Edible Landscaping

September Q & A

Question: I live in Kentucky and we have a few apple trees in our yard. What is the best way to preserve the apples for winter?

Answer: You can preserve your apples fresh if you have the proper storage conditions, or process them to store in winter. Here are your options. Fresh apples can be stored for months indoors if you store them just above 32 degrees F with 90 percent humidity. This could be in a plastic bag in the refrigerator or a root cellar. Tart, thick-skinned apples, such as 'Jonathan', store longer than sweet, thin-skinned apples such as 'Delicious'. Select blemish-free fruits, wrap individual fruits in newspaper, and store them away from potatoes. Potatoes emit a gas that causes apples to spoil. Store in boxes or crates for 3 to 5 months.

If you don’t have a root cellar or similar conditions, consider processing your apples into applesauce, apple butter, or drying the fruits. Make applesauce to can or freeze. It's a great way to use up many apples and enjoy their rich taste all winter. Slice and dry apples in a dehydrator or in the oven set at 100 degrees F. Check out the resources section in the article on Preserving the Vegetable Harvest for more details on preserving fruit.

Question: I have a beautiful chestnut tree in Nova Scotia, Canada that's about 15-feet tall. The tree has started to produce a few chestnuts, but there is no nut flesh inside. What happened?

Answer: Chances are the nuts didn't get pollinated because chestnuts need at least 2 compatible trees for pollination. Chestnut flowers are wind pollinated, and unless you have at least two trees, the nuts will form, but be empty. Consider buying a grafted chestnut variety as a pollinator. Grafted chestnut varieties start bearing a year or two after planting and many are tolerant of chestnut blight — the disease that wiped out native chestnut trees in the 1900s. However, a problem with some hybrid chestnut tree varieties is their pollen is sterile. Before purchasing a hybrid, ask if this variety will pollinate other chestnuts or plant some chestnut seedling varieties that will have viable pollen.

When planting more chestnut trees, space the trees 40 feet apart on well-drained soil. Chestnuts don't grow well in heavy clay soils. Keep the trees well watered the first few years and mulch to remove grass from around the trunk.

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