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Autumn 2007
 
John Cushnie On...
 

Homegrown Apples
15th November 2004

I can’t promise “an apple a day” but those apples you do grow will have good flavour and, with the right choice of varieties, will keep you in fruit until early next year. There is something very rewarding when you pick and eat an apple straight from a tree in your garden.

An Apple TreeGarden centres have stocked up with the new season trees. Most will be container grown but some will be containerised; this is where bare root plants are potted into compost and sold before their roots have made new growth.

As well as variety choose carefully the rootstock. Vigorous trees will be grafted onto M2 or MM111 stocks and are only suitable for planting in large gardens. M9 and M26 stocks will result in small trees suited to the smaller garden or for trained trees grown against a wall.

When planting, dig a large hole and add lots of farmyard manure and compost to the soil as it is being placed round the roots. Plant at the same depth as before with the graft union above soil level. Most free standing apple trees will benefit from support for a few seasons. To avoid damaging the roots the stake must be driven into the soil before the tree is planted.

Trained apples succeed best on a sheltered, sunny, south or west facing wall. Cordon, fan, espalier or pyramid shaped trees require more pruning but will produce excellent crops of well ripened fruit. Side shoots are shortened to 4-5 leaves during summer and further reduced to 2 buds in winter. Over a few years this builds up mature, fruiting spurs and prevents the plant growing too far out from the wall.

Bountiful ApplesFor flavour, the best culinary apple variety is Bramley’s Seedling with large, juicy fruit that will store until March. Unfortunately to ensure a crop, it requires two other varieties to act as pollinators. Its early flowers are prone to frost damage. Bountiful has good flavour and is sweeter than Bramley. It forms a small tree and is well suited to smaller gardens requiring one other variety for pollination.

Before purchasing dessert varieties check that they are compatible for cross – pollination. Most stores, nurseries and garden centres carry a wide range of varieties and final choice may be decided by skin colour, flavour or recommendation.

Gala ApplesWhere space permits I would certainly plant ‘ Discovery’ (red), ‘ Irish Peach’ (orange-red), ‘Katy’ (yellow-red) and ‘Lord Lambourne ‘(green-flushed red). ‘Gala’ I love to eat but it is prone to disease and the fruit is small unless it is thinned.

In years to come you could have your own apples for Halloween and even Christmas.

Apples at Ardress
Cherrie picked a beautiful autumn morning to visit Mike Snowden in the orchards of Ardress where they specialise in the older irish varieties such as the Greasey Pippon, the Bloody Butcher. (which as blush pink flesh), and Four Square. Find out more


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