Acreage Insights: Life Outside the City Limits
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- Plants for Childrens Gardens
- Summer-blooming Trees
- Turn the Compost Pile
- Do-It-Yourself Water Quality Test Kits
- Meat Labels 101 - What You Need to Know
- New Wildlife Damage Management Publication Available
- New Stormwater Management NebGuide Available
- 2014 Nebraska Farmland Values and Rental Rates
- Getting Kids Horseback Made Simple
- Harvest and Storage of Apples & Pears
For a complete listing, visit the
Upcoming Events Calendar
- Lincoln Iris Society Rhizome Sale, Lincoln, NE, August 2
- Pollinator Conservation Workshop, Mead, NE, August 5
- Woody Plants that Take the Heat, Lincoln, NE, August 7
- Soybean Management Field Day, Several Locations, August 12
- Nebraska Grazing Conference, Kearney, NE, August 12
- Nebraska State Fair, Grand Island, NE, August 22- Sept. 1
- Southeast Nebraska Diversified Ag Tour, Nebraska City, Sept. 5
- AppleJack 2014, Nebraska City, NE, Sept. 20-21
- Ak-Sar-Ben Stock Show, Omaha, NE, Sept. 25-28
- Fall Color and Planting, Lincoln, NE, Oct. 2
- 4-H Foundation Trail Ride, Halsey, NE, Oct. 11-12
Plants for Children's Gardens
By Rachel Andersen, Nebraska Statewide Arboretum
Getting children outside to explore nature in their own backyard is a great thing—but how can adults encourage it? One way is to take a look at how the space is designed. While adults may value a landscape for its aesthetic appeal or tidiness, kids primarily want to discover new things and have hands-on interaction. To plan a kid-friendly yard, pay less attention to appearances and focus more on opportunities for learning and play.
Plant selection can play a big role in stimulating the senses and attracting interesting wildlife. Native plants are especially good for bringing in fascinating insects, birds and other animals; and they teach a child something about the region where they live. Plants with flashy flowers, fuzzy heads, seedpods, smelly leaves, shiny seeds, tasty fruits or sticky sap are great choices. Fruits, vegetables and herbs are another terrific option and a reminder of where their food comes from.
No matter what plants you choose, the more variety and the more options for interest and interaction, the better. Here are some plants that can help foster curiosity, inspiration and discovery:
- Beebalm, Helen's flower and blanket flower have showy blooms that attract insects and leave behind extra-puffy seed balls.
- Milkweed is an insect and butterfly magnet that has sticky, milky sap, flower clusters and big pods full of silky seed tufts that are easily carried with the breeze.
- Mountain mint and wild onion flowers attract pollinators and have aromatic foliage that can be eaten or rubbed for a smelly experience.
- Prairie smoke, fremont's clematis and pasqueflower are less than a foot high, which makes it easy for kids to ogle their pretty flowers and puffy seedheads that look like wisps of smoke.
- False indigo is a Great Plains native with dramatic spring flower spikes that give way to plump seedpods perfect for rattling.
- Coneflower is good for wildlife and has flowers that resemble big, purple daisies. Its fat, pointed seedheads are exciting for little fingers to touch.
- Prairie grasses like bluestem, grama and lovegrass are year-round sensory plants with irresistibly soft seedheads and wispy blades.
- Wild plum, chokecherry, American hazelnut and currant are edible shrubs relished by wildlife that make good forts and hiding places.
Don't forget trees. It's great to have at least one or two big ones in the yard for climbing and for shade on hot days:
- Black walnut and northern pecan have big, edible nuts and attract wildlife.
- Oaks produce acorns, and more than 500 species of caterpillars feed on the oaks.
- Northern catalpa has huge flower plumes in long "cigar-like" seedpods.
- Weeping willow is a childhood favorite that can turn into a "living fort."
- Buckeye has big flowers and huge, shiny seeds for kids or wildlife.
- Black cherry and persimmon have fruits that attract insects and birds.
