Dear Sun Spots: Your column is the best. We are “snowbirds” living both north and south. There is no column anywhere that we’ve traveled to as good as yours. We miss it terribly when we leave Maine.

My problem: In Maine, we have two fruit trees, an apple and a cherry. This is a new location for us, and we are trying to find someone who will prune and spray the trees. We’ve called several places in the L-A area with no luck. Maybe you or your readers can help us. – No Name, Lewiston.

Answer:
In addition to responses from readers, you may want to contact Dean Hinkley of Wales who may be able to assist you. Hinkley does odd jobs and may be willing/able to tackle yours. You can reach him at (207) 375-6163. Another contact is Roger Roberge, owner of Provencher Landscaping at 299 River Road, Lewiston, (207) 783-9777. Also, Sun Spots spoke with Davis Landscape Co. on Lisbon Street in Lisbon at (207) 353-4848, who say that if you contact them with your details they’ll be glad to assist.

According to Scott Miller of Bridgton, better known as The Apple Doc, the first thing is to look for limbs that are grossly out of balance with the rest of the tree. He says the tree should resemble a haystack or a big squat Christmas tree, with longer limbs at the bottom and shorter limbs at the top. Long limbs at the top need to be shortened or removed. Next, look for excessively droopy and poorly growing limbs, which are more prone to develop disease and dieback. There are probably a large number of suckers growing off the upper portion of the trunk that have developed into what may look like small trees in their own right. They are a tangled mess and are blocking light penetration to the bottom of the tree. Miller likes leaving one of these suckers as a sort of “pressure-release valve” when doing serious pruning. Pruning is an invigorating procedure, and giving a place for that energy to go may help reduce the pruning needed the next winter.

Miller cautions that the tree may not look real pretty, It will take three winters worth of pruning to get a neglected tree back into shape. You don’t want to make all of the major cuts all in one year, he says, as this could shock the tree too much and do more harm than good. Most beginning pruners usually underprune out of fear of doing too much. And based on his personal experience, he says a healthy tree, under most circumstances, is very resilient and “forgiving” of mistakes.

For more tips from Miller check out his Web site at www.theappledoc.com. You can also reach him at (207) 415-9025 or (207) 647-8598, or by e-mail at [email protected] Miller is an active member of the Maine State Pomological Society (apple growers association).

Sun Spots hopes you and your family enjoy the following apple recipes, which were provided by St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center Ladies Auxiliary Cookbook:

Apple Bread. Ingredients: ¼ cup margarine, ¾ cup sugar, ½ cup whites (or ½ cup egg substitute), 1 teaspoon baking soda, 2 tablespoons sour skim milk, 2 cups flour, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 2 cups finely chopped apples. Topping: 2 tablespoons margarine, 3 tablespoons flour, 2 tablespoons sugar, 1 teaspoon cinnamon. Method: Cream ¼ cup margarine, ¾ cup sugar and egg. Add baking soda dissolved in sour skim milk. Add flour, vanilla and finely chopped apple – mix by hand, do not beat. Combine topping ingredients. Cut in margarine. Put bread mixture in large loaf pan and sprinkle with topping. Bake for 1 hour at 325 degrees. Serves 12.

Sugar-free Diabetic Apple Pie. Ingredients: 5 McIntosh apples, 1 lemon, 2 tablespoons cornstarch, 6 ounces apple juice concentrate, ½ cup raisins, 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger, 1/8 teaspoon table salt, 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg. Method: Combine apples with remaining ingredients and mix lightly. Pour mixture into crust, top with crust and make slits on top so steam may escape. Bake pie on middle shelf of a preheated 425 degree oven. Bake until crust is lightly browned, about 45 minutes. Serve warm or chilled. Serves 8.

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