How to Plant an Apple Tree + Variety Selection
Martin Luther (1483-1546), the German theologian and church reformer had many controversial theological views and quotes attributed to him. One of his more moderate quotes relates to the apple tree, a motto for fruit gardeners everywhere.
“Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.”
I don’t know whether Martin Luther admired the beauty of the apple blossom, or whether he preferred the juiciness of the fresh fruit that comes free with the twist of a wrist.
Whichever it was, I believe he was totally correct by putting his faith in the future, and planting his apple tree
Now if you are of a similar mind to the “growing” number of gardeners who wish to grow a tree offering food as well as colour, then read on, as I take you step by step through apple tree planting.
Photo / pic / image of a cropping apple tree.
Firstly, apple trees are best planted during winter and early spring, with November and December being particularly suitable in Ireland
The planting location to start your apple trees should ideally be…
· South facing and slightly sloping towards the sun. This location is great for ripening fruit and promotes buds for the next season’s crop. If you have no access to southerly sun then a west facing location is almost as good
· Sheltered, but with good air circulation. I know, I know, that doesn’t make much sense, but let me break it down for you like this. Shelter from strong winds especially those of the salt laden kind will protect flowers and apple blossoms which eventually become our fruit. Damaged blossoms equal’s poor fruit. Also, pollinating insects such as bees tend not to visit fruit trees in windswept locations, causing flowers to remain unpollinated and a tree to remain fruitless.
So, an apple tree planted on a windswept hillside garden will probably grow quite well but produce little if any fruit. A garden, which has a wind buffer of hedging or trees, would be much better orchard type material. In saying all of this, an apple tree also requires a certain amount of air movement to discourage apple tree ills such as scabs and moulds.
· Away from frost pockets. Frost pockets are usually areas of ground lower than their surroundings, these receive lower temperatures and frost often lingers long enough to damage the spring flower buds of the apple.
Like with the wind, damaged flower buds equal’s poor cropping of apples.
· A fertile and free draining soil. Your apple tree will reward with good cropping if it is planted in a soil rich in compost or well-rotted farmyard manure.
It will even forgive you for planting it in a somewhat ordinary soil which is not as blessed with organic matter, provided you feed it regularly. The one sin the apple tree will not forgive is being planted in continually wet soil, this situation condemns you to poor apples and the tree to a slow death.
Selecting your apple tree.
Ok, you’ve selected a location or two within you garden for some fruiting apple trees, now lets look at which varieties will suit you best. Before you rush to the garden centre, consider what height and spread of apple tree will sit within your garden space best. The type of rootstock selected will dictate the apple trees yearly growth rate and its eventual size. Selecting the correct fruit tree rootstock for your situation can mean the difference between a good crop and a poor crop caused by over pruning whilst keeping the tree within bounds.
For very small sites (or container growing) chose an apple tree with M27 rootstock, this limits the growth to approx 1 metre in height with a similar spread in a bush-like shape. Moving up in size is the M26 rootstock, which gives you a slightly larger tree at 2 metres by 2 metres. Apple trees grown on these M27 and M26 rootstocks can be expected to produce a reasonable crop of fruit after 3 years. The most commonly planted apple tree rootstock is the MM106, causing trees to grow to an eventual height and spread of 4 metres.
This is a great rootstock for medium sized and larger gardens, producing up to 50lbs of fruit when mature. It takes longer to begin producing fruit with a wait of 5 years common, but its well worth the wait.
Once you have decided on your rootstock you must then decide on the main body of the apple tree. This is known in the horticultural trade a “scion”, a graft onto the rootstock. With the rootstock controlling the growth, the grafted “scion” controls the type of apple produced.
So what type of apple do you wish your to grow?
