LITTLE SIOUX, Iowa | Growing is in Tom Trapp's blood.
As a child, Trapp fondly recalls his father, Bernard, making wine from a variety of fruit he grew in his orchard.
In 2011, Trapp followed in his father's footsteps by founding Trapple Orchard in Little Sioux. The orchard has more than 450 fruit trees and 20 varieties of fruit and produce, including Honeycrisp, Jonathan, Delicious, Granny Smith apples, as well as pears, cherries, plums, apricots, peaches and berries.
"Certainly Jonathan are very popular. We've got a Red Delicious, which is called Adams Apple," Trapp said in late August. "The ones that we're picking now are Gala, Blondee, Ginger Gold and another called Redfree."
In Siouxland, apple season generally runs from the middle of August to late October. Although Trapp said apples come in waves during the fall, he said running an apple orchard is pretty much a year-round endeavor.
"We've got some Granny Smith apples that'll come off the last week of October," he said. "Oftentimes, that's after the killing frost, so sometimes we'll get them, sometimes we won't -- that's what I've been told. I've yet to harvest any of them myself because we're so new at this."
In the winter, Trapp said he does a lot of pruning, which sets up the fruit for the following year. In the spring, he starts mowing between the trees and weeding around them to ensure they have good airflow. This process of constant tending, which includes watering if conditions are very dry, continues throughout the summer. Fall is harvest time.
"They become ripe and they convert that starch to sugar -- that's what sweetens up the apples," Trapp said.
While some orchards in Siouxland sustained crop damage from a storm that pelted the region with hail as large as a softball, Trapp's apples went unscathed.
"It's a good year for apples. We've got just a marvelous crop this year," said Trapp, who takes a holistic approach to growing by spraying as little as possible.
Trapple Orchard is a membership orchard, meaning customers have to sign up in order to pick. They also have the option to adopt a tree. Trapp said the registration process is very simple and can be initiated on the orchard's website.
When it comes to picking apples, Trapp said you need to carefully select those that are ripe. Apples ripen from the outside of the tree into the center, so the apples out the outside of the tree ripen first. Ripe apples, Trapp said, will easily release from the tree.
"You just lift and give them a little twist," he said. "If you try to pull them and they don't come off easily, then they're not ready."
Since apple trees are susceptible to worm infestation, Trapp advised picking the best-looking apples possible. While it's not uncommon for apples to have blemishes, be on the lookout for small holes and dark spots, which could signal the entry of a worm.
"When you look at the apples, you pick those that are going to be as perfect as possible," he said. "We ask that whatever (customers) pick, they take. Any of the orchard owners will tell you the same -- they don't want a lot of discard on the ground."