Urban Fruit Tree Info: Tips For Growing Columnar Fruit Trees
Columnar fruit trees are one of the most popular types of fruit trees for home gardeners. They have a good taste and provide many benefits to your backyard orchard.
You can plant them at any time during the year, but they produce their best when planted in late spring or early summer. They will produce fruits all through winter, so it’s not necessary to water them until then.
There are several varieties of columnar fruit trees available today. Some are native to North America, while others were imported from other countries.
All varieties have the same basic characteristics – they’re tall and slender with large round fruits that contain clusters of small black seeds. These fruit trees do well in full sun, but prefer partial shade if possible.
You’ll need to choose a variety based on its desired size, shape, color and flavor. The type of soil you want to use is another factor you must consider.
If you live in an area where frost isn’t a problem, then the native American species are probably the way to go because they’re smaller than their European counterparts. However, if you live in an area that gets cold winters or experiences heavy snowfall, then these larger European varieties may be better choices for your needs.
One of the most common types of columnar apple trees is called ‘Winesap’ and it’s a hybrid of two North American varieties. It’s cone-shaped, has 5 sides and red in color.
These are very sweet and juicy when ripe, but the flesh can be quite tart when eaten before. The size of this tree is medium at about 6 feet tall. It has a long fruiting period of about 3 months and will produce around 50-60 pounds of fruit per year.
The ‘Honeycrisp’ is another popular variety that is a cross between the ‘Honeygold’ and ‘Honeygold’ varieties. It’s pear-shaped, has 5 sides and is light green in color.
The flesh is yellowish and quite crisp when ripe. It has a sweet flavor with just a hint of tartness to it. The tree will grow to be around 7 feet tall and produce around 45-65 pounds of fruit per year. It has a long fruiting period of about 3 months and ripens in September or October.
These two varieties are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to columnar fruit trees. You’re sure to find one that’s right for you and your growing needs.
Columnar Apple Tree Diseases
There are no major diseases that attack apple trees. However, there are a few general rules that can help you keep it healthy and disease free.
First, do not plant your tree in compacted soil, or soil that is too wet or too dry. Second, make sure the area has proper drainage. If these conditions sound familiar then you may need to re-evaluate your soil and/or lawn. Finally, make sure you’re not over or under watering your tree. If you notice browning of the leaves or yellowing then it’s an indication that you need to water it more often, if the leaves turn dark green then you’re over-watering.
If you do notice any of these symptoms, then you should isolate the tree and keep an eye on it for signs of disease. If you’re still unsure of what’s going on with your columnar fruit tree, then seek expert horticultural advice.
Columnar Apple Tree Pests
There are a few common pests that will attack columnar apple trees. The first is the codling moth.
They’re small and gray in color with a brown head. They like to lay their eggs on the fruit, which then hatch and eat away at it. You can identify these moths by their call, which is a high-pitched noise that sounds like “takka takka”. The noise is so distinctive that you’ll be able to identify the pests long before you even see them.
You can keep these pests away by making sure the tree is healthy and has enough water. This will ensure the tree has a strong natural defense against the moths.
You can also use an insecticide, but this should be a last resort as it can harm the tree as well.
The other common pest is a type of worm called the codling maggot. It’s light-gray in color and is around 1/4 of an inch long.
It likes to lay its eggs on the roots of the tree, which then hatch into larvae and make their way into the trunk of the tree. The larvae will then eat away at the inside of the tree and can potentially kill it if left unchecked. You can easily identify a tree with an infestation of these pests as it will be stripped of all its fruit before it’s even ripe.
An easy way to prevent this is to make sure the tree has enough nutrients. Fertilize and water the tree as required and maintain its health.
A compromised tree will be much more susceptible to an infestation so it’s vital that you keep it as healthy as possible at all times. If you do notice that your tree is being stripped of fruit, then it’s likely that you have a maggot infestation. In this case, it’s best to remove the tree and start again as the maggots will continue to eat away at the inside of the tree and will almost certainly kill it if left unchecked.
