Allotment, Evie, Gardening, Grow Your Own, How To

Apple Picking

Apple tree harvesting has begun! If you’re new to fruit trees, you may be feeling like a complete pomology beginner with far too many apples to know what to do with and not a clue how to store them. The best news is: you don’t have to eat them all now in a hurry or bulk bake enough apple pies to last all year. With the right storage method and environment, you can keep your apples fresh for up to six months or even longer. 

To make the process of storing your apples easier, I’ve answered some popular apple storing FAQs below and provided some helpful tips to ensure that you get the most from your harvest this year.

Which apples store the best?

In terms of apple varieties, it is worth noting that thicker and harder skinned apples (e.g. Granny Smith or McIntosh) tend to last longer in storage than the thinner skinned varieties (e.g. Pink Lady). This is because softer skinned apples are at a greater risk of bruising, therefore making them quicker to rot in storage.

Should I wash apples before storing?

You do not need to wash apples before storing, unless they are dirty. In this case, be very gentle not to bruise the apple and ensure that it is completely dry before storing. 

Careful handling is essential for the first stage of apple storing. When picking apples for storage, select the best example fruits. Be sure to use up any damaged apples in your cooking, and exclude them in your selection for storage. Bruised apples will spoil quickly and cause other apples to spoil too. It really is true what they say: “one bad apple spoils the barrel”.

Harvested apples in storage barrels

Why does “one bad apple spoil the barrel”?

Apples have feelings… Just kidding – it’s actually the effect of ethylene gas. Apples naturally produce ethylene gas as they ripen, but if an apple is damaged in some way, it produces more ethylene gas than it would normally. Apples neighbouring the spoiled fruit are tricked into ripening at a more rapid rate than expected, causing them to over ripen and go rotten. If you’ve ever noticed your fruit bowl banana ripening at a much faster rate when it is placed next to an apple, then now you know why! It’s important not to store your apples in a close proximity to other stored fruit and vegetables, if you’d like them to last.

What are the best conditions to store apples?

For the best storing conditions, look for cooler temperatures that are slightly humid; dark or dim settings; and completely frost-free. If you have a garage or cellar, these are often ideal locations. Apples soften and change texture quickly when kept in ambient temperatures, so it’s best to keep them cool to maintain quality for a longer time period. Covering the apples will keep them out of direct sunlight and ensure a more consistent temperature.

How to prepare your apples for storage

Individually wrap each apple in newspaper to maximise storage life. Wrapping each apple will prevent contamination to others if they did spoil sooner than expected. It will also provide a layer of protection to prevent bruising when containers are moved around or accidentally knocked.

What is the best way to store apples?

Lay the apples in a single layer in a drawer, rack or stand. The Lacewing apple storage collection offers a variety of sizes and drawer capacities – ranging from one tray, up to a unit containing 13 drawers. Units including slotted drawers allow for easy access to your fruit or vegetables, and allow you to maximise on storage capacity in a practical manner. Allow air flow to your apples through slatted racks to keep them fresh and cool whilst in storage. Be sure to keep a check every now and again, removing any spoiled apples from the storage unit. 

Apple storage rack gif

Most importantly, enjoy your freshly stored produce – even all the way through to winter!

Shop fruit storage and fruit presses now, or find out more information about apple trees and harvesting below.

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Evie at PrimroseEvie works in the Primrose Marketing Team.

Growing up in the English countryside, she likes nothing more than to be surrounded by nature’s peace and quiet, with the addition of the family pets of course!

Evie is passionate about all things digital marketing and loves the challenge of combining creativity with online content.

When not at her desk, you’ll typically find her in the gym, posting on social media, or watching a popular series on Netflix!

See all of Evie’s posts.

Jorge, Plants, Trees

If crabapple trees had an alternative name it should be the utility tree, as you get unmatched value from a single tree. Lately, it’s been common to straightjacket trees as either ornamental or fruiting, but crabapples excel at both, producing wonderful floriferous displays and versatile fruit, great for cooking and attracting wildlife.

