An apple a day…
Now’s a great time to plant an apple tree.
Choose an open, sunny but sheltered site in almost any soil, but make sure that the ground is neither prone to water logging nor has a high lime content (above pH7). The ideal soil for apples is slightly acidic (pH6.5) and does not dry out in summer.
Fork in well-rotted manure or compost at the rate of a good bucketful to one square metre (3sq.ft), then apply a general fertiliser such as Vitax Q4 or Growmore at around 90g per square metre (3oz per sq.yd).
A standard tree is fine where there is plenty of space, as each tree will produce at least 35-45kg (80-100lb) of fruit. Standards should be planted 3.5 - 6m (12 - 20ft) apart and will grow 2.6 - 5.8m (8 - 18ft) in height and spread.
In smaller gardens, it’s probably best to grow trained or dwarf apple trees. An espalier-trained tree has a spread of 3-4.5m (10-15ft) and could be grown against a fence or wall, either in full sun or with a little shade. You could also look for trees grafted onto the M27 rootstock.
A row of cordon apple trees, set no more than a metre (3ft) apart, will make productive use of a limited space, while dwarf pyramid trees can be planted just 1.5-1.8m (5-6ft) apart.
Even the tiniest garden will have enough room for a family tree. This is where three or four different varieties are grafted on a single rootstock, where they will cross pollinate to provide a succession of fruit.
Some apple varieties we recommend
‘Discovery’ (dessert) - a crisp, sweet and juicy, bright red apple, ready to pick from mid-August.
‘Cox’s Orange Pippin’ (dessert) - although popular, this variety needs a lot of attention as it is prone to scab, mildew and canker. Picked in late September, it should keep until Christmas.
‘James Grieve’ (dessert) - tender and juicy with an excellent flavour. Picked in early September, this variety should be eaten by the end of October.
‘Sunset’ (dessert) - pretty blossom, tasty fruit ready at the end of September. Keeps until Christmas.
‘Worcester Pearmain’ (dessert) - crisp and sweet, pick in September.
‘Bramley’s Seedling’ (cooker) - ready for picking in early October, it will keep in good condition until April. The best variety for culinary use, with large, juicy fruit.