HARVEST THE APPLES
October is usually the busy month for apple harvesting, though this year the cool summer has delayed ripening by a few weeks. My first Oslins, the Arbroath Pippin, were picked at the end of August, but were not truly ripe till early September. Although this apple has a distinct flavour it is very prone to brown rot and in this cool year with a wet August losses have been very high.
Apples like all other fruit need warm sunny days to increase sweetness so it is understandable that apples, pears and most other fruits have lacked the sweetness of previous years.
|Catherine picking her step over apples|
My main early apple Discovery was picked in mid October, a good month later than previous years. The crop yield with this and all other apples has been very high, but I fear at the expense of flavour. Apples came into flower quite late so there were plenty of bees around for pollination, then good weather for fertilisation. The spring and summer season gave us cool but moist weather so growth was slow, but apples and pears all swelled up larger than normal. A week of brilliant summer weather at the end of September certainly helped to ripen up the fruit, but then it was very short lived as we returned to a cold and wet October. This mixture of warm dry weather followed by cold and wet affected the Discovery apples by causing the skin to split on a few before I got them harvested. As yet my Fiesta, Red Falstaff and Red Devil are still on the tree, but will be picked before the end of this month.
|Apple Red Devil|
This years heavy crop came in for some thinning in July, both naturally then by hand where ever I thought the crop was too heavy. However as the fruit swelled the trees have continued to drop apples all October but before they were fully ripe. This harvest was not lost as Anna has got herself a juicer and now everything she can get her hands on gets juiced. Apples, pears, carrots, beetroot, Lettuce, chard, kale and tomatoes have all gone through the juicer. Never thought I would be drinking my lettuce and kale, and it tastes just fine. It can be stored fresh in the fridge for a couple of days, but all surplus gets frozen for future use.
We lead a very healthy life!!!
Bramley apples can hang a long time on the tree so it is usually early November before I pick my cookers. Again the crop is very heavy so there is plenty to store into next spring. I pack all fruit in boxes placed in my cold garage, but keep a check for any rots, or shrivelling or mice.
Once all my apples are picked, cleaned and sorted I can see just how much surplus I have so I can allocate a fair bit for brewing into my Sauternes style dessert apple wine. I will need 30 pounds of apples for three demijohns of wine, which will be ready in a couple of year’s time.
|Starlight apple Firedance|
Plant an apple tree now
We get so much value from our apple trees that I feel everyone with a wee garden or plot should plant at least one apple tree. Now is the time to plan which variety you wish to grow and garden space will determine what size of tree to purchase. There is a size and shape to suit all situations, from standards, bush, fan trained, cordons, espaliers and now for those with very limited space we have the step over tree growing only a few feet tall but kept small with summer pruning. Another development has been the introduction of the single stemmed Starline apple trees coming in five different varieties. These dwarf trees are kept narrow and columnar by summer pruning all side shoots to a couple of buds. They are ideal for those with very limited space but wish to grow a few varieties, which also helps with cross pollination. I like the bright red Starline variety Firedance.
Wee jobs to do this week
Now that the tomato crops are just about finished, it is better to remove all ripe and unripe fruits which can be ripened in a warm place indoors. Remove the old plants and chop up for the compost heap. Growbags or border soil can still be used for an early winter salad crop of salad leaves, mizuna, cress, rocket, mustard and radish.