A gentle lifting and twisting motion will release ripe apples.

How to Pick Apples From Tall Trees With a Pole Picker

by Angela Ryczkowski

Even with proper pruning to control the height and spread of the canopy of an apple tree (Malus domestica), some desirable fruits will still, frustratingly, develop out of arm's reach. Orchard, or tripod ladders, although safer to use around trees than other types of ladder, can still present serious hazards and are bulky and sometimes costly, making them impractical if you only have a tree or two. Pole pickers are a cost-effective, relatively safe alternative to ladders. Apple trees generally grow in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 2 through 10, depending on the variety.

Extend the handle on the pole picker, if it has a telescoping handle, so the tool is long enough for the head of the tool to reach the mature apple you have your sights on.

Hold the pole picker with two hands and raise it to the height of the apple in the canopy. If the canopy is dense or the branches are overlapping, it will be easier to raise the pole picker to an almost vertical position while standing slightly away from the canopy before angling the picker, approaching the tree and reaching for the apple with the tool.

Position the head of the picker so the clawlike tines are just above the fruit or the hook or snippers are around or on either side of the stem connecting the fruit to the tree. Keep the bucket or bag below the fruit and in a position to catch the apple.

Tug gently on the fruit with the picker so it separates from the tree and falls into the basket or bag or use the tug cord on the pole picker to force the blade or blades to cut through the stem that connects the apple to the tree.

Repeat this process with other ripe-looking apples until the basket or bag at the head of the tool is full, it contains the number of apples you want to pick or the tool is becoming too heavy for you to easily control.

Lower the pole, hand over hand, moving away from the canopy, if necessary, to clear the branches. Check behind you when backing up or lowering the pole between your hands to make sure there are no people or objects in your way.

Remove the apples from the basket or bag at the end of the picker by hand or place the basket of the pole picker just over a bushel, crate or box and rotate it so the fruit falls out. Make sure the head of the pole picker is close to the basket or crate if you do this to avoid bruising the fruit.

Items you will need

  • Hard hat, if needed
  • Basket, crate or bag


  • If gentle tugging with the pole picker does not release the apple from the tree, a gentle twisting motion may help. If a slight, tugging twist does not separate the apple from the tree, assume that the apple is not yet ripe.


  • Do not use a pole picker with a metal pole around overhead utility lines.
  • Use pole pickers cautiously around children and make sure everyone remains well clear of the person using the picker, as both the head of the picker with its claws, hook or blade and the blunt end of the pole can cause injury.
  • If you are standing directly below the canopy, wear a hard hat. If anyone else is standing under the canopy or near the tree, make sure they are also wearing head protection.
  • Remember, apple seeds are poisonous, as they contain hydrogen cyanide. In large quantities, hydrogen cyanide can cause respiratory failure and death.

About the Author

Angela Ryczkowski is a professional writer who has served as a greenhouse manager and certified wildland firefighter. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in urban and regional studies.

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images