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Tips on Growing Apple Trees

Pollination of Apple Trees and Blooming Seasons

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Growing apple trees (picture) has its challenges but is worthwhile.

Growing apple trees has its challenges, but a crop like the one in this photo makes it all worthwhile.

David Beaulieu

On Page 1 we learned about some of the apple varieties suitable for home landscaping. But part of the pleasure of growing apple trees on your own property derives from biting into freshly-plucked fruit. So getting a bumper crop from your orchard in fall, eating a few of the fresh fruits and storing the rest away -- well, this approach somewhat defeats the purpose of growing delicious fruit. There's a better approach: staggering your crop.

By "staggering" your crop, I mean growing apple trees that are early-season bloomers, mid-season bloomers and late-season bloomers. By taking this approach with your crop, it's less likely you'll be forced into storing away some of your produce. Instead of having an excess of fresh fruit all at once, your harvesting will be spread out over three periods, with a more manageable amount to consume fresh at each harvest. Growing apple trees using the staggered approach also aids your landscape design efforts: just as the blossoms of one group fade, another will take up the torch. The following are examples of varieties, based on blooming season:

    Growing Apple Trees That Bloom Early:
  • Beacon
  • Ginger Gold
  • Paulared
  • State Fair

    Growing Apple Trees That Bloom Mid-Season:
  • Cortland
  • Gala
  • Honeycrisp
  • Liberty
  • McIntosh

    Growing Apple Trees That Bloom Late:
  • Golden Delicious
  • Haralred
  • Northern Spy
  • Rome

Forbidden Fruit: the Pollination Issue

While I am, indeed, recommending the staggered approach, I must emphasize that by no means do I suggest you should be growing apple trees of just one variety per season. Rather, you must plant two or more varieties that bloom the same time in each apple planting. Why? Well, don't forget "the birds and the bees." Yes, I'm talking about sex: pollination.

Most apples aren't keen on incest, requiring trees of a different apple variety for pollination (even with the exceptions, pollination is superior when it comes from another variety). Oh, by the way, apples don't look down their noses at crabapples, as if the latter somehow weren't "real" apples. No, apples are sometimes quite willing to be pollinated by their ornamental cousins. This fact obviously increases your leeway in terms of landscape design.

A couple of caveats, before leaving the issue of pollination:

  • The pollen of some apple varieties is sterile, so don't rely on these as your pollinizers. Examples are Jonagold, Mutsu, Stayman and Winesap.

  • The transfer of pollen from one apple blossom to another is largely the work of those busy little garden friends, the bees. So be careful not to apply insecticides during the blooming period -- or you'll lose your best means of pollination.

Now that we've gotten some of the initial considerations out of the way, on Page 3 it's time to look at the nitty-gritty of growing apple trees....

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