Roger's Tree Pick: Apple trees
Last updated 3/19/2009 at Noon
Malus is the apple genus with about 25 different species of small deciduous trees from the northern temperate zone. It is in the Rosaceae family.
Growing apple trees can be fun and very rewarding, providing you consider several factors in your selection: the variety and rootstock, site selection, proper planting, training, pruning and fertility of the soil.
All apple trees sold at nurseries consist of two parts that are grafted together to form one tree. The “scion” is the top portion that branches and bears fruit and is grafted onto a “rootstock” with many named varieties for the top half of the grafted tree.
Apples need abundant sunlight to develop from the flowering stage into the later fruiting stage.
You can have some early apples ready by end of June to late types harvested in November. That can account for a long supply of fresh apples with proper planning.
The chill factor is one of great importance not only for apples but other deciduous fruit trees. Deciduous fruit trees are rated as to the amount of chilling hours between 32 and 45 degrees Fahrenheit needed to set good flowers to be pollinated by wind, bees or other insects.
Planting different types of apples also aids in pollination to set fruit on the trees. In winter months, the tree’s internal processes are in a state of rest, known as dormancy, due to the presence of growth inhibitors.
After the specific number of hours that a tree needs, the dormancy is broken when sufficient cold temperature breaks down the growth inhibitors within the tree, which starts its new growth.
A few of the low chill hour apples that do well here are:
• “Anna,” a remarkable fruit for mild winter climates of Southern California and Southern Arizona. It produces heavy crops of sweet, crisp, flavorful apples, even in the low desert region. Eaten fresh off the tree or cooked for applesauce is wonderful. Its chill hour requirement is only 200 hours.
• “Dorsett Golden,” an outstanding sweet apple for warm winter areas. It only requires about 200 chill hours to set fruit. It is self-pollinating and available locally.
• “Pink Lady,” a warm climate introduction from Western Australia. It is self- pollinating with 400 hours of chill needed. It has a very crisp, sweet-tart, distinct flavor and is a good keeper.
• “White Winter Permain,” an old favorite of high quality, especially for fresh use. It is well adapted to many areas, starts harvesting in September or October and is a good keeper. It is considered a good pollinator for other apples and requires a low 400 chill hours.
There are many more to choose from with the understanding that there are many micro-pockets of climates within short distances from one another.
Be sure to scout your local nursery and use their valuable inside information on what grows best in your locale.
Look for those apple trees that have several varieties grafted onto one tree. This will not only give you variety but good space utilization in your landscape.
Once your trees are producing, consider making apple juice or applesauce, canning or even dehydrating sliced apples for apple chips, using the apples right from your own backyard.
Roger Boddaert is a landscape designer/Certified Arborist. He can be contacted at (760) 728-4297 for consultations and designs.