How to grow an apple tree

October 23, 2012, 3:19 pm Yahoo!7

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Apples are one of the most popular fruits around and now you can grow a crop of crunchy, juicy fruit in your own backyard. The trees are remarkably easy to grow anywhere, from our coolest regions all the way up into sub-tropical climes, rewarding you with a crop of delicious gems.

Apples are so wonderfully versatile – just as good for eating fresh as they are for cooking and preserving in a multitude of ways. But until you’ve tasted a juicy sun-ripened apple picked straight off the tree, you won’t know what you’re missing. Think you can’t grow them at your place? Think again!

Choose a good apple


Selecting the right variety for your region is crucial, as this is the key to ensuring a bountiful harvest. It’s also important to note that certain apples will perform better if there’s another variety grown nearby to help with pollination. Ask your fruit-tree specialist for advice before buying.

Spot the best place


Apple trees can tolerate extreme cold (think Russia!), but certain varieties have been bred to suit warm and even sub-tropical regions. They grow best in full sun, but will also cope with part-sun. Position trees where they will be protected from strong winds and avoid planting in seaside areas, where they may not grow well.

Get down to earth


While apple trees prefer deep, rich, well-drained loam, they’re adaptable to other soil types. However, avoid the two extremes of waterlogged or excessively dry positions. If you’re planting in pots or tubs, always use a premium potting mix.

Help them thrive


These fruit trees require relatively little feeding once they’re established. However, they will appreciate an application of a suitable controlled-release fertiliser each spring.

Water them right


Like any temperate-climate fruit tree, apples require little to no additional water during the autumn and winter months. As the fruit forms over the spring and summer months, water them occasionally between rainy periods, and mulch and water well during hot summer weather. Trees growing in pots shouldn’t be allowed to completely dry out.

Granny Smith
Perhaps Australia’s best-known export, originating in Eastwood, NSW, the Granny Smith has been a favourite for generations. The flesh is crisp and white with a tangy taste, though it will sweeten if stored. It’s great for eating fresh, cooking or using in salads.
Fruit size: Medium.

Colour: Green.

Fuji apple
A ripe Fuji apple has a honey-like flavour. It’s great for enjoying fresh and ideal for any sort of culinary use where sweetness is desired.
Fruit size: Medium to large.

Colour: Pinky red with pale yellow undertones.

Pink Lady (cvr. ‘Cripps Pink’)
A popular variety, especially with kids, due to its delicate sweet flavour, Pink Lady originated in Western Australia. It has a fine texture with serious crunch – eat fresh or use in cooking; it’s perfect for salads as it’s quite slow to brown.
Fruit size: Medium.

Colour: Reddish-pink to pink.

Sundowner (cvr. ‘Cripps Red’)
This apple is the botanical sibling of Pink Lady, but has a more pronounced flavour and is slightly sweeter.
Fruit size: Medium.

Colour: Red-green.

Dwarf apples


Just because you’re tight on outdoor space, it doesn’t mean you have to go without an apple tree. There’s a range of dwarf and compact varieties available that are suitable for garden beds, large tubs or planter boxes – just make sure the tree is positioned in a sunny spot. And remember, the term dwarf only relates to the tree itself – the fruits are still regular size.

- Ballerina columnar varieties These gorgeous trees are perfect for narrow spots, such as along a driveway, or even as a screen or hedge. They grow to about 600mm wide by 3.5m tall, although it takes the tree several years to achieve this height. They’re available in a number of varieties, including ‘Flamenco’, ‘Bolero’, ‘Waltz’, ‘Charlotte’, and the crabapple ‘Maypole’.

- Trixzie miniatures These little beauties are ideal for smaller spaces where a tiny bit of spread is still okay. There are two apples in the range – Trixzie ‘Gala’ and Trixzie ‘Pink Lady’. Both grow to about 2.5m high and have a spread of 2.5m.

- Pinkabelle This mini version of the Pink Lady apple is great for patios and decks. It grows to about 2m high and 1m wide.

- Leprechaun As its name suggests, this is a dwarf form of the Granny Smith apple. It grows to about 2-2.5m high and 1m wide, and produces excellent fruit. Leprechaun occurred naturally as a branch on a full-sized Granny Smith tree.


Apples which love the heat


If you live in a warmer climate that doesn’t experience winter frosts, it’s important to pick a low-chill variety of apple. Many of these will produce bountiful crops, even in sub-tropical climates. Check with your local nursery or order trees online.

Anna
A low-chill or sub-tropical variety, Anna was developed in Israel and is similar to Golden Delicious,
from which it originates. The fruit is sweet and crunchy when homegrown and allowed to tree-ripen, and can be enjoyed fresh or cooked.
Fruit size: Large.

Colour: Red-green.

Dorsett Golden
Perhaps the best low-chill or sub-tropical apple, Dorsett Golden produces fruit with crisp flesh yet sweet flavour. It will fruit very early after planting and is a top apple for eating freshly picked from the tree.
Fruit size: Large.

Colour: Yellow to gold.

Handy apple sources

- Woodbridge Fruit Trees specialises in many old and heirloom varieties. You can order online or by postal order – delivery nationwide.

- Daleys Fruit Tree Nursery carries an extensive range of fruiting and rainforest trees, including sub-tropical apple varieties.

- Fleming’s Nurseries is Australia’s leading grower of fruit and ornamental trees, including the Trixzie and Ballerina dwarf apples. Trees can be ordered through nurseries Australia-wide.

- PlantNet offers online sales and a database of stockist nurseries. Pinkabelle and Leprechaun varieties are available through PlantNet.

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