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.

Allotment, Gardening, Grow Your Own, Lotti, Sustainable Living, Vegetables

gardening in ww2

In WW2 Britain, times had never felt so tough. With the scream of German bombers wheeling ahead and the continued destruction of homes, businesses and lives, it was clear that the war had reached Britain’s shores. The people were afraid – and hungry: just years before, 75% of Britain’s food had been imported by ship, but the German blockade meant that these food imports had been halved by millions of tonnes.

Rationing came in small increments – first bacon, butter and sugar then meat, tea, biscuits, cereals. By August 1942 all food was being rationed apart from vegetables and bread, which were in incredibly short supply. In some places, even domestic fruit like apples were restricted to one per person, and it wasn’t unheard of for grocers to only sell oranges to children and pregnant women.

Then, in 1939, Agricultural Minister Professor John Raeburn set up the Dig For Victory campaign. Men, women and children across the country were encouraged to grow their own produce in a bid for self-sufficiency and to ensure that all families had enough food to go around. The campaign was a famous success and across the country people took to their gardens to fill the gap that was left by strict rationing.

dig for victory poster
A Popular Dig For Victory Poster

The effect the campaign had on the common allotment was electric. In 1939, when Raeburn first set up the programme, there were 815,000 allotments across the UK. By 1943, there were around 1,400,000. Gardens across the country were transformed, flower beds replaced by vegetable plots, petunias swapped for potatoes. People were even encouraged to grow their own food on top of Anderson Shelters – the corrugated steel structures designed to withstand the impact of bombs.

It wasn’t just fruit and vegetables that started to fill residential streets: people were encouraged to raise animals too – pigs were particularly popular as they could be fed with table scraps, and chickens and rabbits reproduced quickly and provided families with meat during rationing and shortages. Keeping chickens was especially encouraged by the government, and you could exchange your egg ration for chicken feed – a good trade off for chickens laying eggs virtually all year round.

The well-stocked and dug-up garden became a symbol of British resilience. Known as Victory Gardens, they were a way for those at home to feel like they were part of the war efforts. Soon, it wasn’t just home and family gardens that were dug up for produce: almost every available green space was transformed into one of these Victory Gardens. Grassy verges on the sides of roads, playing fields and cricket greens were replaced with rows of vegetables. Bombed out playgrounds were ripped up and replaced with allotments, homes that had been turned into rubble were transformed into vegetable patches. Even the moat around the Tower of London was filled with vegetables. There were demonstration patches in London Zoo, pig clubs were set up around the country and national gardening societies and competitions shut down to encourage members and contestants to turn to growing food, not flowers.

allotment crater
A mini-allotment in bomb crater in Westminster

From the smallest children to the elderly, everyone was out with their spades. Tending to fruit and vegetable patches became a part of the school day as children worked in what used to be their playgrounds. In Scotland, children volunteered picking potatoes and were encouraged to make it part of their schooling, getting teachers involved and requesting trips to local farms where they could help gather the harvest. Many people were keen to do their bit, and hundreds of young people headed to Harvest Camps where you could volunteer for a week or more working outside harvesting vegetables or flax. The work was hard going and while those attending these camps did often receive pay (1/6d per hour) no one who attended them was there to make money.

Raeburn himself said it best – “We want not only the big man with the plough but also the little man with the spade to get busy this autumn. The matter is not one that can wait. So let’s get going. Let ‘Dig for Victory’ be the motto of everyone with a garden and of every able-bodied man and woman capable of digging an allotment in their spare time.” Propaganda at the time showed a kind of duality – it aligned the British people who were putting so much effort into growing their own food with those fighting on the front line while also reminding them that they weren’t gardening because they had to but because gardening was a pleasurable and relaxing experience. Gardening wasn’t just necessary – it was fashionable.

In fact, Dig To Victory led to one of Britain’s first true gardening celebrities – Cecil Henry Middleton (popularly known as just “Mr Middleton”). Mr Middleton hosted a Sunday afternoon radio show on the BBC Home Service where he guided listeners on how to best tend their garden. By 1940, Mr Middleton had 3.5 million listeners and around 70% of people with wirelesses tuned into his show every Sunday.

To make the campaign even more appealing, two mascots were introduced – Dr. Carrot and Potato Pete. Potatoes and especially carrots were easy to grow almost anywhere, and were the vegetables which were in most plentiful supply. The characters featured heavily in posters and even had their own songs to get children and families interested. They were in surplus supply, so it looked likely that the populace would soon get sick of eating them: the government had to make sure that didn’t happen. Carrots especially were praised for their versatility – not only were they a staple vegetable, they were also sweet, so were turned into jams, spreads and even drinks. Praised for their nutritional benefits, a hugely successful propaganda campaign told families that carrots helped you see in the dark, and that the British pilot’s victories over the german Luftwaffe was thanks to their improved eyesight from eating so many. This was, of course, a myth: but one that still lives on today.

potato pete
Potato Pete and Doctor Carrot

After the war ended, allotments began to drift back out of fashion. With supply-lines reopening, growing your own food was no longer a necessity – soon, gardens that had once been full of chickens and potatoes had turned back to lawns and flowerbeds. Land which had been transformed into vegetable patches was used for building houses. The post-war climate was very different: the television saw a massive boom in popularity and how people chose to use their leisure time changed. Gardening was popular but the allotment started to seem old-fashioned and, dare I say it: uncool. By the late 50s, allotment funding was withdrawn.