What to do once your columnar apple tree is fully grown
Once your tree is fully grown, it will require very little maintenance. It can survive out in the wild, but if you want to keep it as an ornamental feature around your house, then you will need to do a few things to ensure its long-term survival.
The first thing you need to do is wait for your tree to bear fruit. This will probably happen within the first year or two, although some trees can take up to five years before they start fruiting.
Once they do start bearing fruit, you then need to let them ripen. You can do this by leaving them on the tree, but if you want to pick them you’ll need to do this manually. Picking the fruit yourself can be a tedious process which is why many people prefer the trees to bear naturally.
Once the apples have turned yellow and soft to the touch then you know they’re ripe. You can pick them at this point and eat them like normal apples.
You can also wait for them to fall off the tree themselves.
Once you’ve either picked the apples or they’ve fallen off naturally, then you need to store them somewhere cool and dry for around eight months before you can use them to make juice, cider, vinegar, or whatever else you want to do with them.
It’s vital that you maintain good record keeping of all this information so that the following year you’ll know when to expect your tree to bear fruit. If you get into a routine of fertilizing, watering, and pruning your columnar apple tree every year, it should continue to grow healthily and bear fruit for many years to come.
Columnar apple trees can live for a very long time, some in fact have been known to live up to 400 years. This makes them a great investment for your home and one that you won’t regret.
How to Harvest and Store Your Apple Cider Tree
Harvest your apples as soon as they’re ripe. You can do this by either shaking the tree or just picking them off.
If you choose the latter, make sure you wear gloves as the trees do tend to make the ground muddy when it rains due to all the dropped fruit.
If you’re harvesting a lot, it may be an idea to bring a bucket with you so you can place the apples in there once you’ve picked them. You then need to take these home and store them in dry and cool place until you’re ready to turn them into cider.
Store your apples in large plastic crates or wooden boxes out of direct sunlight until you need them. You can keep them in the garage or basement until you’re ready, just make sure children and pets can’t get to them as they may be poisonous if ingested while unripe.
Once you’re ready to turn your apples into cider, follow these next steps.
Making Your Cider
You will need:
A large saucepan or preserving pan
An assortment of kitchen utensils including a wooden spoon, ladle, funnel, and jar capper.
1 x Gala Apples (11 lb.)
3 x lbs. of Brown Sugar
6L of Water
Juice of 1/2 a Lemon
1 Packet of Dry Cider Yeast (You can find this in your local home brew shop or online)
Pour 6 liters of water into the pan and place to boil. While you’re waiting for that, chop up your gala apples and remove any bad parts.
You should end up with around 1,150 grams (2.5 lb) of chopped apple.
Once your water has come to the boil, turn down the heat and add in your chopped apples. Stir occasionally while the apples are cooking to prevent them from sticking to the bottom.
Cook for a further 45 minutes on a low heat with the pan covered.
After this time has elapsed, add the lemon juice and dry cider yeast and stir thoroughly. Leave the pan to sit for another 30 minutes, undisturbed.
Now you need to strain the apple pulp from the liquid. Place a funnel over a clean pan and position a piece of cloth over it so that it fits tightly.
You can secure it with a rubber band. Carefully pour the hot mixture through the cloth and into the pan below.
Leave the filter paper and pulp to dry out and then throw this away. The remaining liquid is what you want.
Take a hydrometer reading to see what the alcohol content is. You can find these in a home brew shop or online, or you can use an app on your phone.
If it’s over 1.050 then you’re good to go, if not, keep cooking it down until it reaches this level because the higher it is, the more alcohol there is in the cider which will make it taste better.
Make Up Your Brandy
Take the alcohol reading and use the table below to work out how much sugar you need to add to make your desired amount of alcohol. The math is already done for you so all you have to do is enter the correct number into the formula and out will pop the amount of sugar you need.
Alcohol by Volume (ABV) Desired = Sugar Needed
0.8 = 1 lb.
1.0 = 0.5 lb.
1.2 = 0.333 lb.