What are crabapples and how do they differ from apples?

Crabapples grow throughout the Northern Hemisphere, including in North America. Most species’ fruits are less than 2 inches in diameter, but there are some exceptions to this such as Malus sieversii, the progenitor of the modern apple whose fruits are as large as 7cm.

Sieversii grows on the slopes of the Tien Shan mountain range on Kazakhstan-China border, but once grew widely, stretching all the way to Almaty – the ex-capital of Kazakhstan that derives its name from “fatherland of the apple”. In these wild apple forests, the fruits are eaten by bears, which act to disperse and fertilise the tree’s seeds.

Here, fruits can be as small as 2.5cm, which shows the powerful selection effect humans exerted. Many are sour and are unsuitable as eating apples and there is a wide variety of flavours including hazelnut, liquorice, sweet honey and berries.

Crabapple fruits are significantly smaller than apple.

Sieversii spread wherever humans travelled, and were a great portable snack, and useful feed for horses. Eventually, it was crossed with Malus sylvestris, the European crabapple, which is native to the UK, and is commonly grown in hedgerows.

Sieversii and sylvestris and to a lesser extent some other crabapple species gave us the apple, Malus domestica. Therefore, it is correct to say all other Malus species that are not domestica are crabapples, even if crabapples and apples are closely related and can crossbreed.

Even today, growers are attempting to introduce genes from sieversii and other crabapples into domestica as they naturally resistant to disease.

Why buy crabapple trees?

Unlike other trees, crabapples produce multiple bursts of colour in a year with nearly every flower turning into a sizeable fruit, which often completely cover the crown. One particularly heavy fruiting variety, ‘Golden Hornet’ literally lights up with a mass of warm golden-yellow fruits.

‘Golden Hornet’

Often the colour of the bud is different than the emerging flower, and as the buds open at different times, every bloom is multi-tone. With ‘Sun Rival’, the bud is pink-red and the flowers white.

The warm tones crabapples produces when it’s leaves begin to colour up are not given justice, with different varieties turning yellow, orange-red and maroon. ‘Prairie Fire’ spectacular autumn shades is arguably match the best maples and sweet gums.

Unlike the other blossom tree, the ornamental cherry, whose evanescence blossom symbolises the transient nature of beauty, crabapple blossom lasts for weeks, as they flower on both one-year wood and spurs. With the variety ‘Profusion’, flowering lasts for a whole month.

The extended flowering time makes crabapples ideal for attracting pollinators to your garden as well as pollinating your apples. Indeed crabapples are in a class of their own when it comes to apple pollination, and are commonly used by commercial growers in orchards.

They suffer from none of the genetic incompatibility issues apple do (some are too closely related) and can pollinate apples spread across multiple flowering groups. If you are to choose a crabapple for apple pollination, it’s best to choose one with blossom that matches the colour of apple blossom, which is white with a hint of pink. This is because bees tend to move between trees with the same colour blossom.

‘Evereste’ remains the cultivar of choice for apple pollination, not just because of the colour of its blossom, but because it is resistant to apple scab, powdery mildew and importantly, fire blight. It also sits in flowering group 3 and will therefore pollinate most apple varieties.

‘Evereste’

Much like the rowan’s berries, some crabapple fruits hang on all the way until Christmas. Try ‘Evereste’, which was not named after the mountain, but is a play on the words, “forever resting on the tree”. ‘Comtesse de Paris’ is a great alternative, with its small citrus-like fruits. These fruits can help attract birds into your garden in the colder months, providing a welcome source of nutrients.

Crabapples over 4cm tend to fall off soon after ripening. With more flesh, these fruits are best turned into culinary delights. ‘Jelly King’ doesn’t follow convention with huge, pectin-rich fruits that persist longer than most large fruited varieties. ‘Laura’ makes a great alternative and is nice and compact. Both exhibit good disease resistance.

crabapple jelly king
‘Jelly King’

Crabapples can be used as part of your cider blend to raise the acidity and sugar content. This is useful as most cider apples will need to be paired with an additional tree, as any blend without requisite acidity will spoil.

