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.

Are heritage nectarines worth the bother?

Have you grown any nectarines that look like this?

Goldmine nectarines with brown spots
Goldmine nectarines with brown spots

This is the Goldmine nectarine, and sadly, they tend to do this when they get a drop of rain, if the weather conditions don’t suit them perfectly, or when you look at them the wrong way!

Heritage varieties often have thin skin, and Goldmine are a particular culprit. This means they tend to mark very easily. It’s one of the reasons that many heritage varieties are no longer grown commercially, because they’re just not robust enough to get to market in good condition.

Despite this, we’ve grown them in our orchards and sold them for many years, because they’re absolutely delicious, and worth the effort!

A Goldmine nectarine showing damage on the skin from Leaf curl fungal disease
A Goldmine nectarine showing damage on the skin from Leaf curl fungal disease

If the marks are severe enough they can also become the site for an infection to begin, but usually these are just skin marks, caused by rain, that don’t effect the quality of the fruit underneath. But they’re also prone to other problems — for example if you get a severe case of Leaf curl on your nectarine trees, Goldmine can show damage on the skin of the fruit, even though this disease mainly affects the leaves.

But despite all the difficulties, we love them and frequently recommend them for home orchards. If you can tend the tree carefully, protect the fruit and then pick it when it’s beautifully ripe and ready to eat, you can end up with a result as perfect as these beauties!

Perfect Goldmine nectarines
Perfect Goldmine nectarines

It’s quite hard to find Goldmine trees these days (and almost impossible to buy the fruit) because they’re very unfashionable, but if you have space for a tree in your garden and can track one down, and you have time to look after it properly, it will reward you.

We’ve put together a short course called Peachy Keen to teach you how to control Leaf curl and other diseases that can affect your nectarine and peach trees (they’re very closely related), to give you the best possible chance of getting some decent fruit from those heritage varieties

How to grow organic berries

A bunch of berries starting to ripen up
Berries starting to ripen up

We had the pleasure this week of visiting Sunny Creek Organic berry farm in Gippsland, and spent a happy afternoon touring the farm and picking berry farmer Phil’s brain.

Not that we’re planning to start a berry farm!

But we’ve grown raspberries before and know what a successful, in-demand and high-value crop they are, and we think berries would be a perfect add-on to the mix we’ve got going here at the Harcourt Organic Farming Co-op.

Green berries not yet ready to pick
Green raspberries not yet ready to pick

So we were very interested to see how the experienced folk at Sunny Creek have overcome some of the problems we ran into with the berries, and boy, did we learn a lot in one short afternoon!

First, berries need sun-protection or they get sunburned. We thought this only happened on super-hot days with a scorching hot north wind, but in fact it can happen at much lower temperatures. Interestingly, it can also take weeks for the damage to show up, which maybe explains why in our few short years of berry growing we didn’t always realise when sun damage had occurred.

Netting and shade cloth over a berry patch
Netting and shade cloth over the berry patch

The good news though is that this problem is almost completely alleviated with shade protection (like shade cloth). So, lesson 1—include shade cloth covers in the design from the get-go!

Another topic we were interested in was disease control. One of the big problems we encountered when we grew raspberries was Phytophthora (a fungal root-rot disease), so we were particularly interested in solutions, and we came away with a much better understanding.

Strawberry with Botrytis fungal disease
Strawberry with Botrytis fungal disease

For example, we discovered that raspberries are prone to a raspberry-specific strain of Phytophthora. This means that a patch of ground where we used to grow peach trees that were affected by Phytophthora may be more suitable for raspberry growing than we previously thought—hooray!

We also learned that:

  • Some varieties of raspberries are more resistant to Phytopthora than others;
  • Brambles don’t get it at all;
  • Mounding the soil helps;
  • One of the biggest risks of infection is from the public!
The pick-your-own farm map at Sunny Creek Berry Farm
The pick-your-own farm map at Sunny Creek Berry Farm

We also learned about nutrition, seasonal care, pruning, variety selection, running the pick-your-own operation, marketing, and value-adding!

Field trips to fellow farmers are one of the fastest and most useful ways to learn new things about farming in a short space of time. We know from experience how busy farming life is, and so are incredibly appreciative when farmers like Phil give so generously of their time to share their knowledge and expertise.

So next time you’re over Trafalgar South way, pop into Sunny Creek Farm and pick some amazing organic berries and tell Phil Hugh and Katie sent you!

And if you’re interested in starting a berry enterprise in central Vic and joining the Harcourt Organic Farming Co-op, please find out more here and get in touch!