For example, if you have a cider that measures 0.7 on the hydrometer the equation would be as follows:
Alcohol by Volume (ABV) Desired = Sugar Needed
0.7 = 0.5 lb.
So you need to add 0.5 lb.
of sugar to make this 0.7 cider reach an ABV of 1.0 – and that’s what you need to do now.
Take a clean pan and add the amount of sugar directed in the table above. For every pound, you’ll need 1 liter of cider so if you’re using 0.5 pounds you’ll need 500 mls of cider, for example.
Add the sugar slowly while stirring to prevent it from sticking to the pan. Once all the sugar has been added, stir thoroughly and bring to a rolling boil.
Continue to boil the mixture for around 20 minutes and then take a hydrometer reading to confirm that the ABV is correct.
If it isn’t then you will need to add more sugar and boil again. If it is, then you can move on to the next step which is to sterilize your bottles and fill them up with the hot mixture.
Remember to take extra care when it comes to sterilizing the bottles. You want to be absolutely sure that there is no harmful bacteria in them because if there is then it will grow in your cider and make you very sick.
If you’re using used bottles then you need to soak them in a mixture of water and white vinegar or bleach for at least an hour before rinsing them out.
Use a bottle brush to scrub them out thoroughly before allowing them to drain upside down.
Add a funnel to the top of each one and begin filling them up with the hot liquid. Leave around an inch at the top of each one so you can add the fermentation lock later on.
Take your fermentation locks and attach them to the neck of each bottle using duct tape or glue. These will allow carbon dioxide gas to escape but not let any air in.
Leave the bottles in a cool place (outdoors if its not too hot or cold) and leave them to ferment. This will take anywhere from a week to a month depending on the temperature, the type of yeast you used and how strong you want the drink to be.
When you think the cider is ready then take a hydrometer reading to confirm that the ABV has reached the level you wanted it to. If it has, then your cider is ready to drink.
If it hasn’t, leave it for a little while longer and test it again in a day or two.
You can either drink the cider as it is after fermentation or you can continue on from here to create hard cider which has an ABV of around 7-9%. This is created by taking around a gallon of the cider and mixing it with a packet of wine yeast, water and honey.
You’ll then need to wait around a month for this mixture to ferment.
This will create a stronger, sweeter drink that also tastes quite pleasant.
Congratulations, you’ve now made cider!
Quick reference list:
1. Find or buy some apples – check!
2. Press the apple pulp into juice – check!
3. Measure the acidity, sugar and brix content – done!
4. Filter out the solids – done!
5. Add yeast and ferment – done and it’s fermenting now!
6. Wait for ferment – done!
7. Add more sugar to increase the alcohol level – coming up!
8. Wait for it to ferment again – done!
9. Bottle and cap it – coming up!
10. Wait for it to be drinkable – done!
11. Age and keep it stored away from light – coming up!
12. Check for taste, consistency, and ABV – done!
13. Wait a month to allow it to mature – done!
14. Age even longer to improve the flavor – coming up!
15. Take a bow and offer some to your friends – done!
Sources & references used in this article:
Native trees shrubs, and vines for urban and rural America: a planting design manual for environmental designers by GL Hightshoe – 1987 – books.google.com
Trees for urban use in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands by TH Schubert – 1979 – books.google.com
The effect of pruning and training method on the growth and fruit quality of a columnar-type apple tree’Tuscan’. by Y Inomata, K Kudo, T Masuda, H Bessho… – … Institute of Fruit Tree …, 2005 – cabdirect.org
Growth, fruit productivity and quality of columnar type apple tree grafted on JM rootstock. by Y Inomata, H Bessho, K Kudo, T Masuda – … Institute of Fruit Tree …, 2011 – cabdirect.org
Molecular basis of angiosperm tree architecture by CA Hollender, C Dardick – New Phytologist, 2015 – Wiley Online Library
Growing columnar apple tree varieties with various technologies. by SA Korneeva, EN Sedov – Vestnik OrelGAU, 2012 – cabdirect.org