- Weeping mulberry has berries to eat and places to hide.
- Crabapple, magnolia and tree lilac are smaller trees that offer bold masses of beautiful, fragrant flowers.
- Pawpaw and serviceberry are small in size and they produce edible, yummy fruits.
- Pussy willow attracts wildlife and has huge, fuzzy buds and flowers.
- Ponderosa pine has big pinecones for gathering.
- Eastern white pine, with its soft needles, is good for climbing.
For touch, plant wooly thyme, fern, artemisia, porcupine grass, yarrow and sensitive plant.
For smell: Koreanspice viburnum, peony, lilac, sage, lavender, thyme and oregano.
For sound: Kentucky coffeetree, cottonwood, aspen and lotus. For flowers: sunflower, columbine, hydrangea, hardy hibiscus, clematis, liatris and bulbs.
For vegetables: cherry tomatoes, pumpkins, purple carrots, striped beets and rainbow chard.
Nebraska Statewide Arboretum is a nonprofit that works toward sustainable home and community landscapes through initiatives in education, public gardens and the environment. Plant and landscape resources at http://arboretum.unl.edu.
By Ryan Armbrust, Nebraska Forest Service
As the heat of summer wears on into the dog days of July and August, the majority of our trees offer the welcome relief of shade, but that's about it. Most of our "ornamental" flowering trees have long since dropped their petals and produced seed and fruit. A more or less uniform expanse of green foliage greets our eyes as we look over our urban trees.
But there are a few species that buck the trend and wait to flower until well after spring has given way to summer. Few can be considered natives to the region but, nonetheless, these trees are vastly underplanted and deserve a larger role in our landscapes.
Perhaps the most common summer-bloomer is the goldenrain tree, Koelreuteria paniculata, with abundant yellow flowers throughout the canopy from late June until mid-July. This mid-sized tree is well-suited for an urban environment since it is quite tolerant of heat, pollution, drought and wind. A beautiful specimen exists in Omaha's Elmwood Park, just south of the University of Nebraska Omaha campus. In Lincoln, several can be found in the neighborhoods just south of UNL's East Campus.
Amur maackia, another medium-sized tree, bears upright racemes of cream-colored flowers in July. These flowers are pleasantly-scented and very attractive to bees. Maackia amurensis shows promise as a tough street tree. Several specimens can be found along the Holdrege Street sidewalk on the south edge of Maxwell Arboretum.
Another great pollinator tree that supports native bees is the Japanese pagoda tree, Sophora japonica. While the small, cream-colored flowers of this interesting tree aren't particularly showy, they are fragrant throughout July and August and they give way to unique seeds that strongly resemble long pea pods (look for one at the corner of Biochemistry Hall on UNL's East Campus).
Sourwood is a native of the Appalachian Mountains, and is perhaps best known for its intense fall color. It is rarely planted in southeast Nebraska, but is hardy to zone 5 and should do well here. The flowers of Oxydendron arborea appear in July as masses of delicate, tiny, downward-facing bells strung along the tips of thin branches all over the tree. It tends to be a slow grower, but it's worth the wait.
Buttonbush is a native shrub that can be pruned into an attractive, multi-stemmed small tree. Cephalanthus occidentalis bears striking, ball-shaped flowers that resemble a Fourth of July firework exploding in a dense burst of white. Fittingly, this species can reach the peak of flowering around early July, but has a long bloom period that can last from late spring through late summer. It can be seen in its native shrub form along the shorelines of many rainwater basin lakes in Lancaster County.
Seven-son flower tree, Heptacodium miconioides, shares a similar form with buttonbush, but is slightly larger. This tree waits until September to bloom, but then really performs—with clusters of white flowers giving way to brilliant red and pink floral bracts that last for weeks. It's worth planting for its attractive, exfoliating bark alone, but the flowers really put it over the top. It is usually one of the last trees to bloom before frost, with the exception of the witchhazels that often bloom in November.
