This five-year-old apple tree takes up only two feet of bed, and its branches reach sideways about five feet on each side. (Mary Lowther photo)

This five-year-old apple tree takes up only two feet of bed, and its branches reach sideways about five feet on each side. (Mary Lowther photo)

Mary Lowther column: Apple varieties abundant, easy to grow

I ate some of them and turned the rest into apple juice, from which I’ll make jelly

By Mary Lowther

If the serpent had stolen that apple from the grocery store Eve would probably not have bothered Adam with it. Picked fresh from the tree, however, who could resist such great flavour? She wouldn’t have had to convince him that eating the fruit would make him as wise as a god because the taste is a heavenly combination of vitamin C, fibre and antioxidants among other nutrients, providing the energy to beget offspring. Be fruitful and multiply!

Scholars nitpick that apples are not native to the fertile crescent claimed to be the Garden’s location, but why let a minor detail ruin a good story? Besides, this way we can emulate Eden in our own yards or balconies because apple trees come in a bewildering array of sizes designed for pots or yards. We may not develop godly wisdom, but we can feel righteously smug when we offer our neighbour a freshly picked apple. I just harvested a half bushel of apples from a tree we planted five years ago and I must say that it’s tremendously gratifying.

I also picked up the windfalls that fell naturally off the tree, ate some of them and turned the rest into apple juice, from which I’ll make jelly. Some of the good ones that I picked off the tree are going into cold storage and others got peeled, cored and sliced and put into the dehydrator to dry out for winter use. I’ll try to save them for baking but they taste so good that I’ll probably just snack on them.

We’ve got dwarf trees growing in an espalier manner, which is a fancy French way to say they’re growing in two dimensions, like grapes in a vineyard. I keep the front, back and top trimmed so they only grow sideways and one tree fits into a two-foot wide bed and spreads out several feet sideways along wires. Apples are easy to grow. I’ve seen trees so small they fit into pots, their tops only reaching waist high. I’ve seen others that were trimmed to only the main stalk and apples grew right from the trunk and several of these can hug a fence, planted one foot apart. According to arborist Bob Duncan in Sidney, the most prolific shape for an apple tree is like a Christmas tree; small branches at the top going smoothly down to a wider bottom. He had one that was a bit taller than me and widened at the bottom to about three feet in diameter and took up no more space than that.

I treat my apple tree the same as the rest of my garden: water for half an hour with a soaker hose twice a week, lay some compost and organic fertilizer in early spring and sprinkle compost tea every few weeks in the summer. I also wrap a band of tanglefoot around the trunk in spring to keep out ants that carry aphids up to eat the tender leaves. Tanglefoot is sticky stuff that ants and their ilk cannot crawl past. I feel sorry for them when I see them mortally stuck on the band, but it’s them or me and I’m the one with the bigger brain so I win.

For the record, I have never seen a snake try to reach an apple. Perhaps that serpent was really trying to get Eve to pick one for it without considering the consequences. After all, they are delicious.

Please contact mary_lowther@yahoo.ca with questions and suggestions since I need all the help I can get.

Columngardening