“An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” We have all heard the saying and it really is true. Apples are filled with nutrition and they have so many health benefits. The skin of the fruit has fiber which helps control acid reflux and digestive problems like constipation and diarrhea. In fact, apple peel even helps protect against heart and blood vessel damage. It also has anti-oxidants that can actually slow down the growth of cancer cells. That’s not all. Apples can positively contribute to lung strength, bone health, immune system, asthma problems, and even the brains’ functioning. It’s a super food (fruit) indeed! And knowing when to pick apples will help to maximize all of those benefits.
On top of that, taking a big crunchy bite of an apple is like having an explosion of juicy, rich, sweet, and tangy flavors in your mouth. They’re delicious raw, and even very versatile, as you can use them in many recipes.
Why not grow your own apples? You can easily grow this tasty fruit by finding out it’s’ requirements as well as how and when to harvest apples.
Growing Conditions & When to Pick Apples
The growing conditions for planting an apple depends on which variety you choose. The good thing is, you have hundreds of options to choose from. Pick which variety is best for the climate and soil conditions you have, and if you are not sure which variety to pick you may consult your local nursery. If you live in the United States, you may want to look up the USDA’s websites as they offer some charts of different growing zones.
It is important that you pick the right apple for the right climate as not doing so could lead to growing an apple that is not suited to the climate which will die instead. Annual rainfall, humidity levels, elevation, soil components, and other factors will affect the way your apple grows. You really will need to conduct some research yourself for you to identify which variety will grow in your area.
Apples need a full sun, along with moderately fertile, deep, loamy and well-drained soil with a neutral pH of about 6 to 7. It is best to avoid planting them when there is dangerous of frost. Some varieties can tolerate lower temperatures around 40 C.
One extremely important tip when growing your own apples is growing two different varieties at the same time. You should plant two apple trees in close proximity to encourage pollination between them. This helps them bear more fruit. You also want the two trees to bloom together for this to happen. In some apple varieties, they cannot produce some fruits if they do not have other trees to cross pollinate to.
It is best to purchase bare-root trees when growing apples as these grow easily and fast. Plant your tree as soon as you have purchased it. If you notice that the roots are dry, soak them the roots in water 24 hours before planting them. While you can certainly try growing an apple tree by using seeds, it is not as reliable when producing fruits compared to bare root trees. These are mostly available in winter and early spring. You should also avoid planting apples when the weather is dry and hot.
If you live in a climate that experiences some really cold winters, then you need to plant your bare root trees as soon as spring comes in and the ground is soft enough to dig a hole on it. They will need this opportunity to be planted early because they need time to take hold and adjust before the next winter comes in. If an apple tree fails to take root and adjust they will suffer the cold winter frost.
Alternatively, if you live in an area with mild winters, then you may plant the bare root tree in fall season. You don’t have to worry since winters are mild, and so they will be able to survive the winter.
Your apple tree loves the sunlight, so find a spot where they can have at least 6 hours of sunlight. Make sure that they are spaced apart about 15-18 feet. They will need this space as they will grow into full fledged trees.
Most varieties of apple are ready for harvest between the period of late summer and late fall. The exact harvest date depends on the climate and variety as every apple variety takes its’ own time to mature. In any case, you need to harvest your apples at the right time to ensure good taste as well as storage capacity.
You can tell that an apple is mature when it is firm and has a nice vibrant color as characterized by its’ particular variety. But with most red apples, it is not recommended to look at the color as the sole indicator of ripeness. This is because they can become red even before they’re ripe. So how will you know when to harvest apples?
How do you know when apples are ready to be picked?
Before you decide to harvest apples based off of your calendar, you need to have knowledge about your specific variety. Also keep in mind that every year the harvest date can change depending on weather conditions. It does sound complicated but it’s not. You can easily find out the dates for harvesting apples in your region every year.
But when testing for ripeness, how do you know when apples are ready to be picked? Here’s what you can do. Take an apple in your hand and cup it in your palm. Then give it a little twist. If it simply comes off the tree, it is ready for eating. This essentially means the fruits would have naturally fallen off soon anyway.
You can use some more tips about ripe apples. On the tree, the apples situated at the top will be ripened before the ones down below. The ones in contact with or facing the sun will also ripen earlier. And lastly, the apples on the tree’s outer edges also generally get ripe before the rest.
If you have picked apples too early, they will be sour, unappealing and too starchy. Whereas, when you harvest them too late, they will look mushy and soft.
Apple Harvesting Techniques
It is quite simple and easy to pick apples. But apple harvesting techniques can vary depending on their uses.
If you want fresh apples for your own consumption, it is best to manually harvest them. Just lift the fruit upwards, give it a light twist and it will snap off the tree. Be careful not to twist or pull too hard. Try grasping the apple in your palm rather than using your fingers to avoid pinching or bruising the fruit. It is also recommended to keep some of the stem on the apple as this helps it last longer.
One easy and popular technique is called the ‘rolling method’. All you have to do is gently turn the apple upside down. The apple should remove snap off easily like this without any bruising.
If you are growing apples to be processed later, then you can use machinery to harvest them. This is more suitable when you have a huge amount of apples to pick and quantity of harvest is more important.
When to Pick Cooking Apples
Cooking apples are the best to use in apple tarts, crumbles, pies or more desserts…the list is practically endless. When using apples as a culinary ingredient, there are some recommended varieties to choose from such as Bramley, Granny Smith, Red Gravenstein, Ida Reds as well as Fuji.
When planting cooking apples, choose a spot with good drainage as water-logged soil won’t fare well with your crop. Cooking apples are also prone to getting attacked by pests and diseases so you should keep an eye on them.
And when to pick cooking apples? It is generally considered okay to pick culinary apples when they are slightly under-ripe. You can start harvesting as soon as they start falling from the tree. But do not let them all fall naturally to the ground as it ruins the storage life of apples.
Apples have a great storage capacity. When stored properly, they can easily last for 1 to 2 months in the refrigerator. It is best to first cover them in a plastic bag with holes or a paper towel. They can even last as long as 6 months, if you provide them a temperature of 30 to 40 F with relatively high humidity. Large quantities should be stored in a cool, dark area with a temperature close to, but not below freezing point.
Growing apples may seem like a daunting task. But the effort is well worth it. Just remember to do your homework first depending on your particular variety and when to harvest apples based on that. After all, there’s nothing like a crunchy home-grown apple and the smell of freshly baked apple pie!