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 I grew an apple tree by mistake! How do I look after it? 
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Joined: Sun May 28, 2006 12:51 pm
Posts: 1
Post I grew an apple tree by mistake! How do I look after it?
Hi everyone,

This is my first post on the forum and I'd like to tell you about my wonderful apple tree that I grew by mistake and hopefully gain some advice on how to look after it.

How the accident happened
Back in 1999 I met my partner and in our first year of living together we decided to explore the world of camping. On our first weekend camping we arrived at the campsite after sundown, unpacked our (brand new) tent and attempted to erect it for the first time in the flood of our car headlights. It was hilarious.
The following weekend we practiced putting up the tent in our garden so that should we ever arrive at a campsite after dark again we would know exactly what to do.
After successfully erecting the tent 3 times we left it up over the weekend and "camped" in the garden. LOL. Anyway, my partner loves fruit but is very messy with the cores etc. and so I threw the apple cores out of the tent and into the borders of our garden so that the birds would clen his mess.

A new hedge
Within a couple of years I began noticing that our hedge had one or two "freak" branches whose leaves were lighter in colour and seemed to grow outwards from the hedge; protruding into our lawned area. I vigourously cut back these stubborn 'branches'. In fact, once I even pruned the entire hedge within a inch of it's life hoping to eliminate the problem branches.

Is that an apple tree in your garden son?
Through 2003-2005 my partner and I were concentrating on expanding our businesses and the hedge I once I had time to prune became neglected and the lawn was mown just twice per year! The "alien branches" grew outwards and upwards and quite frankly seemed to spoil the aesthetics of my garden :( .
The branches were growing in a spot where I already have a 6ft tree. I have no idea what this particular 6ft tree is called, but in Spring it's leaves turn the colour of claret and it produces the most beautiful pink blossom - in Autumn it produces small berries which the birds often eat. In Spring of 2005, the light green leaves of the "alien branches" clashed terribly with the claret coloured leaves of the tree it seemed to be growing in the middle of. I intended to cut back the now 5ft branches as soon as I had time. The time never came.
Around September of last year my mother and father were visiting my home and my father remarked, "Is that an apple tree in your garden son?". Well of course, I only had 2 trees in my garden (to my knowledge), neither of which were apple trees so I responded accordingly. My father was quite persistent in telling me I was wrong as he could quite clearly see apples in my "claret" tree. I thought he was hallucinating, but then my mother began telling me she could see apples too.
I took them both into my garden to show them they were both very much mistaken, but low and behold, on my "alien" branches (which were now quite thick) was around a dozen apples!
The apples weren't little crab apples either. They were the size of apples I usually buy in the supermarket, with a matt light coloured green skin. They began falling from the tree around October and I managed to pick 3 or so that the birds had not pecked at.
My partner was the first to taste one. "Mmmnnnn, juicy and crunchy." I tasted one myself. It had a firm and crunchy texture, with a mildly sharp flavour before becoming sweet. Here in England we have a brand of Apples called "Granny Smiths", and it reminded me a lot of that.

This year's fruit
I hope we will get some more fruit this year. Since discovering the true identity of the "alien branches" I have not cut them back, but have pruned the hedge to allow more light to hit the apple tree. The apple tree is now around 7 feet tall and this spring was absolutely covered in the most beautiful white blossom. The blossom disappeared around 3 weeks ago.

This will be my first year looking after an apple tree and I have so many questions. How do I know when the fruit is ready to pick? Is it true that the apples I have growing in my garden are unique to my tree? If I have grown a new variety, can I name it after my cat? If my tree produces lots of fruit this year, how could I share my tree with others who would like an apple tree like mine (grows well and produces good edible fruit without being cared for at all and in a cold climate; Liverpool England). Will the apple tree eventually "strangle" my claret tree? If I move home can I take my apple tree with me? How do I stop the birds from pecking at every apple (half the stock is fine, but I would like some apples for myself too)?

I am sure there are lots of other answers to questions that I do not even know I need to ask yet but as I said, I grew an apple tree by mistake and now I need to know how best to look after it!

Thanks for reading my post.

Classixuk, Liverpool, UK.

Sun May 28, 2006 11:45 pm

Joined: Thu Jan 27, 2005 11:27 pm
Posts: 1188
Location: Yamhill County, Oregon
Liverpool -- Farout - We've crossed the Pond!

Classixuk; what had been your partner’s favorite eating apple in 99? We've got Granny Smith’s in our stores too, in fact, I've got a Granny Smith (spur variety) growing here. Wow! Lots of questions - and what a story! I love it! --- and I've got the day off (Our Memorial Day) to answer...