When the heat of summer melts away all memories of the flowers of spring, some of these later-blooming trees hold our interest as we wait for the cooler days and bright foliage of fall.
The Nebraska Forest Service strives to enrich lives by protecting, restoring and utilizing Nebraska's tree and forest resources.
Turn the Compost Pile
By John Fech, UNL Extension Horticulture Educator
Turn, turn, turn, to every season turn, turn, turn....... This is a song lyric that was popular many years ago. We can still hear it sometimes on some of the FM stations. Turning applies to gardening too. About once a month you should turn the compost pile. Once a week would be better, but at least monthly is a good practice.
The turning process moves air to the center of the pile, keeping the microorganism population teeming. It is these animals that do the work of changing leafy material to black gold. Turning is very timely in August and September, as it sets the pile up for new additions. As vegetable plants fade, pull them and throw them on top of the pile. Raking leaves? Throw them on the pile!
A second pile will be a great convenience to the garden. It's best to set it up so that one pile is "cooking" and the other is finished, so that you have a pile for adding and one for using. If you have a medium to large garden, three or more piles may be necessary.
For more information on composting - Garden Composting.
Do-It-Yourself Water Quality Test Kits
By Sharon Skipton, Extension Water Quality Educator
Do-it-yourself water quality test kits can be found in many local stores that target rural homeowners and on many web sites. A variety of test kits and dip strips are available; each designed to test for a specific water quality parameter or group of parameters. They can be relatively inexpensive, but are they a good option for people with private drinking water wells?
The quality of water from private drinking water wells is not currently regulated by federal or state statutes. Therefore, testing your private water supply is not required under state or federal law. If you want to know if contaminants are present, and their concentration, you can voluntarily pursue water testing.
Three classes of pollutants are considered health risks. These include pathogens such as bacteria, radioactive elements such as radon, and chemicals such as nitrate, arsenic, or lead.
When testing for contaminants that present a health risk if present in high enough concentrations, a do-it-yourself test kit might be used for preliminary "screening." Some available kits might be able to indicate if a contaminant is present and roughly estimate the contaminant concentration. However, analysis by an approved laboratory is recommended for an accurate, reliable, and precise measurement from which to base decisions.
Other substances present no health risk but can impact aesthetic factors such as taste or staining. These include hardness minerals. Do-it-yourself test kits can provide a good estimate of water hardness. Information might be adequate for making decisions such as how to manage iron. However, in situations where managing a nuisance contaminant may require a considerable financial investment, we recommend that you have an approved laboratory verify the substance concentration.
The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services approves laboratories to conduct tests for drinking water supplies. Approval must be obtained for each specific contaminant, so a laboratory might not be approved to test for all potential drinking water contaminants.
Laboratories not approved to test for a specific contaminant may use the same equipment and procedures as approved laboratories. Such laboratories may provide accurate analysis, but there is no independent information about the laboratory's ability to obtain reliable results. See the NebGuide Drinking Water: Certified Testing Laboratories in Nebraska to find out if a lab is certified and whether it's the right lab to test the contaminant of interest.
Meat Labels 101 – What You Need to Know
By Lindsay Chichester, UNL Extension Livestock Educator
The claims on meat labels can be confusing and overwhelming. What do they mean? Why do certain labels cost more? If you are marketing your meat product you need to know what your customers are looking for and what they will pay money for. This article will provide you with information about various meat label claims so you can efficiently market your product to the right consumer, or seek out the label that best aligns with your beliefs and budget.
Grain-fed or conventionally fed is how the majority of animals are raised in the U.S. This means the animal received grain through a balanced diet for a certain period of time before it is harvested. Grains help the animals grow more quickly. Additionally, grain increases marbling (intramuscular fat), improving meat quality by making the meat more flavorful, tender, and juicy.
Grass-fed means the animal should only be consuming grasses and forages for its lifetime, with the exception of milk prior to weaning. Mineral and vitamin supplementation may be included in the feeding regimen. Grass-fed animals cannot be fed grain or grain byproducts and must have continuous access to pasture during the growing season. A common myth is only a small portion of animals are grass-fed. This is untrue, as the majority of animals consume grass for the majority of their lives and are finished on grain for just a few months prior to harvest.
