Thursday, July 28, 2011

Thinning Apples and June Drop

I think the last time I spoke about the apple orchard was back in May.  The trees had burst into bloom for approximately two weeks and it was quite a show.  Bees were buzzing and I had a good feeling we would have a nice size harvest once again this year.  Sure enough, as quick as the blooms dropped off the trees, tiny apples began to appear.


It amazes me how quickly they form.  One minute there's a dried up blossom and the next a miniature sized fruit.  The next time you look and the fruit is the size of a golf ball.  As the apples started to grow I realized we needed to get thinning as quick as possible.  It takes no time for the apples to attain a large size and it's easier to remove them when they're small.

When I went to do some thinning I noticed a funny thing.  On the ground below the trees were dozens of tiny apples.
Do you see the tiny green globes hiding in the grass?
Why are the apples falling from the tree?  This event is a natural occurence with apple trees.  The tree in its infinite wisdom will produce copious blooms to attract pollinators and it produces much more fruit than is needed or can be supported.  This ensures that only the best fruit - and therefore seed - is produced.  The inferior excess fruits are dropped by the tree.  This typically happens in June - therefore it's called June Drop. 

Just because the tree has decided to rid itself of apples doesn't mean the work is done though.  In addition to Mother Nature we also thin our apples by hand.  We let the apple grow large enough that you can see any deformities or blemishes that indicate it won't be a good fruit.  We try not to wait too long, as the earlier you thin the apples the more energy is then directed to the remaining apples so they grow nice and big.  Late June and early July was that time for us.  We kept our eyes open for fruits that had spots, were oddly shaped, or were too small.

You can see the apple on the right is significantly smaller than it's buddy

This apple has scab as well as a spot on it.  
These fruits were removed in favour of well formed large apples.  Sometimes perfectly healthy apples were removed as well when there were large clumps growing together.  As the apples grow the fruits can rub and bump against each other causing bruising so creating some growing room is a good idea. 

Another task we accomplished at the same time was to remove some of the leaves.  If you find a nice fruit that is hiding behind a leaf it won't receive the sun to grow well and ripen.  Simply pulling off a leaf or two to expose an apple can help. 

While we attempted to complete the bulk of this work a month ago we have continued to pull less desirable apples off trees as we see them.  There are so many fruits on these big trees and it is easy to miss them the first time around.  The first of the apples will start to ripen in late August and until then we will check and re-check our trees to make sure we have a good healthy crop.

19 comments:

  1. That sounds like a garden chore I would like. Standing up with your face to the sun... No bending over, no tools involved, no heavy lifting.

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  2. Little behind in reading, hope you are feeling better and better. So sorry about Betsy Bear but Alfie is quite handsome.

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  3. What a chore! It sounds like you had your work cut out for you.

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  4. Tending to fruit trees is hard work. One has to be ruthless on the thinning process. I know you will have a full and delicious harvest this fall!

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  5. You are being good stewards of your orchard, and the tending will pay off! You may even have enough to sell to neighbors and locals, and plenty to enjoy yourselves.

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  6. NY is a big apple producer, but I never thought much about the growing. I never noticed the June drop, but always see the workers thinning. The orchards are a lot of work to maintain with spraying and all. But what a joy when it comes time to pick the fruit for eating. Nothing better, not even peach season. In WNY we have festivals for both the apples and the peaches. Always a fun time. Better than that though, is having our own trees. The joy of growing them is worth all the work.

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  7. Great info! I've had people with fruit drop assuming they've got a disease and want a pesticide of some kind for their tree! Last thing the little tree would need!

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  8. Hi Tufa. It is a nicer chore, although if you really want to do the job you have to get the ladder. I'm not crazy about heights so I would rather dig weeds!

    Sage Butterfly - I really love the apple orchard but there's no getting away from the fact that it means work.

    Janet - too true! As I was yanking apples off the tree hubby was saying, don't take so much! I like that tree, go easy on it. LOL. No way, we'll be overloaded with apples if he has his way.

    Laurrie - We're planning a good portion of this year's harvest goes to the Women's Institute pie sale. We still have apples in the freezer from last year!

    Donna, what I wouldn't give for peaches! They are my absolute favourite fruit. Luckily hubby adores apples so the orchard is well watched over by him.

    Aagaard Farms - I've heard of that misinterpretation too. One of the reasons I thought I should write this post. The last thing apples need is more pesticides thrown in their direction.

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  9. I love autumn and the idea of an apple orchard coming into ripeness just ready to be picked for all the delicious fall recipes! You'll see the reward of your work soon!

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  10. I've never grown apples, so this was all new information to me. So interesting!

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  11. Carolyn @ Carolyn's Shade GardensJuly 29, 2011 at 6:39 PM

    I have never had any luck with apple trees in my garden. Probably not enough sun. I do love picking apples in the fall--a family tradition.

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  12. Carolyn @ Carolyn's Shade GardensJuly 29, 2011 at 6:40 PM

    I have never had any luck with apple trees in my garden. Probably not enough sun. I do love picking apples in the fall--a family tradition.

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  13. Are you going to sell the apples? You've worked so hard in this orchard it would be nice to make a profit from it.

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  14. ahh Cat no!!! not fall! LOL, our summer season is so short here I can't bear to think about fall weather coming. Particularly since this summer has been so miserably cold. I need August to really bring on the heat before I can contemplate cold temperatures again.

    Thanks Holley. Fruit trees really are a whole different kind of gardening.

    Carolyn - sun is definitely a huge factor with fruit. One of the reasons we pull some leaves off is how much difference a little sunlight can make to ripening an apple.

    TS - no profits right now. These trees and the apples they produce really aren't in top condition. Good for baking or sauce but there's a lot of picking through that gets done. Maybe in a few years with some TLC that will change but last year we gave away as many as we could and will do the same this year.

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  15. Marguerite, I am sure that all your hard work will pay off in the fall when you harvest your apples. Apple jelly, apple sauce, apple pie, apple crumble! I am sure there will be lots of delicious things to do with your harvest!

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  16. this reminds me a bit of when I was a child and stayed with my cousins in Kent, as I love the country and we lived so close to London I used to stay at my aunts for part of the summer hols, my aunt and the other women/wives used to work these jobs, children used to go along playing around the orchards big ones taking care of the little ones while parents worked, happy memories,

    love your bouquet in the next post, Frances

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  17. Jennifer - you're right. there are many delicious, and fattening! things to do with apples. My favourite by far is apple cider.

    Frances - I'm continually surprised by how many people have wonderful memories like yours of playing in orchards as children. There was a time it seems where orchards were quite common. It's sad that orchards now are so commercial and few kitchen orchards remain.

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  18. Marguerite, my aunt lived in Kent the very south east corner of England, the county's nick name is the fruit garden of England, my uncle was the fruit farm manager, as well as the trips I mentioned my cousin's and I played in the orchards near the house and I remember the shock I got the first time I saw my cousins pick an apple and eat it, soon joined in though, my eldest cousin stayed with us near London, when she went home she told her mum in shock that aunt Chris bought apples! there were lots of benefits to country life that city/town people didn't have, Frances

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  19. Michael just found our second apple tree, there may be more hiding about the place too. However there is a birch tree winding its way around the apple tree causing it some distress so I must get out my saw again.
    (I'm smiling...I love using my saw!:)

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