|Why are those apples on the ground in August?|
It's been a funny summer, hot and desperately dry. Was it possible the apples had actually matured earlier than normal and were dropping off due to ripeness?
|These apples are bright red and LOOK ripe|
If you take a close look at the photo above you'll note some issues. This apple is small and lumpy with odd blackish streaks on the skin. Others were mishapen.
So why are almost full size unripened apples falling right before harvest time? and why do they look so deformed?
I had a suspicion but I needed to check the internet first to be sure. I have noticed other plants, most obviously the dahlias, were not producing flowers this year. The only difference from other years is lack of water.
And sure enough the internet confirmed my instincts.
Apple trees often drop their fruit in June (see my post on June Drop), dropping any excess fruit the tree cannot support throughout the season. Back in June this year things were proceeding along quickly but normally. The trees had bloomed in May and by June fruit was forming. The weather was warm but there was still some rain in the forecasts.
|Blooms in May|
What has happened to our flowering plants and our apple trees is that flowers and fruit require water to form. In the case of fruit it requires a lot of water. When you bite into an apple what is it you first taste? Juice. Juice that is derived from water. But plants also require water in order to survive. Similar to June Drop, the trees have chosen to keep water sources to save themselves and are dropping fruit they cannot support.
|Cleaning up the fallen fruit|
As for those small, awkward looking, lumpy apples. I discovered that orchardists check fruit circumference and condition throughout the season as a measurement of water stress. Had I bothered to look earlier I would have noticed this as a clear indicator of water stress. Something for me to note in future years.