Organic products make up approximately 3% of total food sales. Organically labeled meats mean the animal's diet can consist of any grain or forage diet (or combination of both) as long as the feedstuffs are certified organic. The organic program is monitored by the USDA's National Organic Program (NOP). To be certified organic, a grain or forage resource must not have had synthetic fertilizers, sewage sludge, irradiation applied, or genetically engineered products produced on that ground in three or more years. Additionally, livestock cannot receive antibiotics or added growth hormones in the organic program. The important thing to note here is the NOP only guarantees the feedstuffs an animal consumes, it does not govern what happens or what is added after harvest (i.e. sauces, spices, marinades, etc.). If these products are certified organic too, then the product can be labeled as such. Research has also indicated organically produced food is not healthier or better for you than conventionally produced foods. Finally, an organic label does not mean the item is pesticide or chemical free. The pesticides and/or chemicals approved for use in organic agriculture are made from natural elements, not synthetic chemicals.
All-natural means nothing was added to the meat after the animal was harvested. There is no government regulation of this program. Under an all-natural label the final meat product cannot contain any artificial ingredients (i.e. spices, sauces, marinades, etc.), the addition of colorants, or the addition of chemical preservatives. Meat with and all-natural label can be grain-fed, grass-fed, or organic. Additionally, the all-natural label does not include any standards regarding the farming practice so animals in this program can receive antibiotics or additional growth hormones. Some producers under the all-natural label do not use antibiotics or additional growth hormones, so it is best to visit with the livestock farmer/rancher (if possible) to see what their specific practices are.
Naturally raised is a different program than all-natural, they should not be used interchangeably. Naturally raised means the animals have been raised entirely without antibiotics, additional growth hormones, or animal byproducts (not a common practice). Naturally raised does have a certification program and all products under this label must be certified by the USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service (ARS). Since naturally raised carries the "natural" label, the final meat product cannot contain any artificial ingredients (i.e. spices, sauces, marinades, etc.), the addition of colorants, or the addition of chemical preservatives.
No added hormones – first you should know all living organisms contain hormones, they are naturally occurring! There is no such thing as hormone free, it is a misnomer. The appropriate language would be no added hormones, no additional hormones, raised without added hormones, no hormones administered, or no synthetic hormones. Also, the hog, poultry, and bison industries do not allow additional hormones to be given – it is illegal. The statement "no added hormones" cannot be used on meat packaging for pork, chicken, or bison unless it also includes the statement "Federal regulations prohibit the use of hormones in poultry/pork/bison" so as not to mislead consumers into believing that these meat products were grown with additional hormones. The no added hormone label can be used in grain-fed, grass-fed, organic, all-natural, or naturally raised programs – it is not inclusive to just one or two production practices.
No antibiotics – also called raised without antibiotics or no antibiotics administered. This label indicates the animal has received no antibiotics in the course of its lifetime. The term "no antibiotics administered" can only be used on labels if the livestock farmer/rancher can sufficiently document the animal was raised without antibiotics. Just like in humans and companion animals, antibiotics can be used in meat production animals to treat illness. If an animal must be given an antibiotic, the meat, milk, and eggs cannot be sold in the organic or naturally raised programs and cannot have the label raised without antibiotics. It is important to note when/if meat animals need antibiotics, livestock farmers/ranchers closely follow withdrawal dates (the amount of time it takes for an antibiotic to no longer be in an animal's tissues). The no antibiotic label can be used in grain-fed, grass-fed, organic, all-natural, or naturally raised programs – it is not inclusive to just one or two production practices.
