Tips to Make Your Apple Harvest Easier

The secret to success lies in being prepared.

picking apples

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I have six different apple trees in my small forest garden. This means a lot of apples to harvest each year. Even a single tree can provide quite a bounty of apples on a good year, so it is important to do whatever you can to make your harvest easier.

I've learned from experience. The first year I lived here, I have to confess that the apple harvest seemed exciting, but rather overwhelming. It took me a while to harvest and process all the apples, and I was tired by the end of it. The size of the harvest varies from year to year, but I've developed strategies to ensure it goes smoothly.

Now apple harvesting is no longer a chore, but something I look forward to each year. It still takes work, of course, but I am prepared and have tools and strategies in place to make things easier. Here's my advice for you.

Understand What Apples You Are Growing

First, it is important to make sure that you know what kind of apples you are growing, as there's a huge range of varieties. Some are best for eating fresh, some are best for cooking, and others make excellent cider apples. Some store well, while others bruise easily and should be eaten more quickly. 

Apples ripen at different times, so it is helpful to know when your harvest should take place. This will vary a little with conditions from year to year, but having a rough idea of when you will be harvesting allows you to prepare. My apple tree harvest starts in September and goes through to the end of October. But with some varieties, you might be harvesting in August or as late as November. 

Decide How to Use Apples Before You Harvest 

Understanding which variety you're growing will help you determine the best ways to use and store the fruit. Over time, I have developed my favorite ways to use apples from the forest garden—and in finding these recipes and ideas, I'm now much more ready and prepared for the harvest because I already have everything I need on hand before it begins. 

Prepare Storage Areas and Required Equipment

I've realized that some pieces of equipment are crucial for the apple harvest. A kitchen juicer is not really up to the task of juicing a lot of apples, and chopping and mashing them takes a lot of work, so I bought a metal hand-cranked macerator and a simple wood-and-metal fruit press, both of which have made the process a whole lot easier.

Things will also go more smoothly if you prepare a suitable storage area and have easy access to any other things you will need, such as a canner and canning jars. 

Consider Investing in a Fruit Picker

When it comes to the actual harvest, I use a fruit picker to pick the apples from my mature trees. The first year I was here, I used a ladder, but the fruit picker makes things so much quicker and easier. It has a picker with an extendable pole that can reach apples even from the very top of the trees. 

Enlist Friends or Family for the Harvest

One final tip that I would like to share is very simple: Many hands make light work. If you have a lot of apples to harvest, consider inviting some family or friends and have an apple-picking party—then share your harvest, of course. Cooperation is key when trying to live in a more sustainable way. And when you make a party out of the harvest and preparation, the whole process can be a lot more fun. 

These tips may sound basic and obvious, but sometimes thinking about the simple things is all that's required to make your apple harvest easier, and to make sure you do not waste a single one of the beautiful, delicious apples you grow.