Canberra’s cold winter and hot summers make it suited to growing apples. Nothing tastes better than a crunchy apple picked straight from the tree. We also love the fact they have pretty blossom and provide shade. Whether you prefer a Granny Smith, a Pink Lady or a Fuji we’ve put together our top tips for helping you grow apples in Canberra and country gardens in the surrounding region.
Variety is crucial to ensuring a bountiful harvest. Many apple trees are not self-pollinating and need a different variety close-by to set fruit. So if you want a lot of fruit you will need two trees or make sure you buy a self pollinating tree. You can also get multi-graft apple trees that grow more than one variety which means you won’t need more than one tree. Buying the short, compact dwarf varieties is a great solution for smaller Canberra gardens. The term dwarf relates to the plant size and not to the fruit size. The smaller varieties are often more disease resistant and bear fruit earlier. Ballerina apple trees are tall and skinny and grow to about 4m. They can be used as an edible hedge and they don’t need pruning.
Apples don’t mind the cold but appreciate around 5-6 hours of sunshine and protection from strong winds. They aren’t too fussy about the soil but don’t like to be waterlogged or extremely dry.
Pruning in late winter every year is essential! Train the centre leader for the first year to stimulate fruit production. Cut back any dead or diseased wood. Make clean cuts just above a healthy outward-facing bud. Prune to keep the tree balanced, allow air to circulate, and let the sunlight in . Prune to form a vase shape to encourage fruit and to keep the tree at a manageable height so you don’t need a ladder. Pruning downward, inward, and cross-over branches will help to keep the tree well ventilated. Prune any suckers growing at the base.
Feed & water
Fertilise in spring with a controlled release fertiliser, compost, old manure, and some dynamic lifter to get the best out of your apple trees and give them a long drink once a week over summer and autumn if it’s dry. Most apple trees give a bountiful harvest one year followed by a more modest harvest the next year.
The best way to reduce pests is to remove all infected fruit from the tree and the ground. Bag them and take them away – don’t leave them in your compost. Codling moth is the biggest pest for apple trees. Spray with lime sulphur or Bordeaux when flower buds just open and you can see a pink colour. You can spray again when the flowers are around 10% open. Spraying trees with a combination of garlic and seaweed on the leaves can also help prevent fungal diseases such as apple scab.
Weed and mulch
Remove weeds to prevent nutrient competition and mulch 7cm deep in a circle around the tree extending to the widest branch. You can plant lavender and rosemary nearby to attract the bees and assist pollination.