I’d like to suggest that if you haven’t already got an apple tree, you seriously consider planting one this year, it’s coming up to the perfect planting time. They contribute so much to a garden, producing lovely blossom in spring and of course fruit later in the year.
I have to admit that I’ve only recently planted them in my own garden, although I use them in clients gardens. I’ve got two mature apple trees on my new allotment which are producing lots of delicious apples, and I planted two step-over apple trees in my garden two years ago.
I’m becoming a bit of a fruit evangelist , the ornamentally trained ones are a great favourite of mine, I love their defined shape and they don’t take up much room.
There are just a few things you need to know to help you choose the right one for your garden:
Apples aren’t fully self-fertile, which means that they will reliably produce more fruit when grown with another apple tree that flowers at the same time.
Each tree flowers for about two weeks during April and May and for best results the flowering should overlap for as much of that time as possible.
Crab apples trees are also good pollinators too, or you could rely on an apple tree flowering at the appropriate time in a neighbours garden to do the job.
Apple trees belong to pollination groups numbered 1 to 7,
so your second tree should be in the same group as the first tree, or one of the groups either side, then you’ll be sure that their flowering will overlap.
For example if you buy Bloody Ploughman (and who wouldn’t be tempted by such a splendid name) from group 2 you could also buy Beauty of Bath, also group 2, but Braeburn wouldn’t be any good because it’s in group 5 and therefore won’t be flowering at the same time.
Fruit trees are grafted onto separate rootstocks and this determines the eventual size of the tree, so a tree on a dwarfing root-stock will never grow beyond 1.8m. Choosing the correct root-stock will make sure that your apple tree is the right size for your garden.
M27 very dwarfing, 1.5-1.8 m : good for container grown tree, but does need good, rich soil and permanant staking.
M9 dwarfing, 2-3 m: good if you want a small tree 6-8′ tall, it also needs rich soil and permanant staking. It will produce a crop in the second year.
M26 semi-dwarfing, 3-3.5 m: will tolerate less rich soil than the above types, needs staking for the first few years.
MM106: semi-dwarfing, 3.9-5.4 m: medium sized, does well on most soils.
If you have them delivered they’ll arrive in a huge parcel packed in layers of straw like this:
If they can’t be planted straightaway, remove from the packaging and heel them in, i.e. plant them in a temporary hole, making sure the roots are all covered.
Plant them in a sheltered position, out of strong winds in good soil that’s well drained so their roots aren’t sitting in water for too long.
The planting hole should be about 40cm deep and 1 metre in diameter, loosen the soil in the hole.
Stake the tree making sure that the junction where the root-stock has been grafted onto the top-section is above the soil, gently firm the soil around the roots and water it well.
Keep a diameter of 50cm clear of weeds around the base of the tree for the first few years, it seems unlikely, but they do compete for weeds and water and after all that effort you want to give your new apple trees the best possible chance to flourish.
Have a look at the previous post to find out about growing ornamentally trained apple trees that are perfect for small spaces.
images: Jill Anderson