How long is your fruit season?

One of the questions we were asked this week, is “how long can you stretch out your fruit season by planting the right varieties?”

Some very late season Lady Williams apples
Some very late season Lady Williams apples

Great question! A long season is something we’re constantly testing and aiming for, as it’s one of the best tools available to (1) increase food security by harvesting fruit for as long as possible, and (2) decreasing the risk of losing our food supply from environmental conditions, because when bad things (like hail) happen, they rarely affect all fruit crops the same way.

If you’re lucky (or well organised) enough to have some very late fruit varieties (e.g., Lady William or Sundowner apples, or Winter Nelis pears), you might still be picking or have fruit on the trees.

A late season Winter Nelis pear
A late season Winter Nelis pear

These very late varieties are an excellent way to stretch the season, particularly because some varieties (like Lady Williams, for example), will actually store quite well on the tree for weeks or months before they need picking (as long as you can protect them from the birds, of course!)

Right now at the start of May we’ve just finished picking the Pink Lady apples, but lots of growers in our district are still picking, and the Lady Williams aren’t ready yet.  

Extending the season has a couple of management consequences. For one thing, you need to pay attention for longer, and for another, the late varieties have different water needs, so it can be hard to keep them in mind.

It’s been (another) very dry summer here, and in fact we’ve only just had the first bit of rain for ages – which is welcome relief!

Poppy enjoying the novelty of drinking from a puddle!
Poppy enjoying the novelty of drinking from a puddle!

Even in a dry summer, you can usually still drastically cut back (or stop) irrigating your mature trees once you’ve finished picking the fruit from them (which is just one of the water-saving strategies we recommend in our short course How to Grow Fruit in a Drought.)

But it can be easy to forget that as long as your trees have fruit, they still need water. If the soil around your fruit trees is dry, make sure you keep the water up to them until the fruit is properly finished, and harvested.

And remember that young trees are a different case altogether, and should never be allowed to dry out while they still have leaves on them.

Apple variety delight

Don’t you just adore apples?

Organic Geeveston Fanny apples at market
Organic Geeveston Fanny apples at market

We’ve just enjoyed a brief trip to Tasmania, to visit fellow organic orchardists and friends Matt and Coreen from Our Mates Farm, amongst other things.

Certified organic spartan apples
Certified organic spartan apples

Being apple season, on the Apple Isle, we were of course surrounded by apples. We’re always on the lookout for locally grown, certified organic produce wherever we go, and to our great delight, we didn’t have too much trouble finding some.

The apple museum at Willie Smith's in Geeveston
The apple museum at Willie Smith’s Apple Shed in Grove

We also visited the apple museum at Willie Smith’s Apple Shed, in Grove. It’s probably a bit hard to read the poster explaining its history (try clicking on it to enlarge it), but the apple museum is very close to the old Grove Research and Demonstration Station, which was an important part of apple R&D in Australia.

It’s funded by local growers rather than the government these days, and it continues to house Australia’s biggest collection of heritage apple, quince and pear trees.

The most fun part is the amazing apple display in the museum. There’s space for more than 390 apples, and each year fresh specimens of the different varieties are put on show. It’s wonderful.

We resisted taking photos of ALL the varieties (it was tempting…) but restricted ourselves to (a) the varieties we’ve planted in our heritage apple orchard, (b) varieties we’ve heard of but never seen before, and (c) varieties whose names were just too cute to leave out!

Honestly, you couldn’t make these names up!

Apart from being fun to look at (if you’re apple nerds, like us), it’s also an important reference collection.

We only managed to find one of the heritage varieties that we’ll have for sale for the first time this year through Carr’s Organic Fruit Tree Nursery. Well, a version of it anyway (we’re selling Democrat tree and this is a slightly different cultivar called Democrat Early).

And we thought we were doing pretty well with 25 varieties of apples for sale in the nursery!

We’re especially chuffed that we’ve managed to have 18 different heritage varieties on offer in our first year, including some very unusual varities you may not have heard of, like Roundway Magnum Bonum, Bess Pool, and Elstar.


But the bar has definitely been set higher for us now, particularly as so many of these lesser known varieties look so delicious!

Hmm, wonder if we’ve got room for 390 different apple varieties….

How to Make Pink Lady Apples Pink

Do you grow Pink Lady apples? Ever wondered why sometimes they’re a gorgeous dark pink colour…

Beautiful dark pink Pink Lady apples
Beautiful dark pink Pink Lady apples

… and sometimes they’re pale? These two examples are both from the same trees at our farm (in different years). So, what’s the difference?

Pink lady apples that are pale in colour
Pink lady apples that are pale in colour

There are a few factors that determine the final colour, and the main one is the weather, but maybe not what you think!

Hot weather can bleach the colour out of the apples, and in fact we need cool nights and mornings for the apples to turn a lovely dark pink.

However they also need a certain amount of regular sunlight hitting the apple, so if you have a dense leaf cover on your trees, the apples that grow in the shade under the leaves are also likely to be pale.

Apples growing in the shade won't colour up as well
Apples growing in the shade won’t colour up as well

This is one of the reasons why you might choose to do a bit of summer pruning on your apple trees, to reduce the density of the canopy and allow sunlight to penetrate the whole tree. But having said that, this is mainly a strategy used on commercial orchards to get better colour in apples, because they’re under pressure to provide uniform looking “perfect” apples.

Pink lady apples packed and ready to go to market
Pink lady apples packed and ready to go to market

Most home-growers don’t care so much how their apples look as long as they taste great, and so are less likely to prune for cosmetic reasons alone.

Typical home grown pink lady apples with spots, blemishes, and uneven colour
Typical home grown pink lady apples with spots, blemishes, and uneven colour

The last thing that may affect the colour of your fruit is the cultivar (or specific variety), as there are a few different variations of Pink Lady that have a different colour profile.

For example, Rosy Glow is a much darker pink colour compared to the more traditional Cripps Pink (the apple most commonly known as Pink Lady), for example, but they are still sold as ‘Pink Lady’.

A bin full of beautiful Pink Lady apples
A bin full of beautiful Pink Lady apples

Do you have apple trees? They’re one of the most common fruit trees found in backyards, so we’ve gathered all our apple-specific growing tips into a single online course called Grow Awesome Apples.