SHE’LL BE AP­PLES

PETER CUN­DALL says it’s im­por­tant to keep in mind all de­cid­u­ous trees are best planted in win­ter while fully dor­mant and com­pletely leaf­less

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - GARDENING - with Peter Cun­dall

If you’re think­ing of buy­ing de­cid­u­ous fruit trees, it’s a great time to put in an or­der. Many gar­den cen­tres are al­ready dis­play­ing pop­u­lar va­ri­eties of fruit trees, so it’s worth shop­ping around right now to see what’s on of­fer.

Many fruit trees are al­ready pot­ted, in­clud­ing some left over from last win­ter which have been grow­ing in large con­tain­ers ever since.

Keep in mind that all de­cid­u­ous trees are best planted in win­ter while fully dor­mant and com­pletely leaf­less. This means that last year’s fruit trees are still good value, but it’s a mis­take to just take them from con­tain­ers to di­rectly plant them out in the gar­den.

That’s be­cause many roots could have de­velop spi­rals while re­stricted within the con­tain­ers and this con­tin­ues while in the ground, caus­ing growth to be stunted.

So all pot­ting soil should be blasted to ex­pose roots so they can be inspected. Any spi­rals or badly bent roots should be straight­ened, but if this risks break­ing them it’s bet­ter to cleanly cut off all twisted ends.

This also means all long branches must also be cut back very hard – by at least two-thirds – to re­store balance. This ini­tial prun­ing is es­sen­tial be­cause it en­cour­ages newly-planted de­cid­u­ous fruit trees to send out healthy new growth in spring.

When plant­ing any tree, shrub or rose bare-rooted, it al­lows us to spread roots widely in plant­ing holes. It is also of vi­tal im­por­tance to en­sure these plants are se­cured to stakes, prefer­ably wooden ones. I like to use two stakes for trees – one on ei­ther side of each main stem with flex­i­ble, plas­tic tree ties stretched be­tween to pro­vide good sup­port. These ties – very cheap to buy – elim­i­nate the danger of stran­gu­la­tion – a com­mon prob­lem when

This means that last year’s fruit trees are still good value, but it’s a mis­take to just take them from con­tain­ers

strong cord or bal­ing twine is used.

I pre­fer to apply fer­tilis­ers over the sur­face af­ter­wards rather than risk plac­ing them too close to sen­si­tive new, young roots. How­ever, good com­post or biochar can be safely mixed with soil inside plant­ing holes.

If you are think­ing about buy­ing ap­ple trees, choose care­fully. It pays to get the most use­ful and most pro­duc­tive. You can­not go past Granny Smith as an out­stand­ing, heavy-crop­ping eat­ing and cook­ing ap­ple. Our main tree is still fes­tooned with big, tasty, aro­matic ap­ples, de­spite the fact that we’ve been pick­ing and eat­ing them for weeks.

A great pol­li­na­tor is Graven­stein an early-bear­ing, juicy-sweet ap­ple har­vested in Jan­uary. The best of all eat­ing ap­ples is Cox’s Orange Pip­pin, an­other heavy­crop­ping mid-sea­son ap­ple, per­fectly suited to Tas­ma­nia’s cooler cli­mate and luck­ily a good cross-pol­li­na­tor is Granny Smith.

If short of space these trees can also be ob­tained as semi-dwarf, multi-grafts, but it may be nec­es­sary to or­der early.

The most out­stand­ing of all cook­ing ap­ples is Bram­ley’s Seedling. The odd­lyflat­tened fruit when picked are sharp and sour, but when cooked the flesh not only swells by 50 per cent and be­comes fluffy, but an amaz­ing, highly-aro­matic, un­be­liev­ably-de­li­cious flavour de­vel­ops.

I love to eat this won­der­ful frothy pulp with my morn­ing por­ridge with just a tiny amount of maple syrup. It’s un­real! Try it with young chil­dren – it’s brim­ming with vi­ta­mins and vi­tal min­er­als.

The snag when grow­ing a Bram­ley is it can­not pol­li­nate its own blos­soms or those of any other ap­ple. This is no real prob­lem be­cause even Granny Smith, Spar­tan or any white-flow­ered crabap­ple can be ex­cel­lent pol­li­na­tors.

All ap­ple trees can be trained as ei­ther fans or es­paliers to grow flat against walls, fences or even wires stretched be­tween posts. How­ever, if grown in shade they may pro­duce plenty of branches but in many cases fail to flower so will re­main bar­ren.

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