Now, nearly all crabapples are too tart to be eaten raw, although eating quality will improve in time, as sugar converts to starch. One notable exception, ‘John Downie’ is good to eat when fully ripe, but doesn’t compare to the best dessert apples.

One advantage of crabapples is there small stature, which is well suited to urban planting. With most varieties reaching 5-6m tall, they are much more easily manageable than many popular landscape trees such as Acer, Birch and Willow.

Like apples, they are compatible with dwarfing rootstocks and some varieties can be planted in containers. ‘Sun Rival’ is a lovely weeping specimen with white blossom and bright red fruits that is great as a centrepiece in a small garden.

The Best Crabapple Varieties

The Dark Crabapples

Clockwise from left: ‘Toringo Aros’, ‘Toringo Aros’, ‘Toringo Scarlett’, ‘Royalty’

‘Royalty’, ‘Toringo Scarlett’, ‘Toringo Aros’ and ‘Crimson Cascade’ are all examples of crabapples with dark leaves and red, purple, pink flowers and red berries. Both ‘Royalty’ and ‘Toringo Scarlett’ have a spreading habit, and ‘Royalty’ is slightly larger. ‘Toringo Scarlett’ is small in stature and slender, making it ideal for small gardens. While its berries are almost black, it’s flowers are pink with white veins. ‘Crimson Cascade’ makes a nice alternative to the other weeping crabapple ‘Sun Rival’.

The Light Crabapples

Clockwise from left: ‘Comtesse de Paris’, ‘Admiration’, ‘John Downie’, ‘Red Sentinel’, ‘Red Obelisk’. ‘Golden Hornet’

The angelic cousins of the dark crabapples, these trees reflect light and are best used as centrepieces. Compact and naturally dwarfing, ‘Admiration’ produces possibly the best flowering display of any crabapple with its dense blooms of white. ‘Red Obelisk’ is an excellent alternative, with slightly darker leaves and deep pink buds.

‘Golden Hornet’, ‘Butterball’, ‘John Downie’ and ‘Comtesse de Paris’ all produce white flowers, followed by yellow/orange fruits. ‘Butterball’ can probably be considered an advance over ‘Golden Hornet’, as its fruits don’t rot on trees. Not previously mentioned, ‘Red Sentinel’ remains a classic with its ruby-red jewel-like fruits that hang on well into winter.

Crabapple FAQ

Are crabapples related to apples?

Crabapples are all species within the genus Malus that are not apples (M. domestica). Apples are produced from multiple crabapple species and exist thanks to human cultivation.

Can you eat crab apples off the tree?

Yes, but they’ll be tart. Crabapples are best cooked or used as part of a cider blend.

Where do crabapple trees grow?

Crabapples are found throughout the temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere, and are therefore well suited to the UK’s climate.

How big do crabapple trees get?

Most crabapples will reach an ultimate height of between five to eight metres, but there are of course naturally dwarfing varieties and giantitic 12m varieties.

A tree’s habit affects a tree’s spread with upright trees taking up less space than a spreading tree at the same height.

Like apples, crabapples can be grafted onto rootstocks, which help reduce vigour.

You can always prune a tree to reduce its size. In orchards, growers may head a crabapple to reduce its size.

How do you identify a crabapple tree?

Most crabapples have five lobed blossom just like apples, but while apple blossom is white with hints of pink, crabapple blossom can be red, pink and pure white. Crabapple fruits are smaller than apples, being less than 2 inches in diameter, and can be yellow, red, green, purple, and pink.

The native Malus sylvestris has is lopsided, rounded crown and a wide, dense canopy. Bark is grey, and with age, often twisted and covered in lichen.

Are crab apples poisonous to dogs?

Crabapples and apples can be fed to dogs, but need to be cored as the seeds contain cyanide.

