Happy Apple Day!
Apple trees are a wonderful enhancement to any garden. During spring, their blossoms are a visual delight, and in autumn, their fruits offer a delectable taste. These trees can serve as a central element, adding structure to the garden, and they offer diverse habitats for a range of wildlife, including bees, birds, and moths. For more information about growing your own apples, take a look below with some tips from our friends at BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine.
Apple trees come in a variety of shapes and sizes, making them adaptable to gardens of all dimensions, thanks to the utilization of dwarfing rootstocks. These compact fruit trees remain small throughout their lifespan and can even thrive in containers. When cultivating apples, it’s essential to select a location with well-drained, moist soil and ample sunlight. Pruning should occur during either the summer or winter, depending on your tree’s desired shape, and apples should be harvested once they ripen.
When to grow
The optimal season for planting bare-root apple trees is winter. These trees are more cost-effective compared to their container-grown counterparts and offer a broader selection of varieties from fruit nurseries, spanning from October to March. The ultimate height of these trees varies depending on the rootstock they are grafted onto.
Pot-grown apple trees, on the other hand, can be planted throughout the year. However, it’s crucial to keep in mind that the summer months often bring drier conditions, so keep them well watered.
When planting apple trees in your garden, it’s important to select a sunlit location and ensure there is ample space for branch growth. Even if your garden is small, don’t fret; you can also cultivate apple trees in fan, cordon, or espalier shapes, training and pruning them to be grown against walls, fences, or trellises.
Before planting your apple tree, prepare the soil accordingly. Create a square hole, insert a tree stake, and position the tree within it. While adding soil around the tree, support the tree in place.
Verify that the “graft point,” a slight swelling on the stem where the rootstock was grafted, is positioned just above the soil’s surface. Compact the soil around the roots to eliminate any air pockets and secure the stem to the stake. Ensure the tree receives consistent watering throughout the year.
If well maintained and fed, an apple tree will mature and crop for decades.
Once a year in late winter, apply a balanced fertiliser, such as pelleted chicken manure, around the base of the tree. Encourage good flowering and fruit formation by applying sulphate of potash fertiliser. Each spring, spread a mulch of garden compost under the tree to condition the soil, hold in moisture and suppress weeds.
Some apples start ripening in August, but most are ready in September and October. Pick them as they ripen to avoid fruits falling and being damaged. Cup them in your hand and lift. If the apple doesn’t pull away gently, leave it for another week.