In my studies of apples I couldn't help but run across glowing accounts of English Apples, but after tasting, and even growing some of them, I realized they were all "Mid-season" apples ‘around here’ -- and that we could grow even later season apples, of which Granny Smith is one of the latest. Yes, you've got a Seedling, and it's all yours! It may very well have characteristics of a Granny Smith, if a Granny had been one of its parents. So, who was the Dad? - Some other pollinator variety from the orchard of conception. I'm no longer sure where our Grannies come from, New Zealand or not? But if you could gather information on where your market apples come from (both summer and winter shipments), and what the common pollinator for a Granny is -- you may have a lead to your Apple's dad. But the genetics are so diverse, and rarely does a Seedling apple match or surpass the desirable characteristics of either parent. That said; if this apple's desirable to you, and productive in your climate -- excellent - it may be a keeper.

Apples are amazingly hardy, I remember years ago my father and grandfather made a truck load of apple (cider over here) juice (over there), throwing the pulp in a vegetable garden. The next spring there were hundreds of apple seedlings popping up. Grandpa left them alone, out of curiosity. I eventually grafted on some known varieties for him to give away, and one he left right there. I suspected your seedling apple wasn't much for eating, and planned to suggest you graft it over, or dig it out ... But if you're interested in propagating it – great!

Apples are 'ready to eat' when their seeds turn brown. If they're dropping, without worm-action, that's a good indicator of ripeness too. (I'm trying to stick to your questions here) Your apple tree is unique - and baring any knowledge of international patent law - is yours; and can be named for your cat! You can propagate it. My preferred method, cause it can be done at my convenience, is to buy some 'Rootstock' -- specifically grown apple stock (one year old 'trees') used for anchoring and limiting an apple trees size. You may have a local source; check mail-order catalogs or a good nursery... If worse came to worse, plant a batch of any apple seeds, wait for them to grow one season, then graft onto them with your variety; you wouldn't have the size limitation or hardiness ... but you'd get rootstock for free. We can mail-order rootstock, often in bundles of 5. If you can do this, graft on 'your' variety (what's that cats name - so I'll recognize this new variety?), and give away as many as you like.

There's also Budding ... that's inserting a fresh cut bud from your tree, beneath the bark of a growing young tree (rootstock); that bud eventually establishing an entire tree of your variety. So, there are ways of propagating your tree. And, anyone with an existing apple tree could also graft on a 'scion' from your tree onto theirs early next spring. Propagation will take some form of grafting -- and hey -- you've got Rootstock Central 'over there' at the East Malling Institute -- they're responsible for any rootstock with the notation of "M" --- M-9; M-27, M-106, M-111....

So, you've a seven year old seedling apple tree in a difficult location... There are some around here who might suggest you dig it out and transplant it -- I'm not one of them. No. one, that would be a lot of work, especially dodging the roots of your hedge, No. two (which should have been #1), the tree could die -- and with it - you, or your cats claim to fame! I'd do like you're doing; make sure it's getting plenty of sun, and the more room the better. I doubt the claret tree will be hurt by the apple, but it sounds like the claret (ash?) will easily overgrow the apple; so I'd get on with the propagation. That way you'll have plenty of little identical trees to disperse among family & friends. I'd keep some in good sized pots, for a while, until you end up where you 'plan' to be... And you'll have to look into those plant patents ~

As far as the birds ... netting? Net the 'best', or sunny side, leaving the rest?

I'll wait to see if you've more questions --- Sure enjoyed reading your post, please keep us posted :D --- and since you won't have a "USDA" climate zone ... disregard the following.

Temperate Orchard Convservancy:

Mon May 29, 2006 5:43 pm

Joined: Fri Nov 10, 2006 4:12 am
Posts: 24
If it is a really tasty seedling apple, with good disease resistance, you may have lucked out. Most seedlings are of inferior quality, and a superior one is rare. A good new apple is a potential treasure....Both fruitwise and cashwise. A really good new apple can be worth big bucks. Like enough to buy you a new house. It isn't likely that your apple is that good, but it has happened before.

Tue Feb 13, 2007 5:49 am

Joined: Thu Jan 25, 2007 9:54 am
Posts: 88
Location: Essex, England Zone 8
buzzoff wrote:
If it is a really tasty seedling apple, with good disease resistance, you may have lucked out.

Yup, now is grafting time, you should get some more propagated, if you can't find anyone local I'm sure I can get someone to do it for you.

Tue Feb 13, 2007 6:03 am
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