Apple trees (small)
The development of smaller-growing varieties has seen apples – which had fallen out of favour – beginning to regain their popularity in home gardens.
Small-growing apples vary from true miniatures that can be grown in pots, to shrubs that reach about half the height of the old varieties. Some to look for are columnar ‘Ballerina’, tiny ‘Trixzie’, or the relatively new ‘Pinkabelle’ with its delicious, ‘Pink Lady’-style fruit.
Winter’s a good time to buy apple trees, either from local plant suppliers, through the internet or by mail order.
Newer apple varieties tend to require fewer chilling hours but if you don’t think your conditions are cold enough for apples, consider growing an ornamental crabapple instead. Early-flowering ‘Floribunda’ is a good choice that, as well as pretty flowers, will probably give you a few crabapples for the kitchen.
For maximum cropping, fruiting apples must have another variety that flowers at the same time and is within bee-travelling distance. This could deter many space-challenged gardeners, but the problem can be solved by selecting a double-grafted tree (two varieties on the one set of roots), or by planting two small growers into virtually the same hole.
Apples grow best in an open, sunny, well-drained position, with soil that’s been enriched with compost, old manure and some organic Dynamic Lifter pellets. Water in well after planting, adding some Yates Nature’s Way Seaweed Booster to encourage root growth.
Fertilise apple trees in early spring, just as they start to make new growth, and again in mid-summer. Dynamic Lifter for Fruit & Citrus, with its enriched organic-based pellets, encourages
healthy soil as well as good growth.
Codling moth is the number one problem for apples. This grub tunnels through the fruit and then heads down the trunk to find a place to build its cocoon. Regular spring and summer spraying with Dipel, a natural bacteria, will control many of the caterpillars, but not those that are already inside the apple. Picking up all fallen fruit is critically important.
A winter spray with white oil will kill the over-wintering eggs of many pests, and a pre-spring application of copper-based Yates Fungus Fighter or Leaf Curl Copper Fungicide (copper
oxychloride) will help control some common diseases. Nasturtiums planted under the trees are said to deter many pests.
Pruning apple trees
Dwarf apples need less pruning than the old varieties. Cutting back long shoots and opening the centre to the sun may be all that’s required.
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