Apple Trees: What Is A Fruit Tree?
A fruit tree is a type of plant that produces edible fruits such as apples, pears, peaches, plums and cherries. They are usually grown from seedlings or cuttings. There are many types of fruit trees including but not limited to apricots, bananas, blueberries, blackberries, chestnuts (not walnut), grapes (vines) and lemons.
The fruit trees are generally propagated through grafting, which involves taking two different kinds of woody parts and joining them together. Grafting is a relatively simple procedure that requires no special tools or skills. However, it is very time consuming and labor intensive. Therefore most gardeners prefer to grow their own fruit trees from seedlings or cuttings instead of using grafts.
Grafted fruit trees have been bred to produce desired characteristics. For example, some varieties of apples are resistant to certain diseases while others are not. Some varieties of grapes produce larger yields than other types. Other cultivars may be better suited for particular climates or soil conditions.
How Do You Water Your Apple Tree?
There are several methods of watering your apple tree depending upon the kind of tree you want to grow and where you live in California. The three most common types of apple trees are:
Dwarf Apple Trees: These are bushy, low-maintenance trees. They grow 6 to 10 feet tall and are often used in home orchards. Dwarf trees thrive in small spaces such as urban backyards.
Semi-Dwarf Apple Trees: These apple trees are slightly taller than the dwarf varieties. They grow 8 to 12 feet tall and are also suitable for growing in urban backyards.
Full-Sized Apple Trees: If you have enough space in your yard, you can grow a full-sized apple tree. These trees grow around 20 feet tall and usually require cross-pollination from another variety to produce a good crop. These are often used in commercial orchards.
Most apple trees thrive in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 5 through 8. This means that they are extremely hardy and can survive in a wide range of conditions. In areas with colder winters, they will not grow as well but can still produce fruit if given enough shelter.
If you want to grow an apple tree in a container for the first couple of years, choose a dwarf or semi-dwarf type for best results. These trees can easily be transferred into the ground when they are larger and more established.
Most apple trees prefer a soil that contains plenty of organic material such as compost or rotted leaves. Dig a hole twice the width and depth of the nursery pot when you first plant your tree. Wet the soil before planting and then add some mulch to retain moisture and keep the roots cool.
The amount of water your tree requires each week depends upon the weather. Every week, dig down about 6 inches around the tree and squeeze the soil. If it feels dry, water your tree. Don’t water again until the soil feels dry again.
Don’t overwater your tree as this can cause the roots to rot. If you live in an area that experiences frost, consider covering the roots with leaves or straw during the coldest nights.
Pruning your apple tree is usually not required. However, if you notice that certain branches appear diseased or dead, you can prune them off. Make sure that all cuts are vertical to promote healing.
In the early spring, apple trees should be pruned to ensure good airflow through the branches. Any new growth points can then be secured with ties to horizontal wires.
Harvesting Your Apple Tree
The best way to harvest your tree is to wait until the apples are ripe and then gently pull them off the tree. Don’t shake the branches as this can lead to bruising. If you pick the apples while they are still green, they will not ripen properly. Either use them immediately or store them in a cool place until they turn red.
If you live in a particularly cold area, you can cover your tree with blankets when the temperature falls below freezing to protect the blooms and fruit.
Native Apple Trees
The two types of apple tree that grow wild in California are the Desert Crab and the Western June. They both have a very bitter taste and are not eaten as food. Native Americans did, however, crush the nuts from the June Apple or Sand Apple to use as fertilizer and for tanning leather. The seeds of the apple, when planted, would often grow right in the middle of the path, leading to the old name of “Treacherous Apple.”
Desert Crab Apple
Also known as the Sand Apple, this tree grows naturally in desert areas of the Southwestern United States and Northern Mexico. It can grow up to 15 feet tall and has small rounded leaves and white flowers that produce a red fruit. The skin of the apple is very thin and is usually eaten along with the flesh inside. The Desert Crab Apple grows wild all along the coastal areas in California, but can also be found as far north as British Columbia in Canada.
Western June Apple
The Western June Apple grows naturally throughout much of California, excluding the deserts and areas near the ocean. It can grow up to 30 feet in height and have multiple trunks for a single tree. Its leaves are around 4 to 10 inches long and 2 to 4 inches wide with pointed tips. The flowers are small and white, only about 1 inch in size. The fruit is a dark red color when ripe and about an inch in diameter.
It is mostly grown for wildlife rather than for humans, but is sometimes harvested to make apple jelly or eaten fresh.