Saturday, March 3, 2012

Tools for Apple Picking

As mentioned earlier, I never have time during apple season to write about apples but now in the dead of winter I am catching up on 'apple posts'.

One of the big questions when the apples ripen in the fall is how to get our hands on them and get them into the house.  After two seasons in the orchard we have now collected an assortment of tools to help with the apple harvest.

A trusty ladder or two is an absolute must with these old heritage trees.  Unlike new varieties that are grafted on to much smaller rootstock these old trees can grow up to heights of 30 feet and much of the best fruit is located in the sun right at the very top.


We have two different ladders which you can see above.  One obviously is rather small at 6 feet high but the benefits are you can easily carry it around and the red colour means you never forget where you put it last!  Not all fruit is located at the very top of the trees either so having a mid-sized ladder helps to access fruit lower down on a tree.

The second ladder is 17 feet when fully extended and has the benefit of a wide base which is very sturdy, and a very narrow top, which fits easily between branches.  Although it can be difficult to maneuver into place sometimes the benefits definitely outweigh the negatives.  This ladder does not tip easily and allows you to squeeze into spots that would otherwise be inaccessible.

You can clearly see how wide the base is compared to the top
Even a large ladder sometimes isn't even large enough though.  Standing on top of a 17 foot ladder means you still only reach around 22 or 23 feet.  If the tree is 30 feet tall there's still 7 feet of fruit you can't reach.

In cases like that our handiest tool is the apple picker


This very simple tool consists of metal 'fingers' that grab at the fruit pulling it into a cotton bag.  By mounting it on a long pole you can increase your fruit picking reach by several feet.  


As you can see in the above photo the picker allows me to reach up to almost double my height.  By standing on a ladder and using this picker we are able to reach fruit right around the tops of the trees.

Also important when picking apples is having a place to store them while working.  Having a bag that you can hang around your neck or across your chest is absolutely necessary, especially if you're high up on a ladder.



We use a variety of old shoulder bags or the green mesh bag in the photo above for this purpose.

And then when the bags are full we end up using every available bin to hold apples for sorting and storing.

Trugs are one of my favourite garden bins

What do you use an old wooden apple box for?  Apples of course!


24 comments:

  1. Jodi won't forget where you are either in that bright red sweater!! Retrieving all that fruit is just step one - you must be incredibly busy after harvesting too - do they keep well over the winter? How do you store them?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Unfortunately most of these apples are not good keepers and we haven't been able to figure out a good place to store them either. The garage is too cold and the basement too warm. Instead we cut up and froze as many as we could, baked pies and gave away apples to as many people would take them.

      Delete
  2. I can't imagine using a long pole like that on top of a 17 foot ladder. I get tipsy writing about it!

    What is the haul? Have you calculated how many pounds (tons?) of apples you harvest? And what do you do with them? I'm looking forward to more posts about the harvest!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jody is much better on the ladder than I am, I get nervous just climbing up half way! No idea what we take in. This year we must have given away at least a dozen large boxes but that was just from one tree (our most reliable one with the least problems). Unfortunately many of them simply go into the compost as they as in poor condition or aren't particularly good tasting.

      Delete
  3. Your trees are big. Up here we have all the short apple trees. I remember going to my aunt's house when I was little and she had a large apple tree which we climbed. Fondest memories. That tree was so important to my childhood.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I kinda love the look of these old trees, they have so much character with their craggy twisted limbs. Perfect for climbing :) I can imagine how much fun you would have had.

      Delete
  4. Boy this looks like a lot of work!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jess, that was the part I forgot to mention. It is an insane amount of work. Had I known how much time would be spent dealing with these trees I would not have been so keen when I first saw them.

      Delete
  5. My grandmother had a picker like yours, though hers was all metal wire..a basket instead of a bag. Boy, picking the high apples is kind of scary. Glad that one ladder is good and sturdy.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can certainly see why trees are bred to be much shorter now. It's so frustrating to see perfect apples way up at the top and completely out of reach.

      Delete
  6. Marguerite girl !
    I think we have the very same ladders as you do ! Now how funny is that .. I love my red ladder because I can find that RED so easily (I lose my pruners all the time .. arggh !) .. and the taller ladder we bought because we know at some time we will need it .. big sigh!
    The extended picker is fantastic .. I think our neighbor's with their VERY tall pear tree would love that! .. I have a tub trug too and love it .. that old apple box is beautiful !
    This was a great apple picking post ! : )
    Joy

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. hmmm, do you shop at Canadian Tire too? LOL. One of the reasons I love felco pruners is the red handle. The picker was one of our best buys toolwise as it was cheap and we use it constantly in the fall. That big ladder was a tough buy, very expensive, but with such a large house it was absolutely necessary as we've used it to change light fixtures, clean gutters, fix the roof, and pick apples.

      Delete
  7. interesting but take care on those ladders, the apple picker sounds a real help, Frances

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. one thing I've learned is don't pick apples on a windy day! which as you know it's hard to find a day without wind here. but when the wind comes up and you're high up on a ladder it gets more than a little precarious.

      Delete
  8. I'd have to stay on terra firms with the pole. I'd fall over in a second on the ladder. I love anything baked with apples. Your post is making me hungry!! Too bad you couldn't drive a cherry picker into the orchard. That would be the easiest way to pick! ;o)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Tammy that's what my parents used to do! They had several old apple trees and my mom would go up in the bucket of a caterpillar tractor my dad had. A rather unusual but fairly safe way to pick apples. I should ask my parents if they can scan a photo and send it to me to share.

      Delete
  9. Wow, that looks like work. Is there no way to trim back the apple trees to lower them? I know once they have been let to grow it can be a pain and may be dangerous for the trees, not to mention making them look a bit odd.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Cat, I think you can trim them back over a period of years but reducing the height would be rather difficult for the reasons you mention. I actually love the height of the trees as they block our neighbours and create a nice privacy barrier, it just makes picking difficult.

      Delete
  10. I could just smell the apple orchard as I was reading this. I can't think of a nicer fall chore than harvesting apples. (We used to try to help at my grandparent's but I'm sure we were more spectators than anything.) :)

    Love the apple box btw!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I bought several of those apple boxes at an auction and they've come in quite handy. Funny but I bought them for other reasons, I never thought about the fact that they would end up storing apples!

      Delete
  11. Love that apple picker. My apple pickers are pretty tall (horses) but the trees are too big, even for them. I have some cute pictures of them up on their hind legs stretching to grab the last of the apple harvest on the tallest branches. PS: I meme'd you... :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've never seen a horse do that but at my parents old house the deer would try and get up on their back legs to eat the fruit. Such a funny sight.

      Delete
  12. I really like your apple picker. I do not have an apple tree, but I have thought of adding one to the garden. I would probably have to add a dwarf or start against a wall and espalier the apple tree or trees. You described so perfectly all the tools necessary for apple picking. It seems like a huge job, but it must be nice to pick your own apples.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There are so many ways for people with small gardens to have fruit trees now, it's amazing how much things have changed. With our big trees it is definitely a far larger job and much riskier trying to get up high and prune or pick fruit.

      Delete