It’s September, and apple season is getting into full swing. On my northern Wisconsin farm, I’m already enjoying fresh apples, applesauce and apple cake. It’s a glorious time of year.
Are the apples on your trees starting to ripen? Apples can ripen fast at this time of year, going from sour to sweet in a short amount of time, so it’s wise to prepare for the harvest before the first picking day arrives.
Here are four steps to prepare for a successful (and hopefully bountiful) apple-harvesting season.
1. Gather & clean your harvesting equipment.
When the apples are ready, you should be ready. You don’t want to be caught unprepared, scurrying to find your equipment in the hours before an autumn thunderstorm with 50mph winds rolls through and blows your fruit crop to the ground.
Hopefully you have one or two “apple pickers” for harvesting out-of-reach apples. They’re probably dusty from storage, so clean them up before putting them to use. The same goes for apple baskets.
And if you’re going to go on apple-harvesting hayrides, have your hay wagon cleaned and ready. You don’t want anyone slipping on loose hay left behind from baling season.
2. Haul out your orchard ladder.
Maybe your orchard ladder is handy in your garage from pruning apple trees in late winter. If so, congratulations for being on the ball.
But if your orchard ladder is stuffed in the back of a shed, untouched since last harvesting season, now’s the time to dig it out. Don’t cut corners and grab the household stepladder, because the wide base and three-legged design of an orchard ladder makes it sturdier over uneven ground and perfect for harvesting apples.
3. Learn to pick apples the correct way.
Picking apples correctly is something of a science. While it’s picturesque when an apple comes off with a bit of twig and some leaves, that “bit of twig” is a fruit-producing spur branch. When you break off a spur branch, you’re removing a location for future fruit production.
If you’re wondering about the best way to pick apples without damaging the spur branches, check out our explainer article and video.
4. Prepare your storage locations.
During harvesting season, you want to say, “I have more apples than I know what to do with”—but only if you’re referring to a bountiful harvest and not a lack of storage space. While many factors influence how long apples last in storage, you can generally expect them to last for several weeks in a refrigerator and for several months in a freezer. This definitely beats the week (or less) they’ll last sitting out on your countertop.
That’s why it’s important to make sure you have suitable cold storage space before you harvest apples. In a perfect world, you would have a large freezer dedicated to the long-term storage of your harvest. But at the very least, you should clear enough space in your regular refrigerator and/or freezer to hold a few dozen apples at a time for cooking and fresh eating.
By getting a head start preparing for apple season, you’ll be ready to maximize your harvest and enjoy delicious fruit for weeks or months to come. Enjoy your apples!