Editor’s note: The University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension provides weekly gardening columns in which Jeremy DeLisle answers questions from local gardeners.
Here in New Hampshire, the time is ripe to enjoy a fall tradition: the bountiful apple harvest. Varieties like Paula Red and Gravenstein have been coming in since late August and early September, followed by McIntosh, Cortland, Macoun, Gala, Honeycrisp Red and Golden Delicious, Empire, Baldwin, Northern Spy, and Mutsu. The harvest continues throughout the month of October and into November for varieties including Baldwin, Fuji, Rome, and Granny Smith.
The drought this season has been challenging for farmers to say the least, and as consumers there is no better time than now to show our support for local producers. Together we can help our local farms finish up the season on a high note by getting out there and buying locally.
Pick-your-own (PYO) orchards are great places to build family memories and collect healthy food for your table. The New Hampshire Fruit Growers Association lists pick-your-own orchards on their website and the New England Apple Association allows folks to find local picking options, search for your favorite variety, find recipes, and learn about apple history.
Apples: ambassadors to the world
When it comes to a good story, apples play a central role in quite a few. We have all heard the story of Johnny Appleseed and his campaign to plant apple trees far and wide. How many of us realize that most of those apples were never intended for fresh eating, but rather were destined for the cider press?
The variety known as Newtown Pippin, which originated in the village of Newtown on Long Island, N.Y., played a role in international relations. Touted for its flavor by Benjamin Franklin and George Washington, a basket of Newtown Pippins was given to Queen Victoria in 1838. Shortly thereafter, the British Parliament lifted duties on the variety until World War II and, as a result, this apple became an important export during that time.
The apple traces its origins to Kazakhstan and the area between the Caspian and Black Seas, and it is fascinating to imagine entire forests composed of the genetic combinations from which all of our current apple varieties have been derived. Today, about 2,500 varieties are grown in the United States, and 100 of those are available commercially.
Question of the Week
“I want to plant an apple tree, but our lot is really small. Are there options?” — Dave K, Exeter, N.H.
Dwarf apple trees are a great option for homeowners with little growing space. Dwarf trees only reach a mature height of 6 to 8 feet tall and can be planted at a spacing of just 8 to 10 feet between plants. Apple rootstocks, which serve as the base for grafted trees, are typically categorized into three groups from smallest to largest. Those groups include dwarfing rootstock, semi-dwarf, and standard.
Dwarfing rootstock will result in trees that produce fruit quicker, often in just three to four years. The UNH Cooperative Extension publication entitled Dwarf Rootstocks for Apple Trees in the Home Garden provides more information. In New England, some good disease-resistant varieties are Redfree, Crimson Crisp, Liberty, and Freedom. For additional varietal suggestions, the publication Tree Fruit Varieties for New Hampshire Gardens will provide reliable information.
Jeremy DeLisle is the program coordinator for the UNH Cooperative Extension Education Center. The center answers questions about gardening and more at email@example.com, or by calling 877-398-4769 Monday through Friday, between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m.