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
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.