Apple harvest

by Adam Pasco

Blackbirds ate my cherries, the plum crop was non-existent, but now it's apple time! And what a wonderful year it's been.

Apples in a wooden crateBlackbirds ate my cherries, the plum crop was non-existent, but now it's apple time! And what a wonderful year it's been. The relentless August rain ruined so much this year, including holiday plans for many I'm sure, but my apples seem to have enjoyed it. They're juicier than ever.

My first apples to ripen are 'Ellison's Orange' in mid-September, and this is one variety that really must be eaten straight from the tree. When you do the apples are crisp and juicy, but sadly they don't stay in good condition for long. Within days the crispness has gone, and they turn woolly. 'Ellison's Orange' is an eating variety so doesn't cook well, so when I get a big crop, like this year, I have to take bags of them into the office to share out to avoid them being wasted.

Later in October I'll be able to start picking other varieties (I've about 10 in all), including Cox, that have also cropped really well this year. These later ripening varieties do store much better, so I set them out in wooden, stacking trays where they'll keep in my cool shed for a couple of months.

My absolute favourite apple variety is another eater called 'Spartan', and my single tree is laden down with them this year. Their skin turns a deep red that buffs up to a beautiful shine you can see your face in, and you bite through it into pure snow-white flesh. They're always crisp, sweet, and have a really excellent flavour. And they do store well, so my bumper crop will certainly keep the doctor away for a few months.

We're lucky in this country to have so many wonderful apple varieties to choose from for our gardens. As trees are available on dwarfing rootstocks to keep their ultimate size down, and they can be trained into compact forms like cordons and espaliers, apples are the perfect trees for a small garden. The current wave of interest in 'grow your own' should see even more people including fruit trees in their gardens, and the coming months are a perfect time to plant them. Last winter I made space for a 'family' apple tree, where three varieties grow on a single tree. Flowering at the same time they'll pollinate each another, hopefully ensuring a good crop. Only two apples on my young tree this year, but I'll enjoy every mouthful!

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Gardeners' World Web User 02/10/2008 at 12:57

I tried growing three varieties of Minarettes this year from Ken Muir, but must say that I wasn't thrilled with the success. You mentioned that your young tree only produced two this normal for their first year in the ground? I had the graft fail on one minarette (happens, I know) and only one apple on another, but the third 'Greensleeves' seems to have done remarkably well which perplexed me further. I assumed that all three would produce gloriously given the number of blooms in spring. All three same pollination group.Is the mild success normal for first year production? Thanks for help and advice.

Gardeners' World Web User 03/10/2008 at 12:46

Our apple crop has been poor this year but luckily a friend has had a bumper crop and has let us pick lots from his garden. But we have had an amazing crop of quince vranja and I'm going to have a busy time making quince jelly and membrillo.

Gardeners' World Web User 04/10/2008 at 19:57

Reply to Nathan ... do be patient. Young trees often don't fruit well, despite carrying flowers.My new apple tree behaved in exactly the same way. I would expect fruiting to improve as the tree established and gets stronger.

Also remember that just because a fruit tree produces flowers these may not set any fruit. Bees need to be active for pollination to take place, and bee populations have declined in many areas.

As always in gardening, there's always next year, so I'm hoping for a better crop, like you. The one thing I'd recommend is sprinkling some sulphate of potash plant feed round the base of all fruit trees and bushes in Feb/March to support better flowering and fruiting.

Gardeners' World Web User 05/10/2008 at 22:29

Last week as well as showing us your slatted wooden box for storing apples you also said that we could store them in plastic bags, Would you please repeat this advice as we have just picked 90 Coxes to put by for the next few months and plastic bags seem to be a better bet than wooden boxes we do not have.

Gardeners' World Web User 06/10/2008 at 16:37

Reply to Rondad ... If you watched Gardeners' World last Friday 3rd then you would have seen Toby Buckland storing apples in clear polythene sandwich bags (the programme is still available to view on iplayer for a few more days).

Basically, only store firm, sound and undamaged fruits. Place batches of 4-8 or so apples in each polythene bag. Seal the top, but make a few small pin-prick holes in each bag to allow gases to pass through. Store in a cool place, and check regularly for signs of rot.

Keeping apples in bags like this prevents them losing moisture and turning soft.

However, remember than not all apples have a long storage life. Some must be eaten fresh, and won't store, while others will keep under the right conditions for several months.Check your variety to see if yours will keep or not.

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