Last year Julia Putman and the Dallas Fruit Grower suggested that I give Fruit Sox a try. Fruit Sox are essentially panty-hose that you place over the developing fruit to prevent codling moth and apple maggots from damaging your crop. You may have seen them in shoe stores for people to wear when they're trying on shoes. According to the Home Orchard Society, they're very effective, cheap, and easy to use. The Home Orchard Society also sells them soaked in Surround, but when I tried to order some from their website, the option wasn't available. After some searching I found another forum which listed many sources of materials for bagging/protecting fruit. It said that the same Disposable Slip On Sox sold by Home Orchard Society (without the Surround) could be ordered from MacPherson Leather Co. in Seattle, Washington. You get 144 sox in a box for $8.90. I've also been told you can order them from Raintree Nursery. I ordered 3 boxes from MacPherson back in December.
Thinning the clusters and applying the fruit sox was not as time consuming as I had feared. I was able to go through two trees full of young fruit in under two hours. I first went through each tree thinning the clusters down to just one fruit, and I then made a second pass to thin out the fruit so that there was only one fruit every 8 inches or so. I don't want to let the trees over produce or risk breaking branches. Once I finished thinning, I then went through and placed a nylon sock over each fruit, and secured it loosely with a twist tie. Some people say you don't need to secure them, but I since I have a box of 1,000 ties I did it anyway.
The Anna apple is absolutely loaded this year, and the Dorsett Golden set quite a few as well, although it just doesn't seem to be as heavy bearing. I didn't count all of them, but I used the better part of a box of sox, so I estimate there are at least 80 apples on the trees. I can't wait to let the boys run out there and pick one. One thing I'm not sure of is when to take the sox off. According to multiple sources, you just take them off a week before they're ripe to let them "color up", but that assumes you know when they're going to be ripe. My two trees now have 11 different cultivars grafted onto them, and I have no idea when each kind will be ripe, especially not given the bizarre weather we've been having. I guess I'll just wait until they're around the size I think they should be, and go from there. I'm very hopeful that this cheap and simple method will mean bumper crops of apples from now on.