Do you grow Pink Lady apples? Ever wondered why sometimes they’re a gorgeous dark pink colour…
… 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?
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.
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.
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.
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’.
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.
As a fruit grower, lying in bed listening to rain on the roof can bring up a wide range of emotions, both good and bad. In our typical dry summers most people welcome rain when it comes, so it never seems appropriate for us to express concern about the damage it can do to fruit. However, it hasn’t rained for a while, so this week we reflect on the question – “Is rain good for fruit?”
Like everything in farming, the answer is complicated, and depends on lots of different variables, so let’s break it down a bit.
1. Trees like rain better than irrigation water — up to a point! As a gardener, you’ve probably noticed how “perky” your garden looks just after rain. One of the reasons (apart from the leaves being cleaner) is because the rain carries dissolved nitrogen which is easily absorbed by the plants, giving them a nutritional boost. Too much rain, however, and the soil can become waterlogged, creating anaerobic conditions, which actually stops the plants’ roots being able to take up nitrogen! The other advantages of trees receiving their water from rainfall (rather than irrigation) are that the entire root system gets water (rather than just at the point of water delivery), and if you’ve been keeping your garden on rations due to dry conditions, they just love the opportunity to get their fill of water for a change!
2. Rain can trigger fungal disease. One of the biggest pest and disease risks in an organic farm (or garden) is fungal disease, and nearly all fungal diseases are triggered by wet conditions (at the right temperature). In general terms, the more rain, the more fungal disease. This risk is highest at the beginning of the season (i.e., at flowering time in spring), and then gradually decreases as the season progresses. During autumn, if the summer has been generally dry and there is not much fungal disease around, the risk of a new fungal outbreak is relatively low.
3. Rain can cause physical damage to fruit. This is very specific to the type (and even variety) of fruit. For example cherries are particularly vulnerable to splitting from the rain, and some varieties of apricots also split easily. Hardier fruit like apples and pears, however, rarely experience physical damage from rain.
4. “Hard” rain can damage all fruit. Storms that bring rain often also bring hail, and that can be completely devastating to all fruit. Hailstorms are very random and localised, so it”s pretty much the luck of the draw with this one, though if you live in a hail-prone area, netting can definitely be your saviour. All fruit are vulnerable to hail damage, including apples, pears, plums and quinces.
5. Rain is good for the landscape. When you’re trying to grow food in an arid landscape (as we are), the general impact of rain (as long as there’s not too much, or too quickly) is generally FABULOUS! It fills water storages, keeps the bush alive, helps to sustain our farming communities, and helps backyard fruit growers maintain their own food security. We love it….except…. when there’s too much! If rain becomes flooding and the soil becomes saturated for too long, it can lead to ALL sorts of problems! Anaerobic soil conditions, trees dying, waterborne soil disease, nutrient leaching, dams breaking their banks, and the list goes on. We’ve seen it before when the drought broke in 2010/11.
6. Rain is good for mental health. It’s a generalisation, of course, but very often rain can be a huge relief to farmers and others in the community, especially if it is relieving the pressures of trying to farm in a dry landscape, though as you can probably see from our list, it totally depends on the amount of rain, and the context!
Regardless of the timing of rain within the fruit season, it’s important to make sure your soil can act as a big “water storage tank” when it rains. As well as building really healthy soil (which is good for both water storage and drainage in your soil), techniques like swales and keyline (covered in this short course) can make a huge difference to how well your soil will store rainfall.
Welcome to autumn! Though we’re having quite a warm summery week here in central Vic, we’ve had the first few cool, crisp mornings, and there’s a definite shift in the air.
Even if it still feels quite summery at your place, you can expect to start seeing some typical autumn features in your fruit trees soon.
For example you might start to see the leaves on your fruit trees start to turn yellow (if they haven’t already), especially if you’ve already picked the crop. The typical pattern is that the leaves will stay green and continue doing their job as long as the tree is bearing fruit, but once the fruit is off, it will quickly start go into senescence, or winter dormancy.
At that time, the tree starts to withdraw all the useful nutrients from the leaves back into the buds and bark — the first sign of this happening is the leaves changing colour. This type of yellowing is completely normal, and you see it every year.
Another reason for yellowing leaves that is of more concern is caused by lack of water, as you can see on this cherry tree.
It’s all too easy for this to happen when you have an automatic irrigation system, because drippers can easily block up, and unless you’re checking them regularly (which is a really good idea), you might not realise you have a problem until the tree starts telling you loud and clear by the leaves turning unseasonally yellow (you can see all the other trees nearby are still green).
Another common reason for leaves to turn yellow is from nutritional deficiencies.
A number of nutritional deficiencies can cause yellow leaves as one of their symptoms, including iron (as you can see above), manganese and zinc.
The fourth reason for yellow leaves is because of a virus disease, such as apple mosaic virus as you can see in this leaf.
Viral diseases are not good news, but unfortunately are not really treatable, so the best bet is to look after the tree as well as you can, and try to avoid the virus spreading by not planting other trees of the same type nearby.
So if the leaves on your fruit tree are turning yellow it’s probably a perfectly normal seasonal response, but your tree might also be trying to tell you something! If you feel like you need more detailed help diagnosing what your fruit tree is trying to tell you, please download a copy of Keep Your Fruit Trees Free From Disease short course.