Garden Guide: Fresh fruit for autumn
Nothing says autumn like fresh apples, and our climate is perfect for these beautiful trees. Apple trees are not difficult to grow in the home garden, but there are a few things to keep in mind.
How to plant an apple tree
Apple trees produce beautiful blooms in the spring, but those flowers only become fruit if they are pollinated correctly. Some fruit trees are self-pollinating, which means they will produce fruit when they receive pollen from their own tree. Unfortunately, this is not the case for most apple trees. It is a good excuse to try out two (or more) different types of apples, but make sure that the trees bloom at the same time. Some varieties bloom earlier than others, and the flowers on both trees must be open at the same time for pollination to be successful. Apples are a popular tree in the tristate area, so sometimes gardeners can get fruit even if only one type of apple tree is on their property.
How apple trees grow
Apple trees have two growth habits. Are you looking for apples that grow in smaller spaces and require less pruning? Try a spur apple variety. Spur refers to the stubby “mini branches” along the stems. This houses all the flowers and eventually the fruits.
Apple trees can be planted any time of the year, but late summer or early spring is the best time. It’s best to buy these plants from nurseries, because these trees do not grow “true” from seed. An apple tree started from a pit from a grocery store fruit will take years to bloom and there’s no way to guarantee that fruit would be tasty.
How to pick the best apple fruits
It’s hard to tell if an apple is ripe based on only color, but when apple season arrives, the most reliable way to pick the ripe ones is to give it a light tug. Apples are a climacteric fruit, which means they continue to ripen after they are picked. If the fruit were picked too early, they could still sweeten up after a week on the counter.
This method only works during the time of the year the fruit is in season (September and October) . Some unripe fruit drop off during the summer when the tree doesn’t have enough energy to finish ripening them.
For gardeners looking for a more unusual autumn fruit for the garden, persimmon is a fantastic choice. Like apple trees, it is best to buy these from nurseries selling known cultivars, because when they are grown by seed, it’s possible to get a male plant that is not capable of fruiting.
There are hundreds of different varieties of Persimmons. Some are variants from our native, American Persimmon trees (Diospyros virginiana), and others are Japanese Persimmons (Diospyros kaki). The main difference is the Japanese Persimmons have larger fruit a longer shelf life, but both fruits are delicious.
A ripe persimmon fruit has a very sweet, caramel-flavor, but some varieties are astringent when the fruit is unripe. Astringent fruit gives a very unpleasant tingling sensation to your mouth, but it is otherwise harmless.