Premature Fruit Drop on Apple Trees

Thursday, July 20th, 2017 by Jenny Watts
    • Check traps for codling moths and replace pheromones to continue catching damaging moths and reduce wormy apples.
    • Roses need water and fertilizer to keep blooming well throughout the summer. Watch for pests and treat immediately to prevent infestations.
    • Keep flowers and vegetables in peak condition by giving them a midsummer feeding with a fertilizer that is higher in phosphorus than in nitrogen.
    • Dig gently to harvest potatoes, a few plants at a time, after foliage yellows and dries up.
    • Set out starts of broccoli, Brussels sprouts and lettuce for a fall harvest. Spray weekly with BT to keep the cabbage worms at bay.

Premature Fruit Drop on Apple Trees

Fruits of all kinds must be harvested on time, at the proper stage of maturity in order to maintain their nutrients, quality and freshness. Apple trees can be somewhat tricky to determine when they are at their peak and ready to harvest.

Often, at this time of year, apple trees begin dropping fruit prematurely. There are several reasons for this occurrence. Apples infested with codling moths will have rotten areas within the developing fruit and they will often drop from the tree. 

It is important to remove the fallen fruit (even small apples) as soon as they fall so that the codling moth larvae are removed from the vicinity of the tree. Failure to do so allows the codling moths population to increase and overwinter to reinfect your fruit next year. Codling moths will have at least two generations per year, so be sure to replenish your traps with fresh pheromone attractant now.

Another cause of premature drop is a heavy fruit set. Apples that grow in clusters will “push off” each other close to harvest time. Early season thinning to reduce fruits to one or two per cluster will help prevent this type of drop.

Certain varieties are more prone to early drop that others. Gravenstein, Honeycrisp, Golden Delicious, Liberty and Red Delicious are the most prone to pre-harvest drop.

Watch for full-sized, healthy apples dropping to the ground. Healthy apples typically only begin falling when the fruit is ripe.

So how do you know if your apples are ripe and ready to pick? Apples ripen at various times depending on the variety. Gravensteins ripen in August but Granny Smiths won’t be ready until November. A given variety will ripen earlier or later in different climates. It is best to keep a record for your own trees as they will ripen at pretty much the same time each year.

If the season is right and the apples are full-sized, cut an apple open and check the color of the seeds. The seeds of apples generally turn dark brown when they are nearing maturity.

When an apple is ripe and ready to pick, you can lift it off the tree without pulling hard or twisting. Just lift the apple upward and it should come loose from the tree.

If you think the fruit is ripe, do a taste test. The fruit should be crisp, juicy and full flavored with the tartness of nearly ripe fruit gone.

Then it is time to harvest your fruit or to call the Gleaners to let them do it for you.

For storage apples, it’s best to pick the fruit a little early. The riper the apple is when it’s picked, the quicker it will go bad in storage.

Always handle apples carefully to avoid bruising them. Apples with even small bruises will not store well. Only perfect apples should be used for long-term storage. The others will be good for fresh eating, pies, cobblers and applesauce.

Enjoy your bountiful apple harvest this year.

Apples for many uses

Wednesday, January 27th, 2016 by Jenny Watts
    • Bare root season is here. Choose and plant your favorite fruit and shade trees now.
    • Start seeds of broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and other cool season crops indoors for planting outside in March.
    • Fruit trees can be pruned this month. If you’re not sure how, take advantage of one of the fine classes being offered this month.
    • Strawberries can be planted any time now. Get them in early, and you’ll be picking strawberries this summer.
    • Asparagus, whose delectable spears are even sweeter when home-grown, are available now for planting. Prepare a fertile bed for these long-lived vegetables.

Apples for many uses

There are hundreds of apple varieties grown in the United States, representing differences in flavor and texture that span the gamut from sweet to sour, and hard to soft. Because of these differences, some apples are better for cooking and some for fresh use. Here are some guidelines for choosing apples that suit your uses.

For fresh use and crisp apple salads, it’s hard to beat Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Fuji, Gala, Liberty and Honeycrisp apples. Red Delicious is probably the best known apple in the country. Its dark red skin is classic and its creamy aromatic flesh is sweet, crisp and flavorful. Golden Delicious is a long time favorite for its sweetness and flavor. The flesh is firm, crisp and juicy.

Fuji apples are sweet, very crisp and flavorful. Gala apples have a nice blend of sweetness and tartness with a rich flavor, and an attractive yellow skin airbrushed with red. Liberty has a well-balanced sweet-tart flavor with an attractive red skin. Honeycrisp is a delicious new apple that some say is “explosively crisp” and honey sweet with a touch of tartness. It is excellent for eating and salads. Fuji, Liberty and Red Delicious have the added advantage of not browning easily.

