Whether we like it or not, the autumn season is quickly approaching, but that does not mean we cannot still enjoy many things from the garden. This is the season for squash, gourds, pumpkins, onions, potatoes and numerous selections of apples. Although the vegetables are delicious to eat, nothing surpasses the juicy sweet apples that are ripening in the trees.

Apples are available from super sweet selections to many that are very tart. Of course, there are all sorts of levels in between to satisfy anyone’s taste for the fruit. Their succulent red clusters load up the tree during this time of year. Some are a deep burgundy, others are a blush to pink color, and yet there are a few that are ripe while they remain green or yellow. Each one has a different flavor and use for the gardener.

Anyone that knows me well will not be surprised when I say their best uses are for making hard cider or wine, but in all reality, I truly enjoy them fresh from the tree each morning. The night air seems to cool apples during the fall to their perfect eating temperature where the juices just seem to be at their best. I grab two to three of them each morning to enjoy throughout the day. What a wonderful amenity to have within the garden. Not only are they loaded with white to pink flowers during the spring but their foliage is deep green in color and they have a nice round shape without getting too big. Of course, their true value lies in the crop to harvest during autumn.

Anyone can grow an apple tree in their yard as long as they have protection from strong winds, receive full sunlight and are planted in well-drained soils. Apple trees do not like to sit in wet areas for any period of time.

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When selecting your apple tree (or trees), make sure you get one that is hardy from zones 2 to 4 and is resistant to fire blight. Fire blight is a disease that can quickly spread through an apple orchard if left unchecked. Its tell-tale signs are total browning of the leaves near the end of vigorous branches resulting in a curled end. The leaves do not fall off the branch, rather they cling to it and slowly die on the way down the branch. Take a sterile saw or pruning shears to clip these branches off at least 6 inches below the affected spot to halt its progress. Dip the pruners into an alcohol or bleach solution each time before making the next cut so you do not spread the disease with your tools. Dispose of the branches away from your garden and never burn or add them to your compost pile as this will only cause the problem to return.

Some of the most common selections in the market today are the Hazen, Dakota Gold, Honeycrisp, Haralson, Wealthy, Sweet Sixteen, State Fair, Zestar, McIntosh and Dutchess of Oldenburg.

Some varieties come in a dwarf form for smaller spaces such as, Pink Lady, Honeycrisp, and Cortland. Dwarf selections tend to hold up better in winds also, so keep that in mind when making a selection.

Dakota Gold is a yellow apple that is great for eating, making sauce or pies. It matures early and bears large fruit, but does not store well. Honeycrisp is a red/yellow apple that is sweet and very crisp. This one usually matures at the beginning of October and stores well. Haralson is a red apple variety of medium size that is good for eating and pie making and also stores well. Harelred is sweeter than the others and also has a good storage life. Wolf River and Spartan are both good for making juice.

One can plant apple trees in early autumn or late spring. Allow anywhere from three to six years before they begin to bear fruit and make sure there is another apple species within the yard or within close proximity for pollination. A crabapple tree will also work for the purpose of pollination.

As the tree grows, eliminate branches that point toward the inside of the tree and any branch that is not close to a 90-degree angle with the trunk. Main limbs that are close to a 90-degree angle with the trunk will be the strongest limbs to bear an apple crop when the time comes.

When your tree begins to bear fruit, thin out the fruit if it produces too heavily in any given year. This will allow the fruit remaining to be larger and is easier on the tree to support. A tree will still produce numerous fruit in a season for you and your friends to enjoy.

To read more columns written by John Zvirovski, click here.

If you are looking for a fruiting tree for your yard, any of the numerous selections of apples will be a big pleaser. Picking and enjoying apples can easily last for a six-week period and are highly useful for various culinary purposes. There is a reason they say that an apple a day will keep the doctor away as they are packed with vitamins C and A and are also high in fiber. It is a delicious and wholesome treat for anyone in the family to enjoy. Apples are a must-have for any gardener wanting a consistent supply of fruit each autumn.