Apple Tree Care

  1. Arkansas Black Apple: The Cabernet of the Apples

    Apples are the most popular fruit tree planted in the world with 7,500+ varieties to choose from. This can make selecting just one a challenge. Based on the adaptability alone, the Arkansas Black apple should be on the top of your list.

    Thought to have been discovered in the mid-1800's in Bentonville, Arkansas, it is said to be a seedling of the Winesap apple, which it shares many characteristics. It quickly grew to become a popular regional selection and was a commercial success into the 1930’s. The Arkansas Black has distinguished itself as a true Gem of home garden apple selections since that time.

    Very able to adapt to many climates, the Arkansas Black can tolerate the hot summer inland valley temperatures of California - sometimes more than 110 degrees - or the cold winter climates that are found in USDA Zone 5a - minus 15 to 20 degrees. Then everything in between including coastal planting zones like 8a and b and zone 10 are all good for the Arkansas Black Apple.

    The fruit has a deep rich red to black color that distinguishes it from all other apples. The flavor is a wonderfully unique and sweet taste to which there are few comparisons, often defined as if it were a fine wine.

    Arkansas Black has become best known for its ability to be stored for 3 to 4 months and - like a fine wine - it just continues to improve in quality. In fact, the Arkansas Black apple is a difficult apple to eat directly off the tree; it is hard as a rock, almost impossible to bite into and really lacks any flavor to speak of.

    When picked and stored in temperatures of 50 degrees or less (such as the refrigerator), the Arkansas Black Apple begins to mellow into one the finest dessert apples known. The hard texture softens to a pleasant crispness, and the flesh comes alive with a unique musky, sweet flavor not found in any other apple. This process of refinement just continues with storage, with each Arkansas Black Apple tasting just a hint better than the last.

    Arkansas Black is a highly desirable cider apple, as well as a great cooking and applesauce selection. Of course, it is second to none when fully ripe for fresh eating.

    Arkansas Black is an apple that requires a pollinator and is a perfect addition to ones already-established apple collection. If you are just getting started and your desire is to enjoy an Arkansas Black, be sure to include a self-fruitful selection like Golden Delicious or Empire apple as a pollinator. Not only will this ensure a great crop, but it will also extend your apple enjoying season with early selections and the Arkansas Black, which ripens later in the season.

    Plant Arkansas Black where it gets a full day of sunlight and always mulch well. Mulching well is particularly important in the hotter, drier climates where Arkansas Black will be protected from getting a sun spot on the sun side of the fruit. Mulching keeps the root cool and helps to avoid premature fruit drop, which is common in hot/dry climates. Mulching is a benefit in all climates as it improves the soil beneath the tree and cuts the amount of water needed throughout the season.

    Finally, the Arkansas Black is very disease resistant, which just adds to the value to the home gardener, as most of the common apple diseases will not interfere with successfully growing and cropping this jewel. With the enormous selection of apples one has to choose from, the Arkansas Black is one that should rise to the top of the list of considerations.

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  2. The Empire Apple: The Most Adaptable of all Apple Varieties

    The planting season is fast upon us and all looking to grow fruit are busy researching what to plant. For my money, one of the first choices for Apples should be the Empire Apple.

    Starting with the McIntosh Apple and Red Delicious Apple first crossed by Lester C. Anderson at Cornell University in the early 1940’s which resulted in thousands of seedlings that were planted in 1945 to be grown and tested by the New York Agricultural Experiment Station of Cornell University in Geneva NY. Over the next 20 years, the Cornell team tested and eliminated thousands of seedlings - finally resulting in the introduction of one: the Empire Apple in 1966.  

    Today, as reported by the US Apple Association, the Empire is one of the top 15 most popular apple varieties planted in the United States.

    But unless you happen to visit Orchards that grow it or Farmers Markets where it is available, many home gardeners may not be familiar with this tremendous home garden selection, due in part to the popularity of other apples such as Fuji, Gala and Honeycrisp that so often consume the limited space on the Supermarket shelves and make up for 90% of all apples sold.

    The strong appeal of this fruit is the wonderful McIntosh Flavor in a variety that can be grown almost anywhere.

    The flesh of the Empire apple is firmer than the Mac in warmer climates such as California, where it dependability produces year after year in zones 8-10. Though the versatility of the Empire makes it a first choice for the colder zones 4-7. 

    In the Central Valley of California, I have enjoyed The Empire in Zone 9b for many years and on a recent trip to Vermont, I enjoyed the Empire in Zone 4b. 