Do crabapple trees have deep roots?

Crabapples are not known to have invasive root systems. As with all trees, a tree’s root system grows horizontally as opposed to vertically as most nutrients are found in the uppermost layers of soil.

Can you grow crabapple trees in pots?

Crabapple trees can be grown in pots. Pots act to restrict growth, reducing a tree’s eventual size. With trees in pots, it’s necessary to water regularly and replenish its nutrients periodically.

Do crabapple trees need a pollinator?

Nearly all fruiting plants need to be pollinated to produce fruit. Usually this is done by insects, which transfer pollen from one flower to another. With self-fertile varieties, pollen from the same tree can be used, but with self-sterile varieties pollen from another variety is necessary. Crabapples are relatively common, and are compatible with apples, so pollination is almost guaranteed.

Can you transplant a crabapple tree?

You can transplant any tree, but chance of success diminishes with maturity.

When can you trim crabapple trees?

Crabapples can be pruned late autumn and early spring. Remove dead, dying and deceased wood and suckers and water sprouts.

Why are crab apples called crab apples?

Ostensibly, from the Swedish skrabba, meaning fruit of the wild apple tree. Alternatively, from the noun crabbed, meaning crooked or wayward gait of a crab. Crabapples are often slightly lopped sided and their fruit disagreeable when eaten fresh.

What are some good crab apple trees for small gardens?

Crowned best in show at the National Plant Awards, ‘Toringo Aros’ is one the smallest crabapples thanks to its slender habit and short stature, but also one of the most impactful with its gorgeous burgundy leaves, pretty pink blossom and dark maroon fruits.

toringo aros
‘Toringo Aros’

A worthy alternative, ‘Red Obelisk’ creates an unmatched spring spectacle with its heavily-blossomed upright branches racing towards the sky.

One of the few weeping crabapples commercially available, ‘Sun Rival’ makes an excellent choice for a centerpiece with white flowers and bright red fruit.

What is the best crab apple tree for jelly?

Try ‘Jelly King’.

What is the best crabapple tree for wildlife?

All crabapples make an excellent choice for a wildlife tree. Most and produced from a mix of species.

What season do crab apple flower and fruit?

Crabapples flower in April and May and fruit from August to October.

Small crabapples tend to hang onto the tree for longer, while larger ones fall off soon after ripening. ‘Evereste’ fruits last until Christmas.

Crabapples make excellent pollinators due to the spread of bloom. ‘Profusion’ flowers for a whole month.

Can crabapples be grown as part of a hedge?

Malus sylvestris is commonly grown as part of a mixed hedge, owing to its dense, twiggy nature and due to the fact it supports over 90 species of bird and insect.

How do I prevent crabapple tree fungus?

As fungus thrives in warm, damp and dark conditions, it’s important to remove plants that shade, crowd or grow into your tree. Trim in early spring to allow light to enter the interior and improve air circulation. Ensure sprinklers do not wet leaves and ensure you pick up dead leaves as potential sources of vectors.

If you are still considering a crabapple tree, ‘Golden Hornet’, ‘Liset’, M. floribunda and Adirondack all exhibit high resistance.

Jorge at PrimroseJorge works in the Primrose marketing team. He is an avid reader, although struggles to stick to one topic!

His ideal afternoon would involve a long walk, before settling down for scones.

Jorge is a journeyman gardener with experience in growing crops.

See all of Jorge’s posts.

Cats, Evie, Pest Advice, Pest Control

Cat in GardenCats are great, there’s a reason why there are over 2 million cat videos on YouTube alone! What’s not so great for the neighbours of cats is when they foul in your garden, torment your family of guinea pigs, or attack that sweet little robin that you’ve been watching out the window.  If this sounds familiar and you’d like to learn about our purrrr-fectly safe methods of deterring cats from trespassing in your garden, read on…

Are you fed up of worrying about what your neighbouring cat will leave behind after its next visit? Well, our first recommendation would be to prevent cats from entering your garden in the first place. 

