By Amanda Reeves
October is the month of apple festivals and the countryside is littered with fallen fruit providing a welcome feast for our wildlife. The late spring held back flowering time, meaning the apple blossoms were less likely to be damaged by frosts and resulting in a bumper crop this year.
As the autumn nights start to draw in birds, insects and small mammals are busily stocking up their fat reserves for the winter and these tasty treats from nature’s larder provide much-needed calories. Whether the energy provided will be used to see them through hibernation, or on a long seafaring migration flight, it is an essential part of their survival strategy. Apples are a favourite with young hedgehogs as they need to put on weight and grow before their long winter sleep.
Among the creatures munching through their five-a-day are bank voles, wasps, green woodpeckers, fieldfares, blue tits, blackbirds, hedgehogs and, of course, worms. So if you have fallen apples in your garden it’s a good idea to leave a few for the wildlife to enjoy and you may catch a glimpse of them as a reward. This is good news for the tree too, as the animals carry the seeds away in their stomachs and deposit them far and wide with a little dollop of fertiliser to help the new seedlings grow.
Apple Day is 21 October, so how we would like to celebrate this bumper harvest? From pressing apples to traditional apple bobbing; there are plenty of ideas to choose from, many handed down over the centuries. It is said that in ancient Greece throwing an apple to a girl meant you wanted to marry her – and if she caught it, she was saying yes. Apples also make a great natural feeder for your garden, perhaps cored and hung up in a tree with large sunflower seeds pushed into the skin. Then there’s cider, or my favourite; apple and blackberry crumble.