Most of us like to have some fruit in our garden. While we might not be able to have some of the more exotic fruits which we have come to enjoy and take for granted, we can always rely on a crisp and fresh apple. As the apple is native to Britain they usually thrive with a little attention. There are several things to remember of course.
The Right Apple Tree
There are a few things you have to seriously think about before you rush out and buy the first apple tree you spot. You must consider the size you tree will eventually reach as well as what kind of apple you would like to have an excess of – because you will certainly have a great deal of them!
An apple tree’s overall size is determined by the “rootstock,” – the rootstock is the lowest part of the tree (bottom 10 inches usually) which you (or the nursery) graft an upper part of a tree onto. All sizes, when buying rootstock, are quoted for the full size of the tree when it reaches maturity (about 7 years old). If you have a small garden you will have little choice over what size of rootstock you wish to use – a small or potted tree is really your only option.
For those with larger gardens will be able to choose between having a single large tree or several smaller trees. The latter option offers the ability to harvest many varieties.
The next consideration is taste. You must think whether you want sweet desert apples, crunchy acidic apples or sour cooking apples – there are thousands of varieties of apple out there. Sampling plenty of different apples is a great way to get a feel for what you want – and to get your five a day!
Pollination Considerations for Apple Trees
Apple trees, in the most part, require other apple trees to pollinate. If you live in a reasonably well populated area then you should be fine – your tree should pollinate from your neighbours apple trees. If your tree doesn’t seem to want to pollinate in your garden by itself then you should consider buying a small cordon sized apple tree. These bush sized apple trees take up very little room but will ensure pollination. If you intend to do this – or, equally, to plant a second tree – try and make sure you have two species which pollinate and flower at the same time.
Where to Plant
Most apple trees prefer full sunshine, although a little shade will be tolerated. Choosing an area which is not water-logged is a good idea. Also, avoiding “frost pockets,” (where very cold air gathers near to the ground in) will help you keep your tree alive and well.
In terms of soil, most apple trees are reasonably hardy. If the soil is particularly acidic or alkaline you will need to attempt to make the soil milder. The perfect soil for most trees is medium fertility, slightly acidic and a nicely “crumbly”.
How to plant an Apple Tree
You should prepare the soil a month or so before the actual planting. This gives the soil time to settle. You will need to dig a hole about 2 feet deep by about 4 feet square. A good tip is to include as much organic material as possible – this should make the soil crumbly and reasonably fertile.
To make sure you get a large crop instead of a large tree you should plant your apple tree in an area of medium fertility. This means that if you are planting somewhere where crops have previously been planted you should not add fertilizer – this will give you a big tree with no fruit!
When it comes to the actual planting it is almost as simple as you could imagine – put it in a hole big enough and fill it in! This may be true in the simplest terms but there are some other considerations. For example – do not put fertilizer directly onto the roots – this will “burn” the roots. Keep the tree at the same depth as it was in the pot. If you are unsure of the pot-depth simply plant so that the joint between the rootstock and the scion is around 2 or so inches above the ground.
Once the apple tree is in (and staked if it is required) simply water well and wait for pruning season!