In the Garden:
Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
March, 2013
Regional Report

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Apple trees can be trained as espalier to grow along a fence or wall.

Let There Be Apples!

If you only have room in your garden to grow one kind of food, let it be the apple. Apple trees are fairly easy to maintain, take little room and the fruit is extremely good for you. "An apple a day keeps the doctor away," as the old saying goes, is actually true. High in vitamin C, a medium sized apple contains a whopping 4 grams of fiber and has less than 100 calories. And a recent study showed that eating an apple a day for four weeks lowered the LDL or "bad" cholesterol of healthy, middle-aged adults by 40 percent!

Besides delighting in crisp, fresh apples, your apple harvest can be dried or made into apple butter, cider, apple sauce or chutney, not to mention pies, crisps and cakes.

Sebastopol in Northern California is famous for its apple orchards. Most varieties do well in our mild region. A few great eating apples to choose from are Fuji, Honey Crisp, and Gala. Cooking apples are more tart with a firmer flesh and include Pippin, Granny Smith, and Gravenstein varieties. Select disease resistant varieties when purchasing a new plant for your garden.

Growing an apple from seed will not produce a genetic replica of the parent tree. Part of the reason apples are so successful in nature is that the plant makes slight modifications with each new generation. The only way to grow a true variety is to make grafted cuttings.

The apple tree you purchase will consist of two parts grafted together -- the rootstock, which controls the mature size of the tree, and the scion, the above-ground part that produces a particular variety of fruit. Semi-dwarf trees grow 10-20 feet high; dwarf apple trees will only reach 8-10 feet tall.

  • Plant apple trees in full sun.
  • Pruning is done during the dormant season.
  • Spray after pruning with an organic copper/oil mix to kill overwintering insects.
  • Fertilize in early spring with a slow release balanced fertilizer.
  • Do not apply pesticides while the trees are blooming to prevent killing pollinating insects.
  • Thin developing fruit to one apple every 6 inches along a branch.
  • Harvest fruit as it ripens. Keep fallen fruit picked up to prevent insect infestations in later crops.
  • Select disease resistant varieties when purchasing a new plant for your garden.

Apples respond well to pruning and can be trained as espaliers along a fence to save space. Dwarf trees can be grown in containers or even trained as bonsai.

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