I not only beat the squirrels in this year's apple harvest game, I trounced them with a score of 132-12. Best of all I didn't have to wear a helmet and I only attended one practice.
In 2016 I planted 2 apple espalier trees. They were 3 feet tall. 7 years later they are still 3 feet tall. Each tree has 6 branches that have been grafted to a trunk. And each branch grows a different variety of apple.
The magic of an espalier tree is that it doesn't grow any taller. The height at planting is the height it will always maintain. Plus they grow flat. They're only 1' deep. Imagine growing a wall of apples in the same space a boxwood hedge or clematis vine fits.
That means they take up NO space at all, you can grow them against a fence or a house wall and harvest hundreds of apples.
The success of your harvest is directly correlated to the success of the squirrels harvest.
Typically I get a harvest, but it doesn't require a crate. This post shows off what a typical apple harvest is after I've lost apples to dropping, squirrels and bugs. But mainly squirrels.
I've tried everything I could think of to save the apples from the squirrels over the years. I wrote about all the apple protecting methods I've tried in this post.
🍎 This Year I Can Confirm THIS Is the Best Apple Protection There Is 🍎
Thin, plastic cloches from the dollar store. They come in a pack of 5 for a couple of dollars. I wrote about this method to protect apples before and it worked well but I continued to experiment.
This year, I went back to the plastic cloche method and plan to stick with it.
Pros: It works. Squirrels can't get to the apples easily. You can reuse the cloches year after year.
Cons: They're hideous.
I'm a function over form person so I can live with the cloches. I'd rather have them on the tree and GET apples than have my trees look pretty but spend my days sucking on a bottle of Gaviscon to keep the squirrel-hate bile down.
A couple of weeks ago I pulled the cloches off and started harvesting. Up until that point I had lost about 12 apples either to squirrels or skunks.
I know it was that number because squirrels and skunks like to pick apples. They do not particularly like to eat them. I find them just below the tree with scratch marks on them and occasionally in more taunting places, like on top of the fence outside my kitchen window or on my porch.
So yup. The cloches did their job. I suppose if I were to be 100% transparent I should also mention that just behind the apples, and under my front porch was the living quarters of a raccoon all summer.
I didn't know the raccoon was living under the porch until I watched a skunk move in and kick the raccoon out one morning.
Then I had to get rid of the skunk.
Here's the episode.
You might have noticed that after the skunk moved in, I partially screwed a layer of hardware cloth over the hole in my porch. I kept it loose enough that the skunk would be able to escape at night to go hunting, but tight enough it wasn't able to get back in. In the morning I finished screwing the hardware cloth to the porch knowing nothing was stuck inside.
The Raccoon Effect
As it happens, squirrels are afraid of raccoons. I know this to be a valid fear after having seen a raccoon grab, kill, and eat a squirrel in my maple tree, dropping its tail to the sidewalk below.
THEREFORE I'm still not sure if it was the cloches, the squatting raccoon or a combination of both that led to my huge apple harvest.
This crate and 2 baskets are holding the first harvest of over 100 apples. I'll pick the remaining ones this week.
The two branches that produced the majority of the apples were Jonagold and McIntosh. The Jonagolds are delicious and perfect for eating and I'm preserving the McIntosh apples in a couple of ways.
In the next couple of weeks I'll be showing you how to make and can applesauce and make dehydrated apple chips.
I challenge any squirrel to share the same level of practical information with you.