diseases, and weeds. IPM programs use “current, comprehensive information on the life cycles of pests and their interaction with the environment,” according to Environmental Protection Agency, “to manage pest damage by the most economical means, and with the least possible hazard to people, property, and the environment.”

The process begins with farmers reviewing when and where pest problems arose the previous year. IPM growers have either a weather station on the farm or subscribe to a web-based service for detailed information. This data is fed into models that forecast risk.

Traps are placed in the orchard to monitor insects, and growers check them and inspect trees for damage at least weekly to determine risks from these pests.

IPM growers use flail mowers early in the season to destroy old leaves and twigs that can harbor diseases. In late winter, they prune out dead or diseased wood. During the summer, they mow grass to decrease humidity, thereby decreasing the risk of pests.

IPM is a constant process of knowing which pests present a significant risk at any given time, and determining the best management tool to use at that time, says Dan Cooley, a professor of microbiology at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He has been working on IPM issues since 1979, when he was studying for his Ph.D. in plant pathology.

When risk is high, growers select a treatment method, usually some form of spray. In IPM orchards, growers select pesticides that have the least impact on the environment, though they are generally more expensive than older ones.

IPM management tools tend to be more expensive as they become more sophisticated. Matching detailed weather monitoring with disease prediction models, for example, is more expensive and complicated than simply watching a weather forecast. Growers often must hire consultants to monitor and analyze their orchards’ pests.

Still, the overwhelming majority of growers in New England use some form of monitoring and IPM tactics in their orchards, says Cooley. “It has become the norm. New advances in IPM are always in development, though, as new pests and other biological threats are continually emerging.”

Over time, some pests, such as the tarnished plant bug, have become much less of a problem for apple growers, says Cooley, but new ones, like the brown marmorated stink bug, have emerged. Growers and scientists must constantly adjust IPM systems to correspond to an orchard’s evolving environment.

Existing pests gradually learn to adapt to new management tools, too. One of the most difficult aspects of IPM, says Cooley, is developing tactics that maintain effective control without over-stimulating the pest’s drive to defeat it.

March 22 presentation on IPM for gardens and home landscapes

THE IPM APPROACH can be applied to non-agricultural settings such as the home, garden, and workplace. Tina Smith, greenhouse crops and floriculture specialist for the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Extension, will give a presentation on, “Good bugs, bad bugs”: Integrated Pest Management (IPM) for home landscapes and gardens, Tuesday, March 22, at 7 p.m. Smith Academy Cafeteria, 34 School Street, Hatfield, Massachusetts.

The event, sponsored by the Hatfield Agricultural Advisory Committee, is free and open to the public. Light refreshments will be served.

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THIS IS THE SEASON for pruning in New England’s apple orchards. To learn more about how it is done, view this video, the first of a two-part series on pruning.

For more information about New England apples, visit

1 Comment

  • Terry Drake

    I’ve been growing apples off & on for 30 years and this is the best pruning demonstration I’ve ever gotten! I will save this to show to those who help me prune. Thanks.