When it comes to apple pie, we look for an apple with quite a bit of tartness that holds its shape well during cooking. Some good choices are Honeycrisp, Pink Lady, Granny Smith, Braeburn and Rome Beauty. Honeycrisp is firm, juicy and sweet. Pink Lady is very crisp with a good sweet-tart combination. Granny Smith is quite tart but makes an apple pie reminiscent of colonial days, with added sugar. Braeburn is great for baking because it keeps its shape throughout cooking. Rome Beauty is wonderful for baking.

For applesauce, it’s hard to beat Gravenstein. This late summer apple has a rich flavor that makes delicious sauce. It is not a keeper but this is a wonderful way to preserve the bushels of fruit that the large tree produces. Golden Delicious is used to make unsweetened applesauce, because its sweet flavor doesn’t need sweetening.

Granny Smith is a rather tart apple but it makes very good sauce. Braeburn makes a great, “sweet-tart” sauce with no added sweetening. Pink Pearl makes beautiful, tasty pink applesauce.

Baking apples are those that are baked whole, as in dumplings. These apples have some tartness so that the flavor doesn’t get lost and they hold their shape well. Rome Beauty is probably the best for baking, but Golden Delicious, Braeburn, Granny Smith and Pink Lady are also very good.

Apple juice or cider can be made from many apples but some particularly good varieties are Gala, Golden Delicious, Gravenstein, Granny Smith and Jonathan. The best juice probably comes from a mixture of different varieties to create a blend. Choose a combination of apples to achieve the sweet/tart flavor you prefer.

Enliven your taste buds with a variety of apples for every use in the kitchen.

New Fruit Trees

Friday, January 8th, 2010 by Jenny Watts
    • Bare root season is here. Choose and plant your favorite fruit trees and roses now.
    • Start seeds of broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and other cool season crops indoors for planting outside in March.
    • Many fine varieties of flowering dogwoods, tulip magnolias, Japanese maples and other specimen plants are now available at nurseries for winter planting.
    • Primroses will give you the most color during this cold weather. Choose some pretty ones now for your boxes and beds.
    • Check the watering of outdoor container plants especially if they’re located under the eaves or porch where rain can’t reach them.

Mouth-watering Fruits for the Orchard

It’s a new year and a new decade! So why not add some new fruit varieties to your orchard this season. Bareroot season is the best time to find new and interesting fruit trees. While the trees are still dormant, they are shipped to nurseries all over the country to make their way into orchards large and small.

Apples are one of the best fruits for our region. Our cold winters and warm summers are good for apple-growing and there are dozens of fine varieties to choose from. Some old varieties that are worth considering are Gravenstein, an heirloom apple that is unsurpassed for making delicious applesauce. Arkansas Black, a red apple so dark it can sometimes be almost black, is making a come-back lately. It is an excellent keeper and it’s crisp, yellow flesh becomes more aromatic in storage.

Two “pink” apples are very popular. Pink Lady® is the brand name given to the ‘Cripps Pink’ variety of apple bred in Western Australia. A hot climate apple, it is very crisp with a sweet-tart, distinctive flavor and is a good keeper. The skin is reddish-pink over green when ripe, and the white flesh is sweet, tangy, and refreshing.

Pink Pearl is a California introduction from 1944. It has a dull, yellow-brown skin but on the inside, it has shockingly pink, sweet-tart flesh. Even the blooms are bright pink. It ripens in late summer and makes a beautiful and tasty pink applesauce.

Honeycrisp is a new variety from Wisconsin. These large, attractive apples grow on very productive trees. When ripe, in September and October, they are crisp and juicy and they practically snap off into your mouth. Fruit keeps for up to six months.

Pears also do very well in our area. One of the newer varieties is Harrow Delight which comes from Harrow, Canada. This is a high-quality, early, fresh market pear with excellent fire-blight resistance. It ripens early in the season with fruit that is similar to Bartlett in appearance with excellent flavor and smooth, non-gritty flesh.

Cherries are probably the best loved fruit of all. Most cherry trees require a pollenizer but Sweetheart cherry is self-fertile. It puts on large crops of bright red, crunchy fruit with mild, sweet flavor. It is the latest cherry to ripen, extending the cherry season.

Cherries tend to be large trees, but there’s a new dwarfing rootstock for cherries from Zaiger Genetics. The Zaiger Dwarf Root™ dwarfs trees to about 8 feet tall and is perfect for container growing, and also adaptable to many soil types.

There are lots of mouth-watering fruits to add to your orchard, large or small. So take advantage of this mild weather and plant some new fruit trees today.