HG: Homegrown Column November 08, 2008

I’m knee-deep in apples. What’s the best way to store them so we can eat them long into the winter? I’ve already dried them and made applesauce to freeze, so now I’m trying to prolong the edibility of the whole fruit.
— Teri

Storing apples isn’t really all that hard, but there are a few rules to obey.

The most important thing you need is the proper environment. Apples are best stored at 30 to 32 degrees with 90 percent humidity and good air circulation.

This slows down the natural aging process that will shorten the life of the fruit. Remember, the apple is not dead when you pick it. It will continue to respire and do its “metabolic” thing, taking in oxygen and giving off carbon dioxide and ethylene gas.

This process breaks down the sugars stored in the apple, leading eventually to it shriveling and decaying.

Providing the proper environment doesn’t stop the process. It just slows it down enough for you to get several months of time to use them.

The most common way people accomplish this is to put the apples in a plastic bag in a refrigerator. Since most all refrigerators are frost free (which means they dehumidify the air inside them), you have to artificially increase the humidity by putting the apples in the plastic bag.

The bag should have some holes punched in it to allow gas exchange and to avoid excessive moisture from building up inside. Thirty to 32 degrees is colder than most refrigerators, so you can turn down the thermostat or just be sure to put them on the bottom shelf where it’s coldest.

Don’t let the temperature get too cold. Apples will freeze at 28 or 29 degrees, which will ruin them. It’s also helpful to put a small fan inside the fridge to circulate the air and open the door regularly to ventilate any waste gasses that could build up.

It used to be that most every house had a cellar to use for this. They’re a bit warmer (which will shorten the storage life a bit) but still work fine.

The temperature needs to stay below 40 degrees. If you have a place like this, just be sure to allow space between bags of apples to improve air circulation. A garden shed can work sometimes, but you’ll probably need to insulate it well and perhaps even provide some supplemental heating on especially cold nights as well as ventilating it during warm sunny days.

People have even used straw-filled pits in the ground to store apples. This can get a bit iffy because you really can’t control the temperature.

A refrigerator is most often used because of the convenience and the ability to control the environment inside so much better.

The second thing to consider is the variety of apple you’re storing. Some varieties store longer than others.

Galas will store for one to three months, Jonathans two to three months, Red Delicious and Golden
Delicious three to four months, and Fuji and Granny Smith varieties four to five months.

Trying to store a variety longer than it is able is just begging for problems.

The last thing to consider is the quality of the fruit.

Remember, you’re simply delaying the natural decay of the fruit. Any bruises, wounds or blemishes will greatly hasten its demise.

Ideally, you’re looking for apples that are at the peak of ripeness with no cuts, bruises, soft spots or insect damage.

You can use “substandard” fruit but it won’t store as long. Be sure to keep a close eye on them to cull out any that begin to decay before it spreads to the other apples in the group.

Remember, too, that an apple that may not be terribly appetizing for fresh eating because of color or texture problems can still sometimes be perfectly fine for cooking or baking.

How do you graft a rose?
— Kim

Grafting a rose is a complicated and difficult process. I’ve tried it myself a number of times without success.

If you want to attempt it, the best would be to come Bookcliff Gardens, where I have a book on plant propagation that you could look at.

Most people trying to propagate a rose do it through cuttings. This is still pretty difficult, but you’ll usually have better success this way.

We have a garden guide on cuttings on our Web site.

To find it, go to http://www.bookcliffgardens.com/answercenter/pg-cuttings.htm.

Expect high losses when doing this, so be sure to do a lot more cuttings than you’ll need. Either softwood or hardwood cuttings will work (most homeowners do softwood cuttings and most production nurseries do hardwood cuttings).

If you want to try hardwood, it needs to be done pretty quickly, otherwise wait until May to do softwood cuttings.

Dennis Hill is the nursery manager at Bookcliff Gardens, online at http://www.bookcliffgardens.com. Send questions to Bookcliff Gardens, 755 26 Road, Grand Junction 81506; or e-mail info@


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