Humanely raised is a certification program verified through third party company audits. Each company provides third party verification and has different criterion for what humanely raised means, but this list covers most of the criterion:
- Produced in an ethical and humane fashion
- Raised with minimal stress
- Access to ample feed and water
- No antibiotics
- No additional hormones
- Are not fed animal products/byproducts
- Anything that doesn't come from a factory farm
- Animals raised on pastures
- Animals allowed to act naturally
- Product traceability back to the farmer
- Certified by a trustworthy, independent organization
- Processed in a conscientious manner
Humanely raised is not regulated by a USDA program. The established standards for each of these programs are generally created, reviewed, and updated by an advisory committee. The members of this advisory committee are persons who may or may not be "experts" in food production, animal health, animal behavior, and/or animal care. To be enrolled in a humane labeling program the livestock producer will pay a fee for the humane certification program organization to visit their farm/ranch to conduct an audit.
When trying to decide which meat labeling option is best for you, it is important to purchase meats that support your values and beliefs, as well as meats that fit into your budget. Shopping around is always advisable too. There are many options when it comes to purchasing meat, meat can be purchased directly from a producer, a small or local butcher shop, a local retailer, a Farmer's Market, or from a bulk retailer. Meat purchases may be based on the taste of one of the meat type over another, how a meat product fits into the budget, and/or family preference.
For more detail about each of these meat label claims visit Agri-Cultural with Dr. Lindsay.
New Wildlife Damage Management Publication Available
By Stephen VanTassel, UNL Project Manager for Wildlife Damage Management
The University of Nebraska-Lincoln has produced a new book on wildlife control of common species in Nebraska. Though designed for Master Gardeners, the information is suitable for non-professionals looking to find research-based information on wildlife damage management.
The spiral bound book contains 216 letter-sized pages. The first 12 modules detail general wildlife management principles, safety, inspection, animal handling, dispatch, disposal, and tips on when you should hire a professional. The remainder of the book covers the biology, damage, and control techniques suitable for management of 20 common species in Nebraska, including, Canada geese, pigeons, house sparrows, starlings, bats, beaver, deer, raccoons, moles, snakes, skunks, squirrels, and more.
Hard copies are available at UNL School of Natural Resources Map and Publication Store for $25.00. In the near future, a PDF of the book may be downloaded at no cost.
If you have questions about this publication, contact Stephen Vantassel, 402-472-8961.
New Stormwater Management NebGuide
By Dave Shelton, UNL Extension Agricultural Engineer
Have you heard the term "stormwater management" and wondered what it meant? A new NebGuide can help with that. The NebGuide "Stormwater Management: What Stormwater Management Is and Why It Is Important" provides an overview of what stormwater is, what it means to manage stormwater, and why it is important to do so, and gives an overview of the changing practice of stormwater management.
2014 Nebraska Farmland Values and Rental Rates
By Jim Jansen, UNL Extension Educator, and Roger Wilson, UNL Budget Analyst Farm Management
The recently published Nebraska Farm Real Estate Market Highlights 2013-2014 report indicates as of February 1, 2014 the weighted average farmland value for the state rose by about 9 percent over the prior 12-month period to $3,315 per acre. Also, 2014 cash rental rates on average declined across Nebraska for dryland and irrigated cropland; while pasture and cow-calf pair rental rates significantly increased. Survey panel members indicated lower grain prices as the most negative factor influencing cropland rental markets and cattle prices as the most positive factor leading into record setting cow-calf pair rental rates.
Full Report - 2014 Nebraska Farmland Values and Rental Rates
As part of the Nebraska Farm Real Estate Market Survey, each year panel members are surveyed on new or emerging issues related to the agricultural land market in Nebraska. The special feature recently published as part of Nebraska Farm Real Estate Market Highlights 2013-2014 report evaluated the types of contractual rental arrangements used in Nebraska to lease agricultural land along with the availability of grain storage as part of the agreement.