Prevention with Anti-Climb Strips

An affordable way to do this is to add in PestBye anti-climb strips to your garden walls and fences. These anti-climb strips are easily cut, bent, and attached with glue, nails or screws – making them super easy to install around your garden. Available in a range of colours, you can also disguise the anti-climb strips to match your fencing so that they don’t interfere with your garden decor or design.

These end-to-end strips work effectively to prevent cats from climbing or sitting on your wall, but don’t worry! The anti-climb strips only cause discomfort for the cat, not cuts, scratches, or wounds.  

Protect Your Flower Beds With Deterrent Sprays

If you’re a keen gardener who spends time caring for and proudly designing your flower beds, a neighbouring cat can be quite a disappointment when it fouls on or rips apart your delightful display. A simple deterrent spray containing deterring natural oils could be the fast and easy solution that you have been looking for. 

You can use the deterrent spray around your garden or allotment and it will not harm any animals or your plants. Cats (and dogs) will be off-put by the scent of the natural oil aromas and leave your vegetable patch or flower bed well and truly alone! 

What Is The UK’s Best Selling Cat Deterrent?

Have you heard of ultrasonic frequency repellents

 

PestBye Cat Repeller

These are our most effective solution for deterring cats from your garden. When triggered by a motion sensor, this type of repellent emits a high frequency sound that cannot be heard by human or bird hearing. Although the sound is rather annoying for your backyard trespassing cat, it will effectively prevent them from wanting to return to your garden. 

As seen on The Alan Titchmarsh Show, the PestBye Battery Operated Cat Repeller has been proven effective with a high product rating of 4.4/5 by Primrose customers. 

But hang on a moment, how long can you expect for this product to officially stop your cat problem? Typically, cats that visit your garden every now and again will be stopped within 7 days of the device being switched on. However, it may take between 14-28 days to break the habit of a regular visitor.

Shop the cat repellent range now, or find out more about how to keep cats out of your garden.

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Evie at PrimroseEvie works in the Primrose Marketing Team.

Growing up in the English countryside, she likes nothing more than to be surrounded by nature’s peace and quiet, with the addition of the family pets of course!

Evie is passionate about all things digital marketing and loves the challenge of combining creativity with online content.

When not at her desk, you’ll typically find her in the gym, posting on social media, or watching a popular series on Netflix!

See all of Evie’s posts.

Bulbs, How To, Jorge, Planting, Plants

To plant bulbs successfully, it’s important to plant at the right time and depth with the bulb the right way up. You can ensure showstopper blooms by fertilising when planting, and as long as there is vegetative growth in the growing season. Applying mulch in winter will help protect spring-flowering bulbs from frost injury. 

When To Plant

If ordering online, plant as soon as you receive the bulb, or store in a dry, dark location if you can’t plant immediately. Leave a bulb unplanted and it may fail to flower or flower poorly. If you forget to plant, examine by touch, and discard soft or rotten bulbs. Others are worth a shot. 

Generally, spring flowering bulbs need to be planted by the end of September, which will allow time for the bulb to root before the ground freezes. Tulips are planted in October and November, depending on whether you are in the North or South respectively, which helps reduce problems with disease. 

Hardy summer flowering bulbs are to be planted in September and October, while tender summer flowering bulbs in early spring. Autumn flowering bulbs need to be planted by late summer. 

