An apple a day…
As autumn brings the main harvest season to the close, it also provides the perfect opportunity to consider adding a fruit tree to the garden for you to benefit from your own bounty. Apple trees are easy to grow and there is a size and variety to suit all gardens and tastes. See below for a few tips on how to choose the right tree, plant it correctly and guarantee a productive crop.
When choosing an apple tree, the main things to consider are ;-
- The kind of apples you like.
- The area in which you live
- Pollination groups
- The eventual size of the tree
1. Whilst some apple trees are self fertile, the marjority require pollination from a different cultivar that flowers at the same time. Apple varieties are categorised in pollination groups according to the time they flower. If you have space for two apple trees, pick two varieties in the same or adjacent pollination group. If you are only planting one tree, take a look in neighbouring gardens or parks to track flowering times.
Details of pollination groups can be found here.
2. Apples are grown on rootstocks which will effect the overall size of the tree, allowing you to grow them in containers, small garden and larger open spaces. The following table can be used as a guide.
|Desired mature height of your apple tree|
|Up to 1.75m||Up to 2.5m||Around 3m||From 3m-4m||5m above|
|Rootstock||M27||M9||M26 / M116||MM106 / MM111||M25|
For a more detailed explanation on advantages and disadvantages of specific rootstocks. There is more information here.
3. If space is limited, you might like to consider growing cordon or espalier apple trees that can be trained against a sunny fence or wall. These can be bought as pot-grown and already trained on a support that can be planted directly into the ground
4. Living in the South will allow you to choose from a larger selection of dessert and cooking apples, with warmer temperatures through spring and summer. The further North you are, consider growing early to mid-season cultivars to provide a more substantial yield.
5. Apple trees can be bought in the following forms.
Standard – the tallest option that will have a clear trunk of approximately 2m.
Half standard – slightly shorter and easier to pick, they have a clear trunk of approximately 1.35m
Dwarf – they have a clear trunk of around 0.75m, with the final size dependant on the rootstock.
1. Apple trees grow best in a sunny, sheltered area of the garden.
2. Ideally, it is best to plant a tree during its dormant stage between November and March, when soils are moist and free from frost. If you buy a bare-root tree, soak the roots for 2-3 hours and plant immediately (unless the ground is frozen). If your tree is container grown, ensure it is well watered prior to planting.
3. Dig the planting hole approximately one third wider and ensure the tree is planted to the depth that it was in the container or at the nursery, with the grafting point above ground level. Backfill with the surplus soil from the hole and firm well to prevent air pockets.
4. If you are staking the tree, they can be secured with ties at this stage. Permanent stakes are recommended for M27 and M9 rootstocks, or temporary ones can be used for newly planted trees until they can self-support.
1. During the first spring or summer, regular watering is recommended whilst the tree becomes established. Apply a bucket of water every week, particularly in dry spells as the root system develops.
2. Initial pruning will sometimes be required, following which a regular pruning will be essential to ensure good health. Contact a reputable garden maintenance company for advice on how and when this should be done.
3. Check tree ties on an annual basis to ensure they are loosened sufficiently as the tree grows.