Crisp air, colorful leaves, cooler temperatures, dewy grass and shorter days can only mean one thing: It’s autumn! Along with the changing of the season comes a transition into fall activities, including a favorite of farmers everywhere: apple picking!
With cooler temperatures helping to ripen your apple crop, it’s time to bring out the bushel baskets, head to the orchard and start harvesting your fruit. Although it can be tempting to start grabbing apples left and right, plucking them off the branches in whichever manner is most convenient, this isn’t the best approach for the overall health of your trees and can reduce apple production for the following year. To help keep your trees in great shape and ensure steady fruit production, learn how to pick apples the correct way. Here are some tips to help you out.
1. Twist Apples Instead Of Pulling
A common method for picking apples is to simply grab hold and pull until they come off the branch, but this can be damaging to the tree and it can cause other apples to drop. If you look closely, you’ll notice that apples don’t grow on the main branches of the apple tree, but actually grow on short sub-branches called spurs. By casually pulling an apple off a tree, it’s easy to pull off the short spur branch with it, eliminating a valuable fruit-producing branch and reducing the number of places on the tree that can produce apples.
Instead of simply pulling on the apple, you’ll want to twist it instead, forcing the stem of the apple to separate from the spur branch. This way, you won’t cause any damage to your tree, keeping everything in shape for future years of apple production.
2. Don’t Use An Apple Picker
An apple picking device is convenient for reaching the highest apples on a tree, but it gives you much less control over the way you pick the apples and can easily damage the spur branches. Instead, use a stepladder to reach the higher branches, taking care to twist the apples to remove them properly.
3. Grasp Apples With The Palm Of Your Hand
When picking your apples, be sure to hold them in the palm of your hand, rather than using your fingers. The pressure applied by your fingers or by the grip of an apple picker can bruise the fruit, whereas using the palm of your hand provides a softer grip, preventing damage.
4. Select Only Ripe Apples
If the apples on your trees aren’t fully ripe, they won’t be nearly as delicious to eat, and they will also be harder to remove from the spur branches. A fully ripe apple separates easily from the branch, so if you’re having a hard time twisting them off, they probably aren’t ripe, even if they otherwise appear to be. Some people judge ripeness by the color of the apple, and some prefer to break one open and see if the seeds are brown (brown seeds are a sign of a ripe apple), but neither approach is perfect. One of the best ways to check if a tree’s apples are ripe is to simply taste one of the apples—if it tastes good, you’re all set!
5. Don’t Drop Apples Into Your Baskets
Because apples are easily bruised, avoid dropping them into your bushel baskets. Instead, carefully set the apples in the basket so that they won’t bang against one another. To save your back from bending down too often, bring a chair or stool to place your basket on, raising it to a height that makes it easy to place the apples inside.
Using these techniques, you should be well on your way to harvesting a terrific crop of tasty apples, while at the same time keeping your trees in healthy shape. Let the apple harvest begin!