Ap­ple trees re­ward good treat­ment


From Cox’s or­ange pip­pin or irish peach early in the sea­son, to granny smith later on, you could have ap­ples in your gar­den from De­cem­ber through to May, with oth­ers pro­duc­ing in be­tween.

As long as you have the room, you could have at least one ap­ple tree in your gar­den. If you just have room for one, choose a tree with more than one va­ri­ety grafted on to it, since ap­ples need two of their kind for pol­li­na­tion.

Larger trees need about a fiveme­tre spac­ing, and dwarfs need about two and a half me­tres be­tween them.

They like most of the soil types in New Zealand, but do not ap­pre­ci­ate strong wind, which can blast off ten­der buds and fruit, or even dam­age the tree’s struc­ture.

If you have a trel­lis or fence, an ap­ple tree can be es­paliered against it to good ef­fect.

Use the cool and dor­mant win­ter months to per­form any tree­train­ing, so as to not stress the tree in its grow­ing and pro­duc­ing phases of the year.

Or­na­men­tal as well as fruit­ful plant­ing like this makes for a use­ful gar­den and is a pop­u­lar way to grow ap­ple trees in court­yards or smaller gar­den spa­ces.

To es­palier your ap­ple tree, train branches flat along the fence, prun­ing off any that stick too far out­wards. You can give the tree a hor­i­zon­tal look or a fan shape.

Tie branches to give them sup­port as they grow strong and bear heavy fruit. You can give the tree a light shap­ing in sum­mer, to al­ter the look of it, or to al­low more light on to the fruit.

Give the tree a sunny po­si­tion and un­der-plant with ben­e­fi­cial and at­trac­tive plants such as chives, white clover and wall­flow­ers, said to pro­mote healthy fruit.

Chives are said to be ben­e­fi­cial in pro­tect­ing the tree from ap­plescab dis­ease, but there have been no sci­en­tific tests to prove this, ac­cord­ing to Su­san McClure’s or­ganic gar­den­ing com­pan­ion plant­ing book. She writes that, ac­cord­ing the the­ory, a ring of chives grown around the tree works by af­fect­ing the spores on dropped leaves. Chives are also re­puted to help keep black spot off roses, an ap­ple rel­a­tive.

Win­ter is a good time to plant and prune ap­ples, as they are bar­ren of leaves and there­fore cope well with changes.

The idea of prun­ing the tree is to cre­ate good air flow and light through the branches and to re­move any old or dis­eased wood. If you have wood like this, make sure you clip it off be­low the dis­eased part, on healthy wood, and burn or dis­pose of the rot­ten branches.

You also want to re­move long bar­ren branches that just get in the way. Try to leave fruit­ing buds on the branch, be­low where you prune. These small buds will bud up the fol­low­ing year, so leave these on as much as pos­si­ble.

Trees are also shaped for ease of pick­ing. It pays to have se­ca­teurs that are both sharp – for prun­ing that does not dam­age the tree too much and to help it heal; and clean – so as not to trans­fer any dis­ease to the cut sur­face of the wood.

Healthy trees are less prone to pests and dis­ease, ac­cord­ing to or­ganic gar­den­ing prin­ci­ples.

By ap­ply­ing a feed of fer­tiliser in early spring and a layer of mulch, you help the tree have a good start to the grow­ing sea­son.

Sea­weed can be soaked and sprayed on the tree through­out sum­mer as a fo­liar fer­tiliser sev­eral more times un­til har­vest.

Spray to wet the leaves but not so much that they are drip­ping.


Spring blos­som: Soon the ap­ple blos­soms will ap­pear as na­ture awak­ens from her win­ter snooze.

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