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Garden Guru

An apple a day

Jim Boxberger Jr.
Posted 9/30/22

It is apple season and they seem to be everywhere this time of year. Many trees are ready for picking and they are loaded this year. Mother Nature is providing for her flock for the winter with a …

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Garden Guru

An apple a day


It is apple season and they seem to be everywhere this time of year. Many trees are ready for picking and they are loaded this year. Mother Nature is providing for her flock for the winter with a bountiful harvest, even the wild apples along the roadsides throughout the area are full of fresh fruit. Of course wild apples tend to be a little smaller, but that is only because no one fertilizes or prunes them. Wild apples might be a little more tart than their domestic cousins but they are just as edible and great for making cider or apple sauce. But if you are looking for a sweeter apple there are plenty to choose from like Gala, Honeycrisp, Fuji and Red Delicious available at farmer's markets and at the grocery store. 

Unlike apples at other times of the year at grocery stores, this time of year the apples all tend to be local or at least grown in the northeast. This is the best time of the year to enjoy almost every apple. I say almost because some apples won't be ready until late-October to mid-November.  Apples like Goldrush, Aztec Fuji and Granny Smith are some of the latest ripening varieties here in the northeast. Goldrush is a fairly recent cultivar introduced back in 2007 in western Australia.  Aztec Fuji originated in New Zealand almost 50 years ago and has gained considerable popularity in the U.S. And everyone’s favorite, Granny Smith apples were first introduced in Australia all the way back in the 1860s. 

There are hundreds of apple varieties available for every taste and purpose, you just need to find them. Whether looking for a tree or just a bushel to take home, do your research because different apples serve different purposes. Northern Spy apples are great for cooking and cider as they are juicy and tart. Northern Spy apples were first introduced right here in New York around 1800 and quickly became very popular in the boarding house areas of New York like Sullivan County because of their long storage life. 

Before the age of modern refrigeration fruits and vegetables that stored well quickly became popular. The oldest apple here in the United States is the Roxbury Russet, circa 1640. The first tree was a chance seedling grown in Roxbury, Massachusetts, now a neighborhood of Boston, planted by Pilgrim Fathers as foundation stock for the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Still available in New England farmers’ markets, but not available locally that I have seen. 

Apples, because of their many uses – from eating and cider to pies, tarts, turnovers and fritters – quickly spread in popularity across America as settlers headed west. John Chapman, who was known as Johnny Appleseed, was an American pioneer nurseryman who introduced apple trees to large parts of Pennsylvania, Ontario, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, as well as the northern counties of present-day West Virginia. He became an American legend while still alive, due to his kind, generous ways and his leadership in conservation. John brought and taught apple growing and conservation to all who would listen as he lead a nomadic lifestyle through the northeast and midwest. You could say he was one of the first hippies. Back in the day, apples were a staple crop on almost every homestead, not only for their bountiful harvest in the fall but also because they attracted deer which was a significant meat supply in the early 1800s. 

Back here in Sullivan County what you need to know is that apples are easy to grow, just keep young, small trees fenced in so that the deer don't chew them down. Once the trees get above eight feet you are pretty safe from the deer, just wrap the trunk for the winter so that rodents do not chew the bark. 

Cross pollination is necessary but not a problem because of all the wild apple trees around the county, you need another apple tree within a mile for good cross pollination and you cannot go a mile in Sullivan County without seeing a wild or domestic apple tree. 

Fall is a good time to fertilize your fruit trees with a high phosphorus fertilizer for a higher yield next year. Phosphorus is the middle number on all standardized fertilizer packaging and you want that number to be the largest number. 

If you have older apple trees that are not producing like they used to, try pruning this fall. Prune trees after the last leaf falls to shape the tree the way you want it or if it is an old scraggly tree, cut up to one third of the tree down. This will cut your harvest for a year or two, but in the long run it will revitalize the tree and produce more fruit. 

Most importantly, enjoy the bounty of fresh apples, now and for months to come.


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