Apple trees can make a great addition to gardens, not only for the beautiful blossoms in spring, but for the fruit in autumn.
When the branches of your apple trees are heavy with their bounty, it's time to climb the ladder and lighten their load. Rather than ripping apples from the branches, lift and twist them. The stems should break away from the branches, leaving the foliage intact.
If you're uncomfortable on a ladder, use a fruit picker. You can find one at home and garden stores. Apples will end up with less damage if you use a cloth bag to catch them.
Before planting apple trees, do your homework. Ohio State University experts recommend growing cultivars that are resistant to apple scab, cedar apple rust, and fire blight.
Full sun and sandy clay soil are ideal. Plant the trees in March or April in a spot with good drainage.
Cultivars recommended by Ohio State University for home orchards include Jonafree, Goldrush, Enterprise, Williams' Pride, Redfree, and Liberty.
Bob MacQueen, owner of MacQueen's Orchard near Holland, is a commercial orchardist who grows many varieties. “People buy with their eyes, not the taste,” he says. “Most people buy a shiny red apple, but it may not be the one that tastes the best.
“Red Delicious used to be the most popular apple,” Mr. MacQueen says. “Today it is sliding down the list. Gala and Honeycrisp are pretty popular right now.”
Mr. MacQueen grows 250 acres of apples and 20 acres of peaches in his orchard. Honeycrisp will be a new variety for his orchard next year. “It's a sweet, crunchy apple. We will plant 1,500 trees in April. Eventually we'll plant 4,000 of them.”
What is his favorite apple? “Melrose. It is a cross between a Jonathan and Delicious. It is a good eating and cooking apple. You can't beat it for the flavor. It is a big apple with rusty half-color skin. It is what I call a spicy apple. But people won't pick it because it isn't red.”
Don't let your apples sit out on the counter unless you plan to eat them soon. "Apples should be refrigerated,” Mr. MacQueen says. “They like it between 35 and 40 degrees.” Garages and basements usually aren't cool enough. “I tell people to put your apples in the refrigerator and take the lettuce and milk out and stick THEM in the garage,” Mr. MacQueen says.
“Temperature change is what spoils an apple - cold to hot to cold to hot,” he says. Apples also need moisture. Mr. MacQueen keeps the moisture level in the orchard's storage coolers high. “We keep the floor wet so the air will stay moist.”
A lack of moisture causes apples to shrivel, and refrigerators can pull moisture out of the fruit. To help apples retain moisture in the refrigerator, store them in a perforated plastic bag.