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Apples

Perennial, fall harvest

Apples are believed to be the oldest cultivated tree in the world.  It originated in Kazakhstan and central Asia.  The University of Saskatchewan has been breeding apples since the 1920's. In the last 25 years, we have grown 35,000 seedlings and selected the best for further use in our breeding program. In most recent years, enhanced cold hardiness, fruit quality and storage life have been used as criteria for selecting the next generation of prairie apples.

Growth Habit

  • Most commercial apple varieties are grafted and the height of the tree depends on what rootstock is used.  If grafted onto Ottawa #3 rootstock the mature height will be about 10-12 feet whereas if Siberian crab-apple rootstock is used the mature height will be about 20-30 feet. 
  • Apples tend to flower mid-late May and flower simultaneously with the leaves opening.  The flowers are typically white but can be pink
  • Apples can range in a variety of colours and sizes from the small crab apples to eating apples.  The time of ripening is also highly variable.  Apples can ripen anywhere from late August to early October.  The homeowner needs to pay attention to the ripening dates as a lot of years the fall is not long enough to harvest an apple that ripens in October. 

Planting

  • Planting also depends on the type of rootstock.  If the tree is grafted onto some sort of dwarfing rootstock (Ottawa #3 as an example) they should be planted about 5-10 feet apart.  If the tree is on crabapple rootstock it should be planted 15-20 feet away from another tree.
  • You should plant an apple in a hole that is big enough to incorporate the entire root mass with a little bit of extra space to compact the soil so the tree does not fall over.  The graft union should be about 2 inches above the soil line.
  • Water very well until the plant is well established

Pollination

  • Apples are not self-compatible so they require another tree of a different variety to provide the pollen and get fruit.  In urban areas, there are usually enough ornamental apples, crabapples or other apples in neighbour’s yards to be sufficient pollinators.  If you can see another apple from your yard you do not need a second tree.  Another alternative is to buy a tree with multiple varieties grafted onto it, that way the tree will pollinate itself. 

Pruning

  • In the first year, you need to make sure that the tree is developing a central leader.  This means one dominant central axis branch.
  • In the second year, you should remove narrow angled branches (narrow angled branches mean branches that are less than 90 degree angles from the main axis).  By this year you should have about 4 or 5 good placed branches which will become your scaffold branches
  • Year three you should remove suckers and water sprouts as well as bad branches (branches with narrow angles, crisscrossing branches etc)
  • Year 4 onward just do typical pruning to keep the tree the size you like, maintenance pruning etc. 
  • Fruit thinning may also be necessary.  If your apple tree seems to be producing an abundance of apples one year and then none the next fruit thinning may be required.  In order to fruit thinly you can knock flowers off in the spring to reduce the amount of fruit that way or you can remove the fruit once it has started to develop.  The general rule of thumb is one apple always a hands width away from the next apple.  This is only necessary for apple apples, not crab apples. 

Harvesting

  • Hand pick the apples when you like the flavour.  “Ripeness” is botanically classified when the seeds are dark brown.  Having said that if you are happy with the flavour before that pick them when you're happy with it. 
  • Twist and pull the apple when removing it from the tree.  If you just straight pull the apple off you end up breaking off the fruit spur and removing some of the buds for next year. 
  • Avoid dropping the apples as that will lead to bruising. 

Cultivars

There are a wide variety of apples available for purchase in greenhouses throughout the province.  Below is a chart listing the varieties recommended by the fruit program. 

Cultivar

Apple Colour

Apple Size

Type of Apple

Type of Variety

Ripening time

Taste

Texture

Other

Adanac

Red and green striped

5cm diameter

apple

other

Early

Tad tart but good

Slightly course texture

Stores up to 12 weeks

Norland

Red blush over greenish yellow

6.5 cm diameter

apple

other

Early

Slightly tart but good overall flavour

Slightly course

Falls when ripe

Rescue

Yellow green with a deep red blush

3.5 cm diameter

crab-apple

other

early

Tart but sweet

Crisp texture

Stores for 3 weeks, goes mealy fast

Fall Red

Dull red over a yellow green base

7 cm diameter

apple

other

mid

A bit tart but good overall flavour

Crisp and very firm

Stores up to 10 weeks

September Ruby

Bright red with green ribbing

6.5 cm diameter

apple

other

mid

A bit tart but a great eating apple

crisp

Stores up to 16 weeks, slightly thick skin

Norkent

Light green streaked with red

6-7 cm diameter

apple

other

mid

Juicy sweet and aromatic

Crisp with a slightly tough skin

Do not pick early, needs time to develop full flavour

Goodland

Creamy green washed with red

5-8 cm diameter

apple

Other

mid

Fairly sweet

Fine textured and crisp

Some hardiness issues in some locations

Battleford

Pale green striped with red

7 cm diameter

apple

other

mid

Slightly tart

Course and crisp

Stores up to 4 weeks

Carlos Queen

Green with a slight blush

7.5 cm diameter

apple

other

mid

Fairly sweet

Fine

Bruises easily

Westland

Green yellow overlaid with dull red

7-9 cm diameter

apple

other

mid

Juicy and fairly sweet

Crisp texture

Excellent for cooking

Prairie Sensation

Green with a reddish wash

7.5 cm diameter

apple

U of S

mid

Sweet with a great flavour

Firm, crisp and juicy

Requires very little fruit thinning

Misty Rose

Green with a deep red overlay

6.5-8 cm diameter

apple

U of S

mid

Sweet and good

Firm, crisp and juicy

Falls quickly after it is ripe

Dolgo

Purple red with a heavy bloom

1.5 cm diameter

crab-apple

other

mid

Not good for fresh eating

Course texture

Excellent for making jelly

Haralson (HaralRed)

Brown red colour

6 cm diameter

apple

other

late

Slightly tart but good

Firm and slightly tough, benefits from storage

Stores very well, great for cooking as fairly resistant to browning

Autumn Delight

Dark red over green underlay

6-7 cm diameter

apple

U of S

late

Sweet and good flavour

Slightly spongy and crisp and juicy

Resistant to browning, great storability

Kerr

Dark red to purple

4 cm diameter

Apple-crab

other

late

very juicy and sweet

Firm and crisp

Can be picked after frost, increases the sweetness

 

Pests

There are a wide array of pests and diseases that affect apples.  Here is a selection of some of them.

  • Apple Maggot-very similar to the cherry fruit fly.  The fly lays eggs in the fruit and the fruit will have maggots on the inside when the fruit is cut open
  • Deer mice and voles-these animals like to snack on apple trees.  The deer love to eat the tender green new growth off of the tree.  Mice and voles and other rodents can girdle the lower stem of an apple tree causing the tree to die.
  • Fireblight-this is a bacterial disease that gives the tree an appearance of being scaled by fire.  Once a tree has this it will inevitably die.  This disease can be slowed down by removing the infected tissue.  Fireblight thrives in high nitrogen conditions so be wary of your fertilizer use. 
  • Apple Scab-is a fungal disease that causes scabby patches on the apple fruits.  This is more prevalent in wet years.  

Need more information? Check out the apple section of our Fruit Breeding program!

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