Nothing tastes better than a crunchy apple picked straight from the tree, and Canberra’s cold winter and hot summers make it perfectly suited to apple growing. We love the fact these trees 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.
Tip 1: Variety
Variety is critical to ensuring a bountiful harvest. Many apple trees are not self-pollinating and need a different variety close-by to set fruit. If you want a lot of fruit, you will need two trees or to 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.
Tip 2: Pruning
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, and 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.
Tip 3: Position
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.
Tip 4: Feed and 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. 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.
Tip 5: Pests
The best way to reduce pests is to remove all infected fruit from the tree and 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.
Tip 6: 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.
TreeWorks is a leading tree services business operating in Canberra, Monaro, and Southern Tablelands. We are a fully licensed, Evoenergy accredited & insured tree surgery company and a member of Arboriculture Australia. Our climbers are appropriately trained and some of our arborists have over 25 years experience in large scale tree surgery and removals. Call 1800 873 343 or book online for a free on-site tree health and safety inspection.