Region enjoys bumper crop of apples

Apple trees are groaning under the weight of this year's crop, thanks to a warm May and a cool June.

University of Nevada, Reno, Arboretum Chairman Raymond Needham said that while he is not an apple expert, spring weather contributed to the fruit.

"The weather this spring turned mild a bit early perhaps but not extraordinarily so," he said. "This prevented fruit and other flowering trees from breaking dormancy too early. The very mild June also aided fruit development."

Both Needham and Cooperative Extension Educator JoAnne Skelly said fruit needs to be thinned early in the season, especially when there's a lot of it.

"When apples are about dime-sized they should be thinned to about 6 inches apart or a bit closer on stronger branches," Needham said. "The apples left on the tree should be larger and of better quality. The tree won't exhaust its resources or structural integrity trying to support the excess fruit and that will result in a more consistent harvest year after year."

Skelly said all anyone can do is pick the fruit and hope for the best.

"Picking some and leaving some may get a little more size on what's left," she said. "Apples will ripen off the tree. Unless the freeze is extreme, the apples left on the tree will be fine."

Skelly said that it's important to keep apples off the ground to reduce interest from bears.

"However, bears can climb trees, so this is not a complete solution," she said.

State black bear biologist Carl Lackey said apples and other fruit are a natural food source for bears.

"It's part of living in the forest," he said. "You've provided a natural food source for bears. If you planted apples or any type of natural food for bears or deer, either live with it or get rid of the apples as much as possible."

He said planting fruit trees and putting in a pond provides wild animals with food and water.

"You've just made that habitat better for wildlife," he said. "I wouldn't fret as long as they're going for apples. They're more likely to leave when the apples are gone."

Lackey suggested that if picking the apples is not a possibility, a temporary electric fence around the tree can keep the bears away.

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