Apple

One aspect of apple growing that may restrict your choice is pollination. Most apples need another variety to pollinate them, and because the flowering times varies from variety to variety it is essential to choose two that flower during the same time. The other question is what type of plant do you want. The old standard trees look best and produce a heavy crop, but need ladders for pruning and harvesting.

The 'bush' is probably the most widely seen style of apple and, well grown, can be a highly productive method. The aim is to arrive at an open centred tree with a maximum of six main branches which form the 'backbone' of the tree for life. Sub branches of these will bear most of the fruit and these are removed, allowing replacements to grow, as they reach about four years old. This will maintain the bulk of the tree in a 'young' state to ensure maximum productivity. Bush trees can be planted about 3-3.5m (10-12') apart. Aim to limit the height of the tree to around 2.4m (8'). and expect your tree to be yielding up to 22kg (50lb) of fruit once it reaches 5 years of age.

 

Diagram by Graham Burnett

Cultivation
Apple trees will be sited for many years, so prepare the soil well, adding plenty of organic material.  Plant the trees between Autumn and Spring, as long as the weather and soil conditions allow. Planting distance will vary considerably depending on the type and size of tree. Cordons may only be 30 inches apart whereas full standards can be 30 ft or more apart. Stake young trees especially in a windy position. Newly planted trees should not be allowed to dry out. Mulch around the tree every Spring with organic material. If necessary protect the blossom from late frosts. Thin the apples in early and midsummer if there are too many of them, i.e. the fruits should not be touching each other. If branches begin to sag under the weight of the fruit, the fruit may need thinning or the branches supporting.

Pruning and Training
Pruning gets easier after the first time. Apple trees fall into two groups, depending where the fruit is borne. On tip bearers the fruit develops near the tip of the shoots, so it is obviously important that you cut back shoots in the Spring. Trees in the other group produce fruit on spurs, which is found on older wood.

Most training and pruning involves cutting out dead or weak wood and maintaining the shape and open nature of the tree. Larger trees are pruned in Winter only, but those with a more controlled shape need to be pruned in both Winter and Summer.

Harvesting and Storing
Apples should be picked when ripe, which is usually when the fruit comes away easily with a quick twist of the wrist. Some apples store better than others, in general, early apples do not store as well as later ones. If possible, store in a dark, dry, cool place and ensure the fruits do not touch. Only store sound fruit. Freezing is ok for apples that have already been cooked and pureed.

Pest and Diseases
A wide range of pests and diseases can affect the trees and fruit. Birds, wasps and codling moths are the three most important pests. Canker is one of the worst diseases.