Apples

Fall is a great time of the year. It can be bittersweet, though, because it often signals the end of our growing season. The good thing is that this is also the time of the year to go pick apples.

Harvest

Each different variety of apple differs for their harvest time. To determine the harvest time for the apple, knowing the variety will help you. In fall, a common question from gardeners with a favorite apple or pear tree is for identification of the cultivar from the color and shape of the fruit. This almost impossible to do, in fact, it’s really only realistic to give a general idea of possible cultivars. So, if you don’t know the variety, you can look at the color, flavor, and texture of the apple.

To know a mature apple, look at the “ground color”, which is the color of an apple’s skin disregarding any areas of red. For red-fruited cultivars, observe the portion of the apple that faces the interior of the tree. When the ground color turns from leaf green to yellowish green or creamy yellow, the apples are ready to harvest. In yellow cultivars the ground color will become a golden color when they are ready to harvest. You can also taste one to ensure that it is the correct sweetness and make sure it is firm and not overripe and soft. Overripe apples will detach from the tree more easily than those that are at the correct stage of ripeness. If the apple is too ripe, it will break down in storage more quickly than those that are at the peak of their maturity.

Storage

For storage it is best to pick apples when they are still hard but mature. Place the apples in a box or crate with a smooth lining so that staples don’t puncture or injure the apple. They can be stored in boxes or crates lined with plastic or foil to retain humidity around the apples. They should be stored in the fridge or other location where they are kept at temperatures around 32 degrees Fahrenheit, an apple stored too warm will ripen faster.

Remove bruised and large apples that will break down more quickly than the rest of the apples. Apples produce ethylene gas, even after they are removed from the tree, which speeds up the ripening process in fruits, including apples that are stored together. A damaged apple will produce more ethylene than other apples. Damaged and large apples should be eaten or processed first and not stored like the other apples.

Tree Selection

Fall is also a great time to plant a tree. If you are reading this article thinking you should plant an apple tree so you can start to have your own apples to harvest, there are some great choices. One thing to remember when choosing an apple tree for your landscape is to get a variety that is resistant to cedar-apple rust and apple scab. These 2 diseases are very problematic for apple trees in Nebraska and require spraying multiple times throughout the growing season to combat. There are also some varieties that are resistant to fire blight which can also be very damaging to your apple crop and would be a good trait to look for in your future apple trees.

Some good apple tree choices include Liberty, Enterprise, and Freedom which all have good disease resistance for the most common diseases. Enterprise is self-unfruitful and therefore does require a pollinator tree be planted nearby when planting Enterprise. Honeycrisp is a delicious apple that many people want to plant. However, it is susceptible to cedar-apple rust and powdery mildew so you would need to spray for those diseases. It is moderately resistant to apple scab and resistant to fire blight. Honeycrisp is also only moderately strong for tree growth, so it could break more in storms.

*The information on Harvest and Storage came from Sarah Browning, Nebraska Extension Educator in Lancaster County.

Fall is a time for Apples and Garlic

Fall is a great time of the year. It can be bittersweet, though, because it often signals the end of our growing season. The good thing is that this is also the time of the year to go pick apples. It is apple month, for tips and recipes on apples, visit the Nebraska Extension October food calendar.

Each different variety of apple differs for their harvest time. To determine the harvest time for the apple, knowing the variety will help you. In fall, a common question from gardeners with a favorite apple or pear tree is for identification of the cultivar from the color and shape of the fruit. This almost impossible to do, in fact, it’s really only realistic to give a general idea of possible cultivars. So, if you don’t know the variety, you can look at the color, flavor, and texture of the apple.

apples-A. Henneman flickr
Flickr image courtesy of Alice Henneman per CC license

To know a mature apple, look at the “ground color”, which is the color of an apple’s skin disregarding any areas of red. You can also try one to ensure that it is the correct sweetness and make sure it is firm and not overripe and soft. Overripe apples will detach from the tree more easily than those that are at the correct stage of ripeness. If the apple is too ripe, it will break down in storage more quickly than those that are at the peak of their maturity.

For storage it is best to pick apples when they are still hard but mature. Place the apples in a box or crate with a smooth lining so that staples don’t puncture or injure the apple. These boxes or crates should be lined with plastic or foil to retain humidity around the apples. Remove bruised and large apples that will break down more quickly than the rest of the apples. Apples produce ethylene gas, even after they are removed from the tree, which speeds up the ripening process in fruits. A damaged apple will produce more ethylene than other apples. Apples should be stored in the fridge or other location where they are kept at temperatures around 32 degrees Fahrenheit, an apple stored too warm will ripen faster.

