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In Your Garden: All about apples

This year, apple development is about two weeks later than usual. We usually can start picking early apples in late July and keep picking one of the more than one-hundred varieties of apples grown in Minnesota until late October. Honeycrisp is ripe now as are Beacon and State Fair. Later Red Baron and Wealthy will be ready. Even later, look for McIntosh, Sweet Sixteen, Honeygold, Haralson and Regent to ripen. Each variety has its own special flavor and texture.

One would not pick Minnesota, the land of temperature extremes, as a fruit growing state. There is a good reason for our success. The first cultivated apples were probably wild ones growing in the mountains of southwestern Asia, in the area between the Black and Caspian seas, a very cold region. Our first Minnesota full-sized apple variety to live though our cold winters, bear fruit with any regularity, and have good keeping quality was named for the wife of the grower, Peter Gidion. He and his wife, Wealthy Hall, lived on the south shore of Lake Minnetonka. Wealthy apples are still widely grown and enjoyed here.

Apples are good for you! A medium sized apple is 85 % water, has only 70 calories, 20 grams of carbohydrates and traces of many vitamins and minerals. The mild acid cleans your teeth as you bite, and they taste good. Apples are often the top “filler upper” in many diets as they are not only sweet but full of filling fiber.

Now is the time to plant apple trees on your estate, whatever the size. The semi dwarf trees don’t need much room and will supply you with enough apples to share. They are usually hardier than the smaller dwarf trees. Not very many yards have room for full sized apple trees, and you need a ladder or a man lift to harvest them.

Prune apple trees in February or March, even if you need to wade through 10 feet of snow to do it. Pruning and thinning them at that time of year allows the trees to recover before they start to grow in the spring. Professional apple growers thin the crowns of their trees so “you can throw a cat thru them’. Bet they don’t have many happy cats. The object is to have sun on all the apples and good circulation thru the crown of the tree. That way there are no spots on the apple where a leaf shaded leaving a green spot.

Do thin your apples to one or two per clump the first of July. This ensures you will have an annual crop as the tree can’t develop next year’s apple if the spot is already occupied with this year’s apple. There are a very few apple trees that will only have a crop every other year but very few.

The moral of the week is; thin your trees, thin your apples and don’t throw your cat through the tree. Use the neighbor’s cat. The one that uses your flower bed as a latrine.

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