Is it to be a dessert apple (eater) or maybe you would like to grow some culinary apples commonly known as cookers. This all comes down to a matter of personal taste, if you like your apples sweet, tart, crunchy or soft only you will know. It would be worth your while to sample different types of apples from your local fruit shop to ascertain which varieties of apple are for you. It can be very disappointing to wait 4 years for your first apple harvest, only to find your face contorts with the sourness of the first bite.
Try the following tree types if you prefer your dessert apples sweet and juicy…
* Cox’s Orange Pippin,
If you like less sweetness and more acidity in your eating apple why not try one of these…
* James Grieve
The culinary or cooking apples nearly all tend to be very acidic such as…
* Bramleys Seedling,
* Rev. W. Wilks.
Looking for apple trees in the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, or Australia, then you should be able to source some here…… Apple trees
Altering the amount of sugar added when cooking these will bring them to your specific taste albeit with slightly different textures.
Photo / pic / image of Apple tree pollination.
Apple Tree Pollination
Pollination is the method by which the blossom of the apple receives pollen from another apple tree variety and goes on to produce an apple.
This pollination is carried out by numerous flying insects but mostly by our honey-producing friends, the bees. Most of our apple trees require the pollen from one or sometimes two other varieties in order to produce fruit, the trees that require two partners are known as triploids. So, say for example you wish to grow a “Granny Smith” apple tree, to enable this tree to set fruit you would ideally have to also grow another apple tree which flowers around the same time. To this end, you could plant one of the following apple tree varieties….
Discovery, Fiesta, James Grieve, Katy, Cox’s Orange Pippin, Epicure etc.
The garden centre supplying you with your trees will be able to supply you with these pollination partners or on occasion, a self fertile variety such as Cox’s Orange Pippin “Self fertile” whose flowers can actually pollinate each other.
Below are the five apple varieties pollination groups. Apples in the same groups will be good pollinators for each other.
Those marked triploid require two other varieties within the same group for pollination to occur.
Lord Lambourne Rev. W. Wilks
Ribston Pippin – Triploid
St Edmunds Russet
Beauty of Bath
Beauty of Blackmoor
Blenheim Orange – Triploid
Bramley’s Seedling – Triploid
Cox’s Orange Pippin
Crispin – Triploid
Holstein – Triploid
Isle of Wight Pippin
Jupiter – Triploid
Kidd’s Orange Red
Ross Non Pareil
Tydeman’s Late Orange
Falstaff & Red Falstaff
Hambledon Deux Ans
Ilse of Wight Pippin
Lane’s Prince Albert
Beauty of Hampshire Newton Wonder
Court Pendu Plat
Finally, planting the apple tree
With your planting location, tree size, apple variety and pollination partners all selected, you are now finally ready to plant. Begin by digging a planting pit twice as wide as the trees containerised root-ball and if possible twice as deep as the root-ball. If you are planting a bare-root specimen, then the planting pit must be wide enough to allow the trees roots to be spread out completely.
Mix the best of the soil that comes from this excavation half and half with well-rotted farmyard manure, homemade compost or peat based compost.
The manure or compost should be decomposed to the point that it is odourless, if it is fresh and smelly, steer clear as this could burn the trees roots. Also, avoid adding any artificial fertilisers whilst apple tree planting, as these are equally capable of burning fresh roots.
Fork over the base of the planting hole and add enough of the topsoil / compost mix to allow the tree to sit at the same depth as it is in the pot, or in the case of bare-rooted trees to the same depth as the old soil mark on the trunk. If you are planting a container grown tree ensure that the root-ball is thoroughly soaked before planting, submerging it in a drum of water is a good way to do this.
The time to stake the tree is while the planting hole is still open, this will prevent you driving the stake through roots and damaging them. Position the stake and tie so that the tree bends away from them when blown by the prevailing wind. Then begin to backfill the topsoil / compost mix, if planting bare-root gently shake the tree up and down to remove air pockets. Having planted the tree, tread down the soil using your boots to ensure good soil / root contact and finally, water the tree well with about 10 litres of rainwater.
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