Apples really are easy to grow. There are so many varieties and types though: some like a crisp apple, some soft, some like a sharp apple, others sweet. How do you know how an apple will taste though before you grow it?
This is one reason why The Caley Apple Day is always popular, and a great place to taste a variety of apples, pick up tips, and ask questions.
The Caley have answered some commonly asked questions for us but do get along to a Caley Apple Day held each year in October at Saughton Park, Edinburgh,
‘Can you tell me the name of this apple?’
This is one of the most common questions asked by Caley members. There are a few apples that are very easily identified, but with over 2,000 varieties, it is not always easy.
Take the example of ‘Ellison’s Orange’ and ‘James Grieve’ below.
They look pretty similar, they are both medium-sized, juicy apples, and both are striped. A ripe ‘Ellison’s Orange’ however, is an eating apple that can have a slight aniseed flavour, whereas ‘James Grieve’, an apple originally bred in Edinburgh, does not. Both are good for picking in September, keep well until the end of October, and grow well in Scotland (find more apple tips to help plan your orchard here). To make things even more confusing, other varieties look very similar!
‘What makes apples crop well?’
There are a few things that can influence whether an apple tree will successfully crop, and the quality of the fruit.
Perhaps most confusing are the pollination groups. If you live near other gardens with apple trees that bloom about the same time, then pollination may not be a problem, as bees and other pollinating insects will do their work, but this is not always the case. Apple pollination groups help to give you an idea of which apple trees are in flower at roughly the same time. So in order to ensure good pollination, grow two or more different cultivars from the same flowering group or adjacent flowering groups.
Examples of pollination groups for popular apples:
- ‘Red Windsor’ – Group 2
- ‘Discovery’ – Group 3
- ‘James Grieve’ – Group 3
- ‘Katy’ – Group 3
- ‘Ellison’s Orange’ – Group 4
There are apple trees labelled as Triploid. This includes varieties such as the ever popular cooker ‘Bramley’. You need to be a bit more careful here as triploids are poor pollinators and need at least two compatible varieties that will pollinate each other as well as the triploid cultivar at the same time.
Essentially, the three main factors affecting cropping are:
- lack of a suitable pollinating cultivar nearby
- poor conditions for pollinating insects e.g. too cool, too windy, too wet
- frost, especially at flowering time
‘What do I need to know about pests?’
There are a few pests which affect apple growing but most will control each other. In very hot dry weather you might have a few aphids but is not a common problem for growing in Scotland. If it does affect your trees, try a very weak washing up solution spray (remember that you want to eat the fruit). Sometimes the trees might get mildew or scab, but it is not a killer and unlikely to be a major problem.
‘What about pruning? Do I have to?’
If you want to train fruit as The Caley does on their Demonstration Allotment, then yes, you do need to prune regularly, twice a year. Some light pruning does helps to bring in light, and to ensure there is less competition.
‘How do I control how tall the tree grows?’
This can be a challenge if the tree is already planted and you do not know the rootstock. Rootstocks help to control the final size of the tree, as most apple trees are propagated by grafting onto a rootstock. A rootstock of M27 will be the most dwarf variety, growing to a height of 2 metres, while M25 can grow taller than 4 metres.
This may all sound complicated but it isn’t! Go along to a local Apple Day, or look out for The Caley’s Apple Day at Saughton Park in Edinburgh each October to be both educated and inspired..