    For first-time fruit growers or people looking for a variety that is easy to grow, Empire is again the top choice. Mostly disease free in all climates or at the very least much less susceptible to common Apple problems like Mildew, Fireblight, Cedar Apple Rust, and Scab. This keeps the need for excessive use of chemicals to a minimum.

    The Empire is partially self-fruitful so in most cases will not require a pollinator, although the addition of another mid-season blooming variety or adding the Empire to an already existing group of Apples will only improve the set. It is a surprisingly early ripening variety in the warmer climates, whereas in the cold regions it is a late ripening variety.

    With all the attributes of the McIntosh, bright white flesh, snap to the skin and dessert quality flavor, it is a wonderful variety for fresh eating, cooking and baking. Also great for Cider, and for a real treat try dehydrating or drying the Empire - wow, good!

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  3. Fruit Tree Fertilization

    [caption id="attachment_4366" align="alignleft" width="300"]fertile_soil Fertile soil[/caption] You want the best fruit your fruit tree can give, right? Good fruit comes from fertile soil, so the key is to  maintain soil health.  Sometimes, this means adding fertilizer, but know how to prevent over-fertilizing. Fertilizer in excess can be more damaging than no fertilizer at all. The most practical way of checking soil fertility is by investigating the annual growth of the tree.  If you inspect the branches and follow the branch from the tip to the previous year’s growth, you can measure how much the fruiting tree grew in a season. New growth is flexible and green, while last year's growth is darker (often brown) and more rigid.  A mature, fruit-producing tree should have 6-8 inches of vegetative growth each year.  Immature fruit trees grow more quickly, but don’t produce fruit.  

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  4. Dwarf Apple Trees

    Assorted_Red_and_Green_Apples_2120pxDwarf apple trees have many advantages to standard sized apple trees. First of all, dwarf apple trees are smaller. This means that they take up less room in a garden. The reduced size of a dwarf apple tree makes it easier to prune, spray and harvest fruit. Additionally, dwarf apple trees will produce fruit earlier than standard apple trees, often only three years after being planted, as opposed to as many as ten years. There are generally two ways to create a dwarf apple tree. One way is to specially breed them smaller. This is very hard to do and may take hundreds of years. A faster, and much more common way is to graft the tree onto a rootstock that has been selected for its dwarfing characteristics.There are several different types of rootstock, and each works best with specific trees.
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  5. Apple Varieties

    Apple varieties are sometimes divided into three categories. The first, Apple_pie 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, 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.

    Apple Trees for Sale

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  6. Planting Apple Trees

    Planting a new apple treePlanting apple trees in a home garden will allow for delicious fruit that everybody can enjoy. Planting apple trees does not differ much from planting other types of trees, but there are some special things to consider when planting these fruit trees. The location should have soil that is well drained, since standing water will easily kill the trees. The location should also have good air drainage, keeping low-lying cold air in the spring away from the tree. Apple trees should be planted in November, if possible. They can also be planted up to the end of march. The location used for planting apple trees should also provide for full sun access. If planting apple trees in a lawn, the grass should be removed from the planting area in a four-foot diameter circle, to prevent the grass from competing with the young tree for nutrients and water.
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  7. How to Grow an Apple Tree

    Apples_on_treeGrowing apple trees can be a fun and rewarding experience for the home gardener. Growing apple trees is a relatively easy process, and yields delicious fruit that can be enjoyed by everybody. There are, however, many factors to consider before attempting to grow apple trees in the garden. The first consideration when growing apple trees is what size tree is desired. Apple trees come mainly as a scion, or top portion, grafted ontoapple tree a rootstock. The type of rootstock used will help determine the eventual size the tree will grow to. Some rootstocks will produce a full sized tree, while others will dwarf the tree and make it grow smaller. Growing apple trees that are dwarfed is more common in the home garden.
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  8. Pruning & Trimming Apple Trees

    Central Leader PruningOne of the primary problems faced by gardeners when growing apple trees is that they do not understand how to prune an apple tree properly. Pruning apple trees plays an important role in ensuring proper growth and fruit production. Pruning apple trees begin from the first season after planting, and contiue yearly until the tree dies. Before growing one, any gardener must fully understand how to prune an apple tree properly. Before understanding how to prune an apple tree, it is important to know how apple trees grow. Apple trees are central leader trees, this means that there is one main upright trunk, called the leader. All branches will sprout and grow out of this. A properly pruned apple tree should have a scaffold shape. This means that there are branches circling the tree, perpendicular to the leader, and there should be an area of about two feet between the levels to allow for light to reach the lower leaves and fruit.
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