Apples are so easy to grow, there should be at least one apple tree in every garden. After a few years (depending on variety) you should have a good harvest with plenty of delicious apples. The feeling of being able to go outside and eat an apple off your own tree cannot be beaten. You may even find you have enough to share with family, friends, and neighbors. Apple trees can benefit the whole community, and make your garden look beautiful too.
Choosing an Apple Tree
When choosing fruit trees, it is important to determine whether the trees are self-fertile. Apples are self-pollinating but will often do better when pollinated by a second tree. If you have space, you should consider planting a second apple tree in your garden (remember, dwarf varieties are available for smaller spaces)– though you should not worry if that is not possible and should still get a worthwhile crop. Carter’s Blue is one apple variety to consider locally, and Maroon Crabapple is a good choice for cooked fruits.
Planting an Apple Tree
Apple trees prefer a sheltered position in full sun but will put up with a fair amount of shade and may benefit from some shade at mid-summer. Make sure, however, that apples always get at least half a day’s sunshine during the fruit ripening period. Apples for cooking will require less sun than sweeter, dessert varieties.
Caring For an Apple Tree
While they are becoming established, apple trees will do better if they are well-watered and do not have to compete with grass around their base. Prepare the area well before planting, and mulch well around the base of the tree. Water and mulch well with organic material especially while the tree is young.
Replace grass and competing weeds with a guild of beneficial plants including comfrey, borage, yarrow and alliums such as garlic or shallots, and aromatic herbs, which will help to gather nutrients, attract beneficial insects such as pollinators, repel pests, and underplant with perennial shrubs to form an understory.
Apple trees should be pruned during late fall to early spring. Cut out any dead, damaged or diseased wood and prune for shape and size, aiming for an open canopy for free-standing examples. Apples can also be pruned to stand espaliered against a wall where space is tight.
Apples will be ready to harvest (depending on exact location and variety) sometime between July and October. Choose earlier and later varieties to harvest apples over a longer period. To see whether apples are ready to harvest, gently cup fruit in your palm and push and twist upwards with a gentle motion. If the apple comes away easily from the tree, it is ripe and ready to harvest.
Apples can be eaten fresh – raw or cooked depending on variety. They can also be preserved in a variety of ways. You could make apple jellies, apple butter, chutneys or other preserves, or freeze applesauce for later. You can also make apple juice or make an apple cider or apple cider vinegar. There are many ways to make the most of your apple harvest.