Delicious and crunchy apple fruit has many health benefits and also very easy to grow in your yard. The first thing you need to grow apples is a long-term commitment. Growing apples takes considerable time and quite a bit of work. Still, if one of your fondest childhood memories is the apple tree in your backyard, producing your own apples is a satisfying part of gardening.
Site selection. This hardy, deciduous woody perennial apple tree grows in all kind of temperature zones. Before you begin growing apples, make sure you have room for at least two trees. Typically, two apple trees bear enough fruit to keep a family of four in good supply. Apple trees need to grow in full sun, which means they need at least six hours of sunlight each day. Even dwarf varieties need to be spaced at least 8-feet apart. It is also essential to provide your trees with good drainage. Although apple trees tolerate a variety of soil types, they prefer sandy loam to sandy clay loam with a pH of about 6.5.
Choosing cultivars. You probably wonder why you need two trees to grow apples. Apple trees are self-incompatible. Simply put, this means that even the most industrious bee (bees are the chief pollinators of apple trees) can’t persuade two trees of the same variety to bear fruit.
So, to grow apples you usually need two trees of different varieties. Some nurseries offer apple trees that have two or more compatible cultivars grafted on the same tree; but to be on the safe side (and to get enough apples for a family of four) you still need two trees. A flowering crab will also pollinate your fruit-bearing apple tree and is useful in pest deterrence.
Although apples trees grow from seed, it takes several years and a significant amount of nurturing to produce an apple harvest from seed. The easiest way to begin growing apples is to purchase either bare root or container grown trees from your favorite garden nursery.
In addition to fruit size, taste, and color, your nursery professional can recommend trees that are cold hardy for your area, bloom at approximately the same time, are pollination compatible, and are disease resistant. You’ll find that purchasing disease resistant cultivars makes a generous cut in your apple tree maintenance time. How high your tree grows also depends on the type of tree you plant. Dwarf varieties reach 8 to 10-feet in height, semi-dwarf trees grow 10 to 15-feet tall, and standard trees may reach heights of 20-feet or more.
Water them regularly and apply a good balanced fertilizer in early spring. Don’t forget that apple trees need regular pruning. To give proper shape to your apple tree, prune them when they are young. While pruning a mature tree remember to remove weak, unproductive or dead wood, diseased wood, overcrowded branches and any branches crossing to one another.
Varieties. Now that you know planting fruit trees, it’s time to know the varieties of apple trees that you can grow. There are nearly 10,000 different kinds or varieties of apples. About 7,000 varieties or cultivars grow in North America. Only about 1,000 of these of these are grown commercially or in home gardens.
Anna – Low chill hours apple, developed in Israel. It is a remarkable fruit for mild-winter climates in South California and South Arizona. It is a heavy crop of sweet, crisp, flavorful apples even in low desert. It is a self-fruitful or can be pollinated. Trees grow vigorous and relatively disease free. Fruit is crisp with an excellent flavor, ripens late June.
Dorsett Golden – Low chill apple. This is an excellent pollinator for Anna. This is a heavy producer with high quality golden fruit. This fruit is sweet, crisp, and has a mildly sprite flavor, ripens late June.
Ein Shemer – Low chill apple. It is a self-pollinating tree and also good pollinator for Anna. It tastes crisp, tart and having a good quality flesh.
Gala – Mid chill apple. The apples have a firm, reddish colored skin. The flesh is a yellow-white color and is quite juicy. Taste crisp, aromatic flesh with touch of tartness. This is an excellent quality fruit that stores well, and ripens at mid-summer to early fall.
Granny Smith – It’s a low chill variety from Australia. Self-pollinating gives large green fruit with glossy smooth skin. It’s an excellent quality tart-sweet, all-purpose apple. Ripens early fall.
Molly’s Delicious – Mid chill and an excellent quality red apple. Large fruit has light yellow ground color and bright red blush. Sweet taste is an excellent for fresh eating or juice. This tree grows vigorous and ripens mid-late July.
Red Delicious (left), Golden Delicious (right)
Red Delicious – Requires high chilling. This fruit is one of the better known apple varieties and all time favorite for generations. Taste creamy-white, sweet flesh with bright red skin. This tree planted in northern areas only.
Yellow or Golden Delicious – It’s a mid-chilling variety. This is the parent of many low-chilling apple varieties. Large, golden fruit ripens late summer. Taste aromatic white flesh with mild, sweet and distinctive flavor. It is a self-fertile and good pollinator.
The Pink Lady – The Pink Lady is an ideal tree for warm to hot climates. These apples have a long storage life. This variety is a cross between Golden Delicious and Lady Williams. it is similar to a Granny Smith in taste but not quite as tart. This apple is also know as the Cripps Pink.
Pink Lady (left), Bramley (right)
Honeygold – Honeygold is a medium to large variety of apple that was first introduced in 1970. Its skin is smooth and yellow while the flesh is a yellow and crisp and is similar to a Golden. This variety is a hardier substitute for the Golden Delicious. It is best used for fresh eating, pies, salads, and sauce.
Bramley – Bramley apples are an heirloom variety. They are know primarily in Europe. The beauty of the Bramley is in the cooking. It makes excellent pies, crumbles, sauces and baked apples. This is a yellow apple with an orange/red blush.