What to know about apple picking this fall … and more ways to celebrate the season


With the trees dropping their leaves and turning into those familiar hues of orange, red, and yellow, it’s natural to start looking for ways to ring in the official start of fall. One way to do that is with one of the most classic activities there is: apple picking.

Greg Downey, owner of Downey’s Strawberry and Apple Farm, explained what the process of growing apples is like.

In winter, the apple trees are pruned so that they can grow new buds in spring, which according to Downey, generally happens May 10 to 15. The main concern when it comes to apple trees is frost, which can damage the trees and impact their yield. After the frost passes, focus shifts to ensuring there aren’t too many apples on a tree. “The tree can only look after so many apples, if there’s too many on there they’ll all be small,” he said.

Pruning is also done in summer, where suckers (tree limbs that produce little to no fruit) are cut.

Weather fluctuates from season to season, which makes it difficult to assess the impacts of larger weather changes due to climate change. “I think, climate change is measured more in decades or hundreds of years than year to year,” Downey said.

To find the freshest apples in KW, look to these spots around the Waterloo region:

Shuh Orchards

6515 Line 86

Located a 20-minute drive from the Student Life Centre, you can buy baskets of freshly picked apples from Shuh Orchards starting this Saturday. The orchards have been in the family for four generations, and offer Gala, Ambrosia, and Honeycrisp.

Downey’s Apple Farm

1355 Hopewell Creek Rd.

Open daily except for Tuesdays from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., check out Downey’s for their pick-your-own apples and pumpkins. The entrance fee is $5 on weekends and $3 on weekdays, which also grants you access to the wagon rides, corn maze, and pumpkin patch on the farm. If you’re going with a group, you can choose a 10-lb. bag of apples for $25 (four people maximum) or a 20-lb. bag for $42 (seven people maximum). In addition to its orchards, Downey’s offers freshly-pressed cider and other fresh produce like corn and squash for purchase.

To find the best apples, Downey recommends looking to the tops of the trees, as fruit there receives the most sun. The apple should also come off relatively easily: “You know the old saying, ‘Eye to the sky,’” he says, where the apple should twist off if you simply turn it upside down from the stem.

If apple picking isn’t for you but you still want to enjoy all that fall has to offer this September, check out these fall activity alternatives.

Strom’s Farm & Bakery

5089 Wellington Rd.

If you’re looking to get into the spooky mood early, then starting Sept. 20 stop by Strom’s to pick your own pumpkins. For an $18 admission, you also gain access to a plethora of fall activities, including the corn maze, wagon rides, and fire pit area (food and drink available for purchase).

Wild Hog Country Market

2785 Line 34

Located just under a 10-minute drive from the Stratford School of Interaction Design and Business, the Wild Hog Country Market is open Tuesdays to Saturdays for all your local market needs. Fresh produce, meats, cheeses, baked goods, and an espresso bar are all up for grabs.

Stratford Fall Fair

20 Waddell St.

353 McCarthy Rd.

From Sept. 21 to 24, head to the fair grounds to indulge your inner child. Check out the midway, exhibit halls, and various shows such as the Perth County Championship Show on Sept. 22 and the miniature horse show and farmers’ market on Sept. 23.