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I have two crabapple trees that drop crabapples down every year. They get awfully gooey and sticky and make walking through my yard barefoot a terrible ordeal. Is there some sort of enzyme or chemical compound that I can put on them to speed up the rotting process and therefore get them out of my yard quicker?

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    No. But I've got a suggestion - rake or collect them up every few days, or daily if you can, before they start rotting, and bag them ready for disposal elsewhere if you don't want to compost them, that's what most people do rather than leaving them to rot on the ground. Unless you like cooking, when you could make crabapple jelly – Bamboo Sep 28 '14 at 17:21
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    I agree, a rake will always be faster than natural decay. – kevinsky Sep 28 '14 at 17:54
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    You could use chickens. They eat fallen fruit, keep the grass down, and fertilize. They need fencing and housing though. If you have a gasoline blower and the grass is mowed, you can blow them out and into a pile, but otherwise, raking should work. What size are the crabapples? ornamental or fruiting? – J. Musser Sep 28 '14 at 18:01
  • Chickens or other animals sound like a great idea. On another note, we have a whole bunch of wormy yellow delicious apples that fell on the ground. I figured they would rot faster and attract less pests if I bagged them (since they would hold moisture and be exposed to more enzymes from other rotting apples). They seem to be rotting, and are now soft, however they smell just like vinegar. They probably make an extremely acidic compost. I'm thinking they might be good for our blueberries when they're done. – Shule Oct 2 '14 at 0:29
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    @user2962794: Apples on their own are not going to make a good compost. Apples have a carbon/nitrogen ratio of about 13/1, and are also 84% water. The ideal ratio for composting is 30/1. To compost best, you will want to smash them up, and mix them with a high carbon material like shredded leaves, shredded paper, etc. If you try to compost them on their own without drainage, you will likely end up with a substance that is both smelly and toxic (because of the possible acid and/or alcohol levels in the finished material. – J. Musser Oct 2 '14 at 10:38
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No, not really.

Fruit trees will drop fruit and if you don't want the fruit on the ground, you'll need to pick them up if you don't have animals that will eat them. Here on my farm the chickens would eat those up, assuming the deer didn't get to them first.

Personally, I'd collect them and compost them - [crab]apples break down pretty well in the pile. Composting is so easy to do that everyone ought to consider doing it.

Here on the farm we use stall forks - like a pitchfork but with closer-spaced tines - to pick up things like this. But raking them into a pike and shoveling them would work too.

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    and if you do intend to do something with the fruit you pick, it's even more important to keep the ground under it clear. Our cherries were so wormy until we learned to clear away fallen fruit - then we not only had a nicer lawn, the next year we had nicer cherries! – Kate Gregory Sep 29 '14 at 15:56
  • I suspect fallen fruit may make the ground more acidic (I don't know if this is always the case), and this may be why the cherries improved (in addition to the fact that some pests may breed better with fallen fruit). See my comment to the question about my bag of apples smelling like vinegar. Anyway, it might be interesting to test your soil PH after a year of leaving the fruit on the ground (versus a year of not) and see if there's a difference. – Shule Oct 2 '14 at 0:35
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I am with J Musser, chickens are the best way. With portable fencing you could corral them all day under the tree, which they will fertilize in return. A pig would work too, but since they are such destructive root hunters, most people bring the food to them.

If you are thinking of picking them up, you might place a tarp under the tree just before the fruit starts to fall. This will be detrimental to whatever is under the tarp, but if its just a bit of grass it might be worth it.

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Technically, the answer here is "ethylene".

From wiki:

Ethylene is also an important natural plant hormone, used in agriculture to force the ripening of fruits.

But obviously its not practical to put some lighter-than-air and explosive gas onto your lawn.

Here's one thought though... Can't you just run the lawn mower over them?

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    Ethylene helps the fruit ripen. It doesn't aid in the microbial breakdown the OP was looking for. And... I can't see how running a lawn mower over them will do anything but smash them and make the mess worse. – J. Musser Sep 30 '14 at 16:34
  • Although smashing them will make the mess worse (and probably isn't what the questioner would want), it will likely aid in the breakdown of the fruit. Whole fruits often turn into hard, dried up fruits later on (and take ages to decompose), while punctured or smashed fruits will attract microbes, insects and other things more. I've actually experimented with this, this year. The smashed ones do 'disappear' faster, but maybe not as fast as the questioner would like. – Shule Oct 2 '14 at 0:42

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