4 Tools You Need For Picking Apples

Picking apples is a wonderful pastime. It’s the perfect way to enjoy the literal fruits of your farm. But you won’t get very far without the right tools.

by J. Keeler Johnson
PHOTO: Daniel Johnson

It’s late August on my northern Wisconsin farm, which means apple harvesting season is underway. The earliest-ripening varieties have been ready for a couple weeks already, with others to follow throughout September and into October. Picking apples is a wonderful pastime. It’s the perfect way to enjoy the literal fruits of your farm.

You can even make an event of it, inviting family and friends to join you on a walk (or hayride) around the farm to harvest apples wherever they grow.

Of course, you won’t get very far without the right tools. The following items will help you maximize your harvest and ensure fruit doesn’t go to waste.

Apple Pickers

Mature apple trees can grow quite tall, and you’ll struggle to reach the highest-growing fruit without apple pickers. Essentially, apple pickers are long wooden or metal poles (often adjustable in length) with a device at one end for harvesting fruit.

Apple pickers come in two main varieties: basket pickers and grabbing pickers. Basket pickers can hold many apples at once, but can cause a bit more branch damage (and drop more fruit) than grabbing pickers, which use rounded claws controlled by a lever to securely harvest one apple at a time.

If you want to try both, go for it! The more apple pickers you have, the more people can harvest at once.

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Read more: What’s the right kind of apple picker for your harvest?


A ladder is another good option for reaching apples growing in the tops of trees. While any ladder positioned firmly can perform suitably, orchard stepladders—pyramidal in shape with wide bases and three-legged tripod designs—are designed for the specific challenges of harvesting fruit (including uneven terrain) and can provide the most satisfactory results.

Apple Baskets

Unless you intend to pick only what you can carry back in your hands, you need somewhere to store your apples as you harvest them from each tree.

Any box or bag can work in a pinch. But bushel apple baskets are picturesque and possibly more effective—unlike a random cardboard box, you can trust a bushel basket isn’t going to collapse under the weight of its own load.

You can even consider using a specialized apple harvesting basket to make the job easier and faster.

Read more: An advanced fruit-picking bucket can shorten and simplify the process of harvesting fruit.

Refrigerator and/or Freezer

Hopefully, your trees have produced a bumper crop of apples so abundant you can’t possibly eat them all fresh. That’s a great problem to have! But apples don’t last very long sitting in a basket, so to avoid letting the fruit go to waste, you’ll need to place the apples in cold storage to prolong their useful lifespan.

A refrigerator is your first option; whole apples wrapped in plastic can last for a month or two. But a freezer can achieve even better long-term results, keeping apples in good shape for half a year or more. Isn’t the thought of eating your own apples in the middle of winter rather appealing? With a large harvest (and an equally large freezer), you can potentially feast on frozen apples all the way into spring.

Have fun picking apples!

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