5 Tools For Harvesting Hard-To-Reach Apples

There are many harvesting tools to help orchardists get hard-to-reach apples from standard-sized trees. Here are a few to consider this apple season.

by J. Keeler Johnson
PHOTO: Daniel Johnson

It’s easy to understand why dwarf apple trees have become popular. They occupy a smaller footprint than standard trees (making them easy to squeeze into compact spaces). And their diminished height makes pruning and harvesting apples a breeze.

But I personally love the charismatic appearance of standard apple trees, growing unrestrained to heights of 25 or 30 feet with a similar spread. An old, twisted apple tree is a sight to behold … and, if we’re honest, not the easiest tree from which to harvest fruit.

If you live on an old farm with decades-old apple trees, or if you’ve planted standard trees growing rapidly to lofty heights, you’re probably wondering about the best way to harvest fruit from upper branches. Perhaps only a few lower branches are within reach for harvesting by hand, with the biggest and best apples growing at the top of the tree, in full sunlight but thoroughly out of reach.

The good news is, this isn’t a new problem. There are many tools to help orchardists harvest the highest apples. Here are a few to consider:

  1. Apple Pickers

Using an apple picker is one of the safest and easier ways to extend your reach. An apple picker is a simple wooden or metal pole (often adjustable in length) with a tool on the end for harvesting apples.

The tool might be a claw controlled by a lever at the opposite end (perfect for harvesting one apple at a time). Or it might be a metal basket with prongs for pulling fruit off branches (ideal for harvesting many apples at once).

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Read more: Choose the right type of apple picker for your harvest.

  1. Stool, Step Stool, Ladder, Etc.

Need to gain only a little extra height? A household stool, step stool, or ladder might serve you well.

Just make sure they’re sitting firmly on the ground (without any wiggling or wobbling) before you climb up. And be careful not to lean too far once you’re up. You don’t want to lose your balance, or have your stool or ladder tip over.

  1. Tripod Stepladder

If you wish to invest in a specialty ladder for harvesting apples, a tripod stepladder is the way to go. They’re wider at the base than at the top and feature three legs instead of four. This makes them much more stable (especially over uneven ground).

Read more: You need these 4 tools for picking apples.

  1. Scaffolding

If you’re willing to spend a bit more time harvesting from a big tree with a large crop of apples, constructing scaffolding underneath and around the tree can be a useful option. Building wooden scaffolding can work fine (provided it’s strong enough to safely support you).

But modular scaffolding compromised of metal frames, diagonal bracing rods and wooden planks can be built to a size that suits your needs while staying (relatively) lightweight for moving around. Just be careful not to fall when climbing or walking across scaffolding.

  1. Hay Wagon

One of my favorite ways to gain a little extra apple-picking height is to pull a hay wagon (or any similarly elevated wagon or trailer) alongside or underneath a tall tree. Standing on the deck provides a boost. Apple pickers can be used to gain even more reach.

By using a hay wagon, you can make a fun autumn event out of harvesting apples. Toss on some hay bales, invite family and friends, and drive from tree to tree taste-testing and picking fruit.

By utilizing one or more of these approaches, you’ll have those tasty, hard-to-reach apples harvested in no time.

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