Apple Trees - Narrowing Down Your Choices of Varieties
Apple trees are one of the most widely planted fruit trees. The home garden with an apple tree has long been a staple for home grown fruit. Apple trees can be grown in a wide variety of areas in the United States. Choosing an apple variety for a particular zone is easy. Narrowing the choices of an apple variety is the difficult part.
Apple trees originated in Asia and there are more than 7,500 cultivars growing around the world. They are fast growing, and their growth per year is measured in feet and not inches. These trees are not real picky when it comes to soil types, so they easily fit into many home garden locations.
The growth of the home garden movement of the past few years has fueled the nursery industry for apple tree production. Heirloom apples, such as the Ashmead’s Kernel variety, are also more popular today than they were several years ago. The appearance of some of the heirloom apples may not be as appealing as a Golden Delicious apple, but the taste is extraordinary and delicious.
Apple varieties are sometimes divided into three categories. The first, and largest category, are those apples bred for fresh eating. The next category is the cooking apple, and finally the cider apples. Cider apples are typically too tart for fresh eating but they give cider a rich taste that dessert apples, such as a Golden Delicious apple, cannot. Apples are mostly bred for skin color, long storage capacity, high yields, disease resistance, and taste. Examples of red skinned apples are Red Delicious, Akane, Cortland, Mollies, Delicious, and the Spartan. Golden or yellow skinned examples are Golden Delicious, Yellow Newton Pippen, Yellow Transparent, Mutsu, Calville Blanc, and Granny Smith. Striped or multi-colored apple examples are Braeburn, Cox Orange Pippin, Gravenstein, and Honeycrisp. The color of the apple’s skin does not determine whether it is sweet, tart, crisp or soft. Apples vary in tastes, textures, and some have very subtle variances.
Garden and yard size, along with soil types, do have a bearing on selecting an apple tree. Rootstocks are used to control tree sizes, so if a small apple tree is needed to fit in a small garden or yard, a dwarfing rootstock is used. Rootstocks are also used to assist in disease resistance and soil condition variables. An apple variety such as the Golden Delicious, can be selected in three tree sizes.
Dwarf varieties will grow between 5 and 8 feet tall, semi-dwarf varieties are usually 12 to 16 feet tall, and standard varieties get between 20 and 30 feet tall. Rootstock selection will control the tree size in feet and inches. Rootstocks can also be selected to produce healthy, high producing apple trees in sandy or heavy soil types. Some rootstocks can help a fruit tree resist diseases in heavier water logged soils.
To insure apple production on any variety of apple tree depends on pollination. Pollination is needed for a fruit flower to produce an apple, and assisting in pollination of the fruit tree can substantially increase production.