With colder weather soon to arrive, and deciding which apple variety to plant in your yard, you should probably know in advance what an average or expected winter your tree may have the opportunity to enjoy. I say, enjoy, winter is the most beautiful time of year for a deciduous (drops its leaves) tree like an apple. Most, if not all of the pests it had to contend with during the season are pretty much gone. The tree is now finally able to ‘relax’ and not spend all its energies trying to look beautiful. Don’t us humans do the same thing? Running out the door to meet up with some old friends, most of us stopping at that mirror in the entryway (or at least we should) taking once last look to make sure we look amazing! Didn’t you know that your trees are like that too? Not that they have feelings, but come on, your tree takes some energy and craves some attention trying to look beautiful for you, dealing with aphids or mites or mealybug……any type of critter that may try to make it a new home…winter kind of acts like a rental agency, kicking out the bugs, ‘evicted’ by the colder weather. Bugs don’t like the cold, they’re probably at your neighbors’ house burying themselves under the unraked leaves of their flower bed or hiding in a weed patch. They really don’t like your neighbors better, they just want somewhere warm to spend the winter, and with your tree sans (fancy word for without) leaves, off they go somewhere else! Winter has always been one of my favorite seasons at home because now, with the cooler weather, I don’t have to spend every waking minute when I’m off work watering the yard. I know, I know, get a drip system. I have been saying next year for more than a few years. Back to apple trees….
I started by saying to know the history of what winter weather your area will more than likely endure before purchasing an apple tree, there are MANY types from which to choose! Ranging from those that can make fruit and thrive in the mild coastal regions of the beach, all the way to the cold and snowy regions of the extreme north. But, but, but…do remember why you’re buying an apple tree in the first place, to eat! Forget to pick one dialed into YOUR winters, and you may have an apple shade tree on your hands — lots of foliage but no fruit. The right amount of cold weather needed for your tree to make apples. How do you like your apples? Read on….
Please say pie. Apple pie. No, I’m not pining back for the 4th of July and the All-Star game, hot dogs and jumping into a lake from a tire swing (though that is extremely fun). Yes, summer is for fun and play, if you want to have LOTS of time to play, we need to get back to picking the right type of apple that both makes fruit for where you live AND is the right type of apple for what you want to do. Pie or fresh eating? Let’s do pie first. In talking about apple pie, it makes me think of my mother’s homemade pie. I remember walking into the kitchen as a kid seeing LOTS of flour and dough spread out on the kitchen table, she rolling her own crust. Dang! And then I looked over towards the sink and seeing the sliced apples ready to be spiced up and dropped into the pie tins. Of course, I snuck an apple before the cinnamon and nutmeg had the chance to be lovingly mixed into the apples, and I was WAY surprised why they were so tart. My first lesson as a nurseryman from my mother: “The apples need to be tart so when you add the sugar needed to help the apples bake down into the yummy filling, it doesn’t become too sweet.” I’m like, “o.k., makes sense to me” (I was a kid), I never forgot that moment. She used Granny Smith apples as I recall.
Now that I’m all grown up with a family of my own, I watch my wife enjoy apples eaten fresh with her lunch. She usually has Jazz or Honeycrisp (or similar) written down on the shopping list when I hit the produce section. She likes the complexity of the flavor, the sweet/tart thing offering a more complex flavor than the ole’ Red Delicious many of us grew up with. Kind of cool that so many new varieties have been developed; none of us have any reason not to eat more fresh fruit than we do, but most of us don’t. There is no real reason why. Are we too busy? Why can’t we make the time to quickly rinse an apple and have an impromptu snack while we watch Wheel of Fortune or Jeopardy after dinner? I just don’t know. Apples store well, are available pretty much year-round, and are SO good for us. One can grow them in a large container, in a planter bed pruned tight up against a fence or building (espalier pruning), out in the orchard, or even used as a focal point in a plain ole’ landscaped bed if the water needs of everything in the bed are compatible. They are cold hardy, and as mentioned above — short of a few hitch-hiking bugs that fly off on their own once cold weather hits — are pretty easy to take care of. I don’t have to say it, fresh fruit home grown is just plain good…it’s close by, and you know how it was grown. Oh, I miss my mom’s homemade pies.
Footnote: I mentioned Honeycrisp above. Below is the ‘playbook’ on this wonderful apple. As you read this, pretend the information is on a baseball card or a marque, anything that screams how good this apple is to have around.
Honeycrisp Apple: Sweet as honey and with a crispness that bursts in your mouth, the Honeycrisp lives up to its name. Honeycrisp is the perfect apple for eating fresh. Red over yellow skin color with crisp, crunchy, juicy fruit. This is a great choice for colder climates. Honey Crisp apples are well-balanced with sweet/tart flavor. Texture like a crisp watermelon or Asian pear. Very juicy. Excellent keeping quality, consistent production and very large fruit. Ripens mid Sept. Needs pollinator. Hardy to USDA zones 3–9.