Growing apples in small spaces
Compared to other fruit trees, apples are easy to grow and are certainly very adaptable. You can grow them as little stepovers along the edge of a border, train them flat against a wall as a cordon or espalier or simply grow them in a pot as a small tree. But whichever way you decide to grow them, there are a couple of things to bear in mind.
The first thing is pollination. To get a good set of fruit, it’s worth growing more than one variety. This may not be necessary if there’s an apple tree growing next door or even better, a crab apple. Few varieties are self-fertile, but even these will produce a better crop if they are pollinated by another variety that flowers at the same time. If in doubt, choose a mid-season variety as its blossom is less likely to be hit by a frost in the spring. There’s also a greater chance that its flowers will overlap with an early or late season variety. For more information about pollination groups, please see the relevant link above.
The type of rootstock the tree is growing on is the other thing to consider. This will determine the ultimate size of the tree as well as the age at which it starts to fruit. Trees grown on a dwarfing rootstock tend to start cropping earlier, for example. There are six main types of rootstock:
- M27 Extremely dwarfing
- M9 Very dwarfing
- M26 Dwarfing
- MM106 Semi-dwarfing
- MM111 Vigorous
- M25 Very vigorous
The rootstock you choose will also depend on what your soil is like, the variety you’ve chosen and how you intend to grow it. It’s a complicated subject, so it’s well worth seeking the advice of a specialist supplier before you make a purchase.
With literally hundreds of varieties to choose from, it can be difficult to know which apple to grow. It’s best not to go by supermarket varieties – ‘Cox’s Orange Pippin’, for example, is notoriously difficult to grow. As Monty said, taste is of paramount importance and we’d strongly recommend that you go along to an Apple Day in your area to compare different varieties. Many of them are taking place over the weekend of 19/20 October to coincide with National Apple Day. Check out the link below for a few suggestions.
Apple Days (www.bbc.co.uk)
Tel. 01944 759111
The Walled Garden at Scampston Hall is open every day except Monday until 27 October 2013. For more information about the garden and how to get there, please see the link below.
Scampston Hall (www.scampston.co.uk)
Jobs for the weekend: Lift & store maincrop potatoes
It’s time to lift maincrop potatoes. If the tops haven’t died down yet, cut them off and leave for a fortnight to allow the skins to harden. Then, using a fork, gently dig up the tubers taking care not to damage them in the process. Either leave them on the surface of the soil for a couple of hours or take them indoors to dry in the dark. Store somewhere cool and dry in a hessian or paper sack.
More on growing potatoes (www.gardenorganic.org.uk)
Jobs for the weekend: Check tree ties
Before the autumn gales arrive, it’s worth giving tree ties a quick inspection. As a tree grows and its young stem expands, there’s a real danger of it becoming constricted. Loosen the tree tie as necessary and if you’re using one without a buffer, replace it with one that does. This will help to prevent the stem from rubbing directly against the stake.
More on tree ties (apps.rhs.org.uk)
Jobs for the weekend : Sow green manure
As you begin to clear your veg patch, consider sowing a green manure. As well as helping to boost fertility and improve soil structure, they are brilliant at suppressing weeds. Simply broadcast the seed over the surface of the soil or divide the area up into square metres and sprinkle the required amount over each section. Rake in and water if no rain is forecast.
At RHS Rosemoor, they use phacelia which, in mild areas, may overwinter. But even it doesn’t, the frosted foliage tends to lie as a protective mat on the surface of the soil. Other options include Hungarian grazing rye, winter tares and field beans, all of which are totally hardy.
More about green manure (www.gardenorganic.org.uk)
- Monty Don
- Carol Klein
- Series Editor
- Liz Rumbold
- Babs Lewis
- Joe Swift