5 Easy Steps to Choosing an Apple Tree
Maybe it’s because I’ve always had apple trees, but I feel like a garden isn’t complete without one (or two or three). If you feel the same way, you might be planning to plant your first apple tree or a tree to complement the apple trees you already have. In either case, you’ll be eating those apples for a lot of years so it’s important to make the right choice! We asked our apple tree growers for their advice (after all, they should know) and here’s what they told us.
- Watch: tips from a professional grower
- 5 easy apple trees for beginners
Watch: Tips from the UK's largest orchard
The first thing you need to consider is where the apple tree is going to go. This will determine what size of tree you should buy. A fruit tree’s eventual size depends on which rootstock it’s grown on, and this can be anything from a patio tree of 1.5m in height (on M27 Dwarfing rootstock) to a full size tree of around 4m tall (on St Julien A rootstock).
Ecolette is a patio variety of apple tree.
All of our product pages will detail the eventual size of the tree so make sure you check this before purchasing!
Most apples are dessert apples, which means they’re great for eating raw. Cooking apples tend to be larger and have a sour flavour, which makes them better for pies and crumbles where a lot of sugar is used. But what if you only have space for one tree? Does that mean no apple pie? Don’t worry, any apple can be cooked - you may just need to adjust the recipe according to their sweetness level. If you do have space for two trees though, one eater and one cooker is a good combination, here are some examples.
These are the apples you’ll be eating for the next 50 or so years, so it’s important to make sure you love the flavour. All apples have a combination of sweetness and acidity, but the later maturing varieties are generally the sweetest.
Different harvests can be any time from August to November depending on the variety, so make sure you choose one with a harvest time that suits you. For example, if you always holiday in August, it’s a good idea to choose a tree with a later harvest time.
Similarly if you plant more than one apple tree, go for varieties that mature at different times so you don’t end up with too many apples all at once! If storing your apples over winter is important to you, you can also check on this - popular varieties that you see in the shops tend to be those that store well, like Granny Smith, Gala and Golden Delicious.
Apple trees only produce fruit if they’re pollinated by insects, and some need to be cross-pollinated by a different variety of apple. In theory that means that if you only plant one tree it should be a self-fertile variety; in practice though, apple trees are so common that it’s vanishingly unlikely there won’t be one nearby that can do the job. Unless you live in a very remote area far from any houses or parks, you don’t really need to worry about this one.
However… if you do have the space for more than one tree, you can use pollination to increase the size of both crops. Go for trees that flower at the same time but have different pollination groups (you can find this information on our product pages) - for example one from group 2 and one from group 3. Or plant a crabapple tree - our growers swear by them as pollinators for any variety of apple.
Check out our range of delightful crabapple trees here.
5 ideal apple choices for beginners
You can expect an excellent crop from Lord Lambourne, wherever you are in the UK. Its flavour is one of the best of any dessert apple, and if you’re looking for a full size tree for a garden or border, this is a serious contender.
A dual purpose, self-fertile apple with resistance to pests and diseases. James Grieve was raised in Edinburgh so will crop well in even the coldest parts of the UK, and is available in several sizes including a cordon.
A late season, heritage variety (it’s been grown for over 100 years!). Egremont Russett is a lovely, easy apple to grow with a complex flavour. Harvest it in September and October.
Go for Grenadier if you want an easy to grow cooking apple - it’s a great all rounder which cooks down to a rich, creamy puree and is ready to pick as early as August.
Discovery is the most widely grown dessert apple in the UK, having a sweet taste with a hint of strawberry. It’s ready to be harvested between August and September, and can be stored for two months or more.