Full Report - 2014 Cropland Lease Arrangements in Nebraska
Land appraisers, farm managers, or agricultural finance professionals from Nebraska interested in participating in future Nebraska Farm Real Estate Market Surveys are invited to contact the Department of Agricultural Economics at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. Interested parties can directly contact the Agricultural Economics Department by phone: (402) 472-3401 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Jim Jansen, (402) 472-3401
Cedar and Knox County Extension
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Roger Wilson, Budget Analyst Farm Management
Dept. of Agricultural Economics
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Getting Kids Horseback Made Simple
Use Take Me Riding to introduce kids to the wonderful world of horses!
Take Me Riding, the world's most revolutionary effort to introduce children to a wonderful world of horses, is now available. Take Me Riding is an all-breeds "edutainment experience" for children ages 5 to 9 found online at www.TakeMeRiding.com.
"It's refreshing how leaders in the horse industry have come together for the similar cause to introduce more children to the wonderful world of horses," said Todd Branson, AQHA director of youth development. "Children can play fun, educational games; watch comprehensive videos showing kids with horses; learn more with an ultimate ‘all about horses' encyclopedia; and find horses near their home with geolocation maps and driving directions to popular horse landmarks, events and riding centers."
Take Me Riding is designed for the fast-paced family lifestyle, and efficiently works on mobile devices and tablets. Desktop or laptop users have an enhanced experience with more games and a customizable Riding Space where children can collect images of horses, earn badges for their online and offline horse experiences, track their progress and much more!
The primary focus of Take Me Riding is three original video seasons, each with nine episodes that follow the lives of Jack, Anna and Grace. Take Me Riding is also packed with resources for Mom and Dad, lesson plans built around the common core standards for teachers, an event calendar that offers upcoming horse events near children and a store that carries almost anything a child could ever want, except a real horse. Mom and Dad can also use the comprehensive geolocation map to find trusted trainers, instructors and locations to inquire more about a real horse experience.
Children who are already active in horses through 4-H, FFA or other youth development programs have new online options too. These youth now have access to OnlineStable.com – a digital record keeping system that records leadership, achievement, community service and time spent with their animals. OnlineStable.com is also an animal management tool, and users can record feeding habits, living arrangements, schedule upcoming and ongoing veterinary visits, and track expenses. OnlineStable.com is made for smartphones and tablets to allow youth to keep the record updated on their time, not in front of a desktop or laptop computer.
"These projects are truly revolutionary, and we are looking forward to a bright future where technology works with us to get more children active in horses and horseback," Branson added. "TakeMeRiding.com and OnlineStable.com are not answers, but they are much-needed tools to support the future of the horse industry."
Much more is planned, and these projects need your support and help. A generous gift from Wagonhound Land and Livestock and financial support from AQHA have funded the start-up costs of these projects, however these efforts are nowhere near complete. For information about the fundraising effort, please visit www.aqha.com/foundation or call 806-378-5029.
Visit www.TakeMeRiding.com today, to learn more about horses. For information on
Take Me Riding came to life from a comprehensive research project led by the American Quarter Horse Association and an advisory board of industry leaders from the American Youth Horse Council, Certified Horsemanship Association, Cooperative Extension Equine Specialists, The United States Pony Club, Inc. and Wagonhound Land and Livestock. This team assisted in determining where the deficiencies existed in membership and participation, how to engage with a younger audience and what new products should be considered to maximize the engagement potential.
Harvest and Storage of Apples & Pears
By Sarah Browning, UNL Extension Horticulture Educator
Harvesting apples at the proper stage of development is the first step toward ensuring high quality garden produce that tastes great and stores well. If picked prematurely, apples are likely to be sour, tough, small and poorly colored; if picked overripe, they may develop internal breakdown and store poorly. This year, due to summer's high temperatures, apples may be prone to moving from ripe to rotting very quickly, with a shorter window for the mature ripe stage than usual. So pay close attention to ripeness stages and don't delay picking to ensure a good harvest.
To harvest apples correctly, you must be familiar with the term "ground color." Ground color is the color of an apple's skin, disregarding any areas that have become red. In red-fruited cultivars, observe the portion of the apple that faces the interior of the tree. When the ground color of red cultivars changes from leaf green to yellowish green or creamy, the apples are ready to harvest. In yellow cultivars, the ground color becomes golden. Mature apples with a yellowish-green background color are suitable for storage.