After a long period of disinterest in the grow your own movement, the trend appears to be slipping back in. A 2011 survey of around two thousand people showed that one in six adults had started to grow their own food, and half saying that they would consider doing so if food prices continue to rise. On the whole, however, gardens still seem to be dominated by immaculate lawns, flower beds and the odd trampoline. With the threat of increased food prices on the horizon and the need for more sustainable living practices, perhaps it’s time we took a leaf out of our great-grandparents’ books and returned to the spade to dig for victory once more.

Jenny at PrimroseLotti works with the Primrose Product Loading team, creating product descriptions and newsletter headers.

When not writing, Lotti enjoys watching (and over-analyzing) indie movies with a pint from the local craft brewery or cosplaying at London Comic Con.

Lotti is learning to roller skate, with limited success.

See all of Lotti’s posts.

Allotment, Flowers, Gardening, Gardens, Grow Your Own, How To, Planting, Plants

Clematis are immensely popular climbing plants, flowering from late winter to late summer, depending on the variety. Grow them on walls, pergolas, in containers, scrambling through trees and shrubs or left sprawling along the soil as unusual ground cover.

Planting guide

If planting next to a wall or fence, dig the hole at least 60cm (2 feet) away and train the plant along the cane. Clematis perform best when their roots are shaded – either plant in front of them or cover the area with a mulch of stones or pebbles. They need moisture-retentive, but well-drained soil, in full sun or partial shade.

Dig a hole twice as wide as the plant’s pot and half as deep again. Add well rotted organic matter to the bottom of the hole and a handful of general granular fertiliser.

After soaking the plant in its pot, remove it together with its cane. Tease out some of the roots and place in the hole.

Plant large-flowered cultivars that bloom in May/June with their root balls 5-8cm (2-3in) below the soil surface. Herbaceous and evergreen species can be planted with the crown at soil level. Fill the hole with a mixture of soil and compost and water in well.

If planting in containers, choose a smaller-growing cultivar, using a pot at least 45cm (18in) deep and wide with a soil-based potting compost such as John Innes No 2.

Care

In late winter or early spring, apply a potassium-rich fertiliser (such as rose fertiliser) and mulch afterwards with well-rotted manure, leafmould or compost. Water regularly during dry weather in the first few seasons.

For container plants, top dress each spring by replacing the top 2.5cm (1 inch) of soil with fresh potting compost. Protect roots in winter from frost by wrapping the pot in bubble wrap.

Water thoroughly and feed monthly during the growing season.

 

Pruning

Clematis is notorious for being difficult to prune but that’s not the case, as long as you know which pruning group it belongs to (based on when it flowers).

When first planted, cut all clematis back to 15-30cm (6”-1ft) from soil level in February or March, cutting just above a bud. This will encourage branching and more flowers.

Pruning groups:

Group 1 – flowering in spring on shoots produced the previous season, such as C. montana, C. cirrhosa, C. alpina. Prune just after flowering in mid- to late spring if needed – no regular pruning is essential.

Group 2 – large-flowered hybrids, blooming May/June. Prune in February/March and after the first flush of flowers in early summer. The aim is to keep a framework of old wood and promote new shoots.

Group 3 – plants that flower on that season’s growth and herbaceous clematis. Cut back hard in February/March 15-30cm (6in-1ft) from soil level to healthy buds. If left unpruned, they will continue growing from where they left off the previous season, flowering well above eye level and with a bare base.

Small-flowered clematis with attractive seedheads can just be trimmed back to the main framework of branches.

Allotment, Garden Edging, Jorge, Planters

The difference between softwood and hardwood sleepers is the wood the sleepers are sawn from and whether or not they are treated. Softwood is distinguishable from hardwood in that it comes from gymnosperm trees – that is, trees that with unenclosed seeds – while the latter comes from angiosperms – trees with enclosed seeds. Gymnosperms include such trees as pines and cypresses that bear cone-bearing seeds, while angiosperms include apple trees and oaks that inclose their seeds in fruits.

Horse Chestnuts and Pine Cones.

Gymnosperms differ from angiosperms in other ways. Most importantly, there are differences between the physical structures of the wood that can be viewed differently at a microscopic level and at the naked eye. Softwoods have a different cellular structure from hardwoods with tracheids and medullary rays transporting water, while hardwoods have vessel elements to do the same, which under the microscope appear as pores. Under the naked eye, softwoods have light grains, while hardwoods have prominent grains.

Hardwood (top) with its large pores.
Hardwood (left) with its distinctive grains.

The differences in structure lead to different physical properties. In general, hardwoods are denser and more resistant to fire, but they are also slower growing and heavier. Henceforth, this explains their greater price originating from higher transport costs and longer times spent in nurseries. Although, it must be noted that this is simply a rule of thumb as there are extremely dense softwoods such as yew and soft hardwoods such as Aspen. As such, you should research a timber’s properties when deciding whether it is suitable for the task at hand.

In regards to outdoor use, the most important property is a timber’s resistant to decay and in general hardwoods are far more resistant than softwoods. Oak, for example, is highly resistant to decay and can last up to 30 or 40 years untreated. Pine, on the other hand, from which our softwood sleepers are constructed, are less resistant to decay and are henceforth treated with either Tanalith green or Tanatone brown. Both have similar properties and one can expect 15 to 20 years of use.

Another difference between softwood and hardwood sleepers is that the former’s treatment colour will fade to grey within 18 months. Oak sleepers, on the other hand, will maintain colour, which is great for rustic beds; and as they are free from treatment they are suitable for use in building water features. As mentioned previously, hardwoods are denser than softwoods, so oak sleepers are heavier than pine, which can make construction more difficult.  

If you are interested in garden sleepers, Primrose stocks both the hardwood and softwood variants at only £4.99 delivery, regardless of quantity ordered.

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.