Of all the tree fruits, apples are perhaps one of the most reliable for growing in gardens and allotments because they suit our cooler, damp climate better than other fruit trees.
Apple trees can be grown in many different shapes and sizes making them ideal for growing in gardens large or small. The traditional apple tree can grow very big, but modern rootstocks mean that the size and vigour of the tree can be controlled allowing apples to be grown in small gardens.
If you are thinking about buying a tree to plant this autumn check the label which will give details of the rootstock. For a dwarf tree that will only grow to around 2-3m tall look for M9 or M26 stock and for a tree a little larger up to 4 m go for semi-dwarfing MM106. Apple trees can also be trained very easily as cordons with a single stem, fans against a wall or multi-tiered espaliers.
As for variety, well that really depends on what type of apple you like to eat! What I would avoid is commercial types such as ‘Golden Delicious’ and ‘Granny Smith’ as they need a warmer climate to grow well. I’d also avoid ‘Cox’s Orange Pippin’ as in the north it tends to get lots of diseases such as mildew and scab. Instead look out for apple varieties that come from the north midlands upwards as these will always grow better. For a cooking apple I don’t think you can beat ‘Bramley’s Seedling’ but Yorkshire cookers such as ‘Yorkshire Beauty’ and ‘Grandpa Buxton’ are very reliable and produce a good, tasty crop. As for eaters, ‘Katy’ grows well and produces juicy red apples, ‘Sunset’ looks and tastes like a ‘Cox’s’ but doesn’t have the disease problems and of course if you want a proper Yorkshire apple, then look out for ‘Ribston Pippin’ which is an old variety and thought to be one of the parents of ‘Cox’s Orange Pippin’.
The fruits are ready to harvest when they leave the tree with a gentle twist and if stored in as cool a place as possible, many of these apples will keep through the winter and into next spring.
Jobs for the week
lLift main crop potatoes from the garden and before storing the tubers in paper or hessian sacks, let them dry off first for an hour or two.
lTall growing buddleja shrubs can be pruned down by half. This tidies them up for the winter and prevents them from blowing around in the autumn gales. The hard prune is then done next March
lIf you have a greenhouse that is kept frost-free through the winter, check the heater to make sure it is working properly for when the weather turns cold and frosty.
lContinue to plant spring bulbs such as daffodils, crocus and snowdrops.