BulbSeasonPlanting depthPlanting distance between bulbsPosition
AlliumAutumn10cm (4″)10cm (4″)Full sun
BegoniaSpring1cm (1/2″)30cm (12″)Full sun, semi shade, dappled shade
CrocusAutumn10cm (4″)7cm (3″)Full sun, semi shade
DaffodilAutumn10cm (4″)10cm (4″)Full sun, semi shade
DahliaSpring15cm (6″)45cm (18″)Full sun
BluebellSpring/Autumn10cm (4″)10cm (4″)Dappled shade
GladiolusSpring10cm (4″)15cm (6″)Full sun
HyacinthAutumn10cm (4″)8cm (3″)Full sun, semi shade
Iris reticulataAutumn10cm (4″)8cm (3″)Full sun
LilyAutumn20cm (8″)15cm (6″)Full sun, semi shade
NarcissusAutumn10cm (4″)10cm (4″)Full sun, semi shade
PonerorchisSpring2.5cm (1″)7cm (3″)Dappled shade
RanunculusAutumn8cm (3″)25cm (10″)Full sun
SnowdropSpring/Autumn10cm (4″)10cm (4″)Dappled shade
Tree LilyAutumn20cm (8″)15cm (6″)Full sun, semi shade
TulipAutumn15cm (6″)13cm (5″)Full sun
White Egret OrchidSpring2.5cm (1″)7cm (3″)Dappled shade
Winter AconiteAutumn5cm (2″)5cm (2″)Full sun, semi shade, dappled shade

Position 

As always it’s best to look at a species habitat and flowering time when deciding where to plant. Early spring bulbs such as snowdrops are used to harsh conditions, and will thrive in cold pockets. Forest dwelling species such as the bluebell are used to dappled shade, and will thrive under any deciduous tree. More exotic species such as dahlia, originating from Mexico, are suited to full sun. 

It’s not the end of the world if you plant in a sub-optimal location as bulbs are a storage organ and the plant already has a large reserve of energy. Bulbs rarely thrive in deep shade and output will be poor in the second year after planting. 

It’s possible that southern exposure can lead to early emergence and freezing injury. You can moderate temperature extremes by applying 3 inches of mulch after the first frost. This will help prevent injury from the constant cycle of frost and thaw. Remove the mulch if you think the shoots can’t penetrate it easily. 

Mulch will help protect bulbs from frost injury.

Soil Type

The key message is to avoid waterlogged soils, which can starve a bulb of oxygen, causing them to rot. Clay soils usually have poor drainage, and can be improved by adding organic mulch. Ensure you don’t compact the soil, but firm with the back of a rake. 

Right-side Up 

Most bulbs have a tip, which should be pointing upwards when planted. Some will arrive with roots on the bottom, opposite to the tip. Begonia bulbs do not have a sharp point, but you can sometimes detect the tip emerging out of the concave (indented) side.

Planting Depth & Distance

A general rule of thumb is that bulbs can be planted three times their height, although begonias are an exception to this. 

Bulbs in containers can be spaced a bulb width apart. In the ground, 2-4 inches is common for small and 8 inches for large bulbs. 

Apply phosphorus when planting as it doesn’t travel well in the soil. This essential nutrient helps with root growth. 

Aftercare

Water immediately after planting, unless you are planting in autumn and the ground is already wet. 

Sometimes, small mammals will dig up bulbs, but this can be prevented with wire mesh. 

Plants in containers are vulnerable to drought and under fertilisation, so water and feed regularly once the growing season starts. 

As nutrients are absorbed through roots, it’s important nutrients reach the depth the roots are located. Liquid fertiliser will penetrate the soil, and can remedy deficiencies quickly, but is liable to leeching. Other inorganic fertilisers will fertilise the soil over time, so need to be applied in advance. Organic fertiliser takes far longer as it’s insoluble and first needs to be broken down by microorganisms, before becoming available for uptake by plants. 

Removing seed pods, but maintaining foliage, allows a plant to put more energy into its bulb, for larger blooms thereafter. Watering and feeding will help with this. Remove foliage once it yellows. 

After this, bulbs can be lifted, sorted, washed, left to dry and then stored in a cool, dry, airy place. Small, rotten or diseased bulbs are best thrown. 

Jorge at PrimroseJorge works in the Primrose marketing team. He is an avid reader, although struggles to stick to one topic!

His ideal afternoon would involve a long walk, before settling down for scones.

Jorge is a journeyman gardener with experience in growing crops.

See all of Jorge’s posts.