In case you hadn’t already heard (unlikely), fall is here, and that means apple picking season has also arrived. But while you’re out gathering the fall fruit, you might notice something in the orchard—reflective fabric on the ground.
So why do people put reflective fabric around trees? It’s all about light.
What you’re seeing is known as a reflective ground screen, and it’s designed to reflect the light hitting the ground back up into the fruit. When this happens, more light can get to the fruit in the middle and lower parts of the tree that might be covered by the canopy. This ensures those bottom levels get adequate amounts of sun, and it can have some big impacts like helping enhance color, balancing juice and sugar for better flavor, and controlling pests.
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Typically, the ground cover is applied directly under the trees, but sometimes, it can be added all over the ground floor. That’s what you’re seeing when you head to orchards. In fact, you might even see it in some gardens as the same trick can be used for growing items like tomatoes as well.
As for using it in your own garden or for your own fruit trees, exercise caution if you’re not an expert. When not used properly, the reflective fabric could create fruit burn and ruin your crop. Those at orchards and professionally maintained gardens know how to shift the angle of the ground cover to prevent too much light from reaching the fruit and disrupting photosynthesis. If you’re an amateur, use it at your own risk.
But if you head out apple picking this year and stumble across a bit of reflective fabric on the ground, now you’ll know that it’s not just for perfect selfie lighting.