Growing an apple tree has never been more popular.
The breeders have been busy creating forms suitable for any size of garden and it has not been lost on them that we want flavour, a good red skin colour, an apple that can store a few months and a tree that has strong disease resistant leaves able to withstand attacks of scab and mildew.
We do not need an apple that only grows to an even commercial size, requires frequent spraying throughout the growing season to keep it pest and disease free and has a long shelf life enhanced by even more chemicals.
Our home grown apples are very healthy as they have been grown without chemicals apart from a spring dressing of fertilizer to get them growing strongly.
Today we have the choice of large standard trees for the big gardens down to spindle bushes where all fruit is picked from the ground, and for those with very limited space the choice is a fan, cordon, an oblique cordon or an espalier to plant against a wall or fence.
Then tree forms get even smaller with the upright columnar Starlight tree range and the dwarf stepover forms to plant along the edges of borders.
A garden with an apple tree with bright red fruit will always impress as they stand out from the crowd.
However apples as a snack fit in very well with modern busy life styles, and for those that can cook the Bramley is perfect for numerous recipes.
Then for those that like to count the calories and are conscious of eating the healthy diet, a daily apple fits the bill.
They are absolutely packed with vitamins, minerals and fibre. The apple season starts in August with the earliest varieties like Oslin, but with cool airy storage others will last till March.
Thereafter if it is back to supermarket apples, remember to wash the skin thoroughly to remove any chemicals bombarded on the apples while in the orchard and after harvesting in the packing shed.
Form and Rootstocks
Rootstock M27 is very dwarfing so it is used for columnar shapes, dwarf pyramids and stepover trees.
Rootstock M9 is a dwarfing type used for cordons, dwarf bush and spindle trees, but as it lacks vigour the trees need permanent tree stakes or support systems.
M27 and M26 and MM106 are still dwarfing but will give a bigger tree than the previous ones, growing up to ten to twelve feet.
Where tree size is not a problem use trees grafted onto rootstocks MM111 or M25.
Apples for Scottish soils and climate are plentiful so look for Discovery as a great early, then Katy, Scrumptious, Falstaff, and Fiesta for maincrops with Red devil as a great apple in storage, though Fiesta is also a great keeper.
For cooking it is hard to beat Bramley which also stores up to the end of March in a cool airy dark store.
My preference in the upright Starlight range is the red Firedance.
Pruning and Planting
Dwarf apple forms are usually grown on a spur system, where summer growth is cut back to about four or five buds which are then further pruned in winter to a couple of buds.
With other forms shoots are left for three or four years then removed back to a younger shoot to take its place.
Upright shoots are removed as they would be too vigorous at the expense of fruiting.
Bare root plants are planted in the dormant season, but today most plants come in containers to be planted all year round.
As trees are in the soil for a long time, prepare a good planting hole by removing topsoil and adding compost to the subsoil and forking it in, and then replace topsoil mixing in some planting compost.
After planting add some fertilizer water the plants.
Wee jobs to do this week
Time for a greenhouse tidy up.
Hopefully the grape vines will all be pruned and the tomato bed will be getting prepared for this year’s crop.
We all have our own pet methods. I remove six inches of top soil, then sterilise the soil with disinfectant to kill off any soil born diseases.
Then I add compost and dig it in then spread potting compost from growbags over this in readiness for planting.
I keep some spring bedding pansies and polyanthus under glass in boxes and hanging baskets to protect them from cold wet conditions before they go outdoors in March.