Most apple cultivars have brown seeds when ready for harvest. However, seeds may become brown several weeks before proper picking maturity, so seed color should not be used as the sole method of evaluating maturity.Early maturing apples, sometimes called ‘summer apples', are ready for harvest in late August and early September, and include varieties such as Honeycrisp, Paula Red, Gala, and Jonagold. Summer apples may not maintain their quality in storage as long as later maturing varieties, and so are often eaten fresh.
Apples that are to be stored should be picked when mature, but hard: i.e., showing the mature skin color but with a hard flesh. When harvesting, do not remove the stems since this wound will create an opening for rot fungi. Be sure to only store apples without bruises, insect or disease damage, cracks, splits, or mechanical injury. Any damaged fruits should be used for fresh eating, or processing.Storage
Many cultivars of apples store moderately well under home storage conditions for up to six months. Late maturing varieties are best suited for long-term storage. These apples can be stored in baskets or boxes lined with plastic to help retain moisture. Varieties that tend to shrivel can be stored in plastic bags that have several holes for gas exchange.
Always sort apples carefully and avoid bruising them. The saying 'one bad apple spoils the barrel' is true because apples give off ethylene gas which speeds ripening. When damaged, ethylene is given off more rapidly and will hasten the ripening of other apples in the container.Because of their sugar content, apples can be stored at 30-32°F without freezing the tissue. In general, apples ripen about four times as fast at 50°F as at 32°F, so they should be kept as close to 32°F as possible for long-term storage. Apples will maintain their quality in storage for several months, anywhere from 2 to 6 months base on the cultivar.
Apples will pass their odor or flavor to more delicately flavored produce and the ethylene given off by apples can accelerate ripening in other crops. When possible, store apples away from other fruits and vegetables.
Knowing when to harvest pears is confusing to many gardeners, because tree ripened pears often do not have good quality. They develop stone or grit cells, or a mealy texture that makes the fruit less desirable. Pears ripen from the inside out, a characteristic more pronounced in tree ripened fruits. So when the outside flesh has become slightly soft and appears to have good eating quality, the inside flesh is soft and brown.
Tree ripened fruits have shorter shelf and storage life, which may be particularly true this year with summer's continued high temperatures. Fruits left on the tree too long will go quickly from slightly under-ripe to rotting.
For good flavor and texture, pears must be ripened after harvest. Completing the ripening process indoors reduces the development of stone cells and evens the ripening of interior and exterior flesh.
When to Harvest
Harvest pears while they are still quite firm (hard) but the skin color, or ‘ground color', has lightened to a pale green or greenish-yellow color. Ground color is the color of a pear's skin, disregarding any areas that have become red. Don't allow pears to become fully yellow on the tree before harvesting. Additional indications that pears are ready to harvest are when the fruit stem easily separates from the branch with an upward twist of the fruit and when the lenticels (spots on fruit surface), which are white or green on immature fruits, become brown.
After harvest, pears should be held at 60 to 65°F for 1 to 3 weeks, depending on the type of pear. During this time the pears will ripen and soften. High temperatures (75°F and higher) after picking will cause the fruit to break down without ripening. After ripening, pears should be canned or preserved.
To keep pears longer in storage, do not allow them to ripen after harvest. Sort the immature pears for defects, discarding any with bruises, mechanical damage or insect damage, then place them into cold storage at 29-31°F and 90% humidity. Perforated plastic bags or partially sealed plastic containers can be used to store small groups of fruit while maintaining high humidity but allowing gas exchange of ethylene, which hastens ripening. Store pears away from apples, onions, potatoes or any other ethylene-producing fruits or vegetables.
Regularly inspect stored fruits for mold, and fruit breakdown. Pears in a good storage environment should last 2-4 months. Ripen small amounts as needed, by moving them to a warmer location, 60-65°F, for a few days.