Fall is also a great time to plant garlic. I love Italian food, so therefore I am a huge fan of fresh garlic. Garlic is best planted from mid-September through mid-October, one month before the soil freezes. The bulbs planted in the fall will root and begin to sprout before going dormant for the winter. Next spring, these bulbs will continue to grow until harvest in the summer months.

garlic-olga-filonenko-flickr
Flickr image courtesy of Olga Filonenko per CC license.

To grow garlic, plant small cloves for each plant you want. The clove is obtained from the division of the large bulb. Planting larger cloves will lead to larger bulbs for harvest next year. Wait until just before you begin planting to divide the bulb into the individual cloves. Plant the cloves 3-5 inches apart, 1-2 inches deep with the point upward in the soil. If you are planting multiple rows, the rows need to be 18-30 inches apart. Before completing your gardening tasks this fall, remember to mulch the planted garlic with 8-12 inches of straw after the soil freezes.

The apple information from this article came from an article written by Mary Jane Frogge, Extension Associate from Lancaster County Extension. The garlic information from this article came from the e-Hort Update at hortupdate.unl.edu which is a newsletter you can sign up for to get more horticulture information throughout the year.

Winterizing Garden Equipment

2014-11-15 10.12.15

With fall here and winter on its way, we need to begin cleaning up our gardens. Fall cleanup does not end in the garden, for longevity of our gardening equipment, we need to clean it up and prepare it for winter months as well. If we take the time to cleanup our equipment and store it in the best locations, our tools can be an investment to help us in the garden for many years.

100_0852The first step is to clean up your vegetable gardens when you are done with them for the year. Remove tomato cages and clean them up for storage in a garage or shed to help them last for multiple years. Remove all plants and compost them or put them in the trash if they had problems with insects or diseases this year. Till up your garden this fall and incorporate manure or compost to help with organic matter next year. After tilling, cover the bare soil with some type of mulch to avoid wind erosion of topsoil, grass clippings or straw will work well for this and it can be tilled into the soil next spring.

When completed with hoses for the year, be sure to drain them of any water. Then coil the hose and hang it on a hook or in a hose reel station for the winter months. You can always get the hoses back out during the winter on warm days to water trees and shrubs if the winter is dry, just be sure to drain them when done watering in the winter months.

Flickr image courtesy of Jennifer C. per CC license
Flickr image courtesy of Jennifer C. per CC license

When finished using any tools, be sure to clean all debris off of them. Scrape off caked on mud with a wire brush or steel wool. Sharpen pruning tools so they are ready to go next spring. Apply a light coat of an oil to prevent any rusting from occurring. These tools are best kept in a garage or a shed and out of the harsh winter elements to help them last longer.

For sprayers used during the season, the best cleanup would be a triple rinse. Rinse out the sprayers three times with water to remove any pesticide residue from the container. It may also be a good idea to clean nozzles and screens with soapy water. If the pesticide sits in those nozzles over the winter it will be difficult to clean them out next spring so that the equipment may be used again.

*Reference to commercial products or trade names is made with the understanding that no discrimination is intended of those not mentioned and no endorsement by University of Nebraska–Lincoln Extension is implied for those mentioned.
*Reference to commercial products or trade names is made with the understanding that no discrimination is intended of those not mentioned and no endorsement by University of Nebraska–Lincoln Extension is implied for those mentioned.

Pesticides and fertilizers can be stored for future use. Store all pesticides in their original containers with the label still attached. Store them in a cool, dry location where they won’t freeze, as this can be harmful for the product and the container. Do not allow granules or other dry pesticides to get wet.

As for power equipment, be sure to follow instruction manuals on care and servicing requirements. As a general rule, clean out grass clippings and other debris from underneath the lawnmower deck and clean all caked on mud from the tiller prior to winter storage. Also, sharpen lawnmower blades and check to see if the air filter needs to be changed at this time so they are ready to start mowing next spring. Be sure to turn off the equipment and disconnect the battery prior to any work done to avoid injury or other accidents. It is best not to store gasoline through the winter as it does not ignite easily making those machines work harder to use it.