In the Garden:
These apples are ready to harvest and enjoy.
With the cool fall temperatures, apples are being harvested by the boxloads. I don't grow apples in my yard. With so many orchards here in Vermont, I decided a while ago to plant plums and cherries instead. But I've grown them before and still love picking and eating apples.
When to Harvest
Harvest time depends on the variety. Early varieties such as 'Paulared' are harvested in August and early September, while later varieties such as 'Mutsu' and 'Northern Spy' are harvested into October. Most apples are ready to harvest when the fruit easily separates from the tree. Another way to determine harvest time is to check the color of the seeds. Cut an apple in half--if the seeds are brown, it's ripe and ready for harvest. Later-maturing varieties tend to last longest in storage.
When growing apples in your own yard, choose varieties on dwarf or semi-dwarf rootstocks. These rootstocks will keep trees under 20 feet tall, making them easier to care for and harvest. Choose at least two different varieties that mature around the same time. Two of the most popular varieties to grow are 'McIntosh' and 'Delicious.' There are many crosses of these varieties such as 'Jonamac' and 'Macoun.' Newer varieties such as 'Gala' and 'Fuji' and old-fashioned varieties such as 'Northern Spy' and 'Winesap' are also great for backyard gardeners looking for a few good eating or cooking apples. For lower maintenance and less spraying, grow disease-resistant varieties such as 'Liberty.'
Check your yard this fall for a good place to plant a few trees next spring. The best location is on a slight slope, in full sun, with soil that has good drainage. Amend the soil this fall with compost and take a soil test. This winter, research the varieties, choose the ones you like, and order them through the mail. In spring, plant the bare-root trees with their graft unions about 1 inch above the soil line, spacing trees about 10 to 20 feet apart. If the graft union is too close to the soil, it will root and you'll lose the dwarfing effect of the rootstock. Keep the trees well watered all summer and they will start bearing fruit in about 3 to 4 years, depending on the variety.
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