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Permaculture Plants: Apple Trees




This is the first of hopefully many entries on specific plants to be used in a Permaculture System.  I attempted to document every aspect of a plant that would be useful, but I am sure there are things I missed.  However, this should be a fairly holistic overview.
 

Heirloom Apples
Common Name: Apple

Scientific Name: Malus domestica or pumila
Family: Rosaceae

Description:
Hardly needs description.
Moderate sized tree to small dwarf trees.

History:
Originated in Western Asia (Turkey?). Likely the first tree to be cultivated. First brought to the U.S. in the 17th Century.

Trivia:
China is the main producer of apples. The U.S. is second.


USING THIS PLANT
Primary Uses:

  • Fresh eating, cooking
  • Fresh juice
  • Drying
  • Preserving
  • Fermenting: Cider, Apple Jack




Secondary Uses:

  • Coppicing: possible, but not a main tree for this



Dynamic Accumulator: Fair potassium accumulator
The term “Dynamic Accumulator” is used by Dave Jacke in Edible Forest Gardens as a way to describe plants that either keep nutrients around (like in fallen autumn leaves) or pull nutrients up from the subsoil.

Beneficial for Animals/Insects:

  • Winter fruit
  • General Nectary



Yield:

  • Standard 100-400 lbs (45-180 kg)
  • Semi-dwarf 77-155 lbs (35-70 kg)
  • Dwarf 55-120 lbs (25-55 kg)



Harvesting: Harvest when ripe

Storage: Store in cool place


DESIGNING WITH THIS PLANT
Zone: 3-9
Plant Type: Tree to shrub
Forest Garden Use: Canopy to Shrub Layer
Cultivars/Varieties: Over 7,500 cultivars
Pollination:

  • Most require cross-pollination
  • Note that not all species will cross-pollinate – review a chart before planting. Here is one example.



Flowering: May-June

Life Span
Years to Begin Bearing:

  • Standard 5-8 yrs
  • Semi-dwarf 4 yrs
  • Dwarf 3 yrs



Years to Maximum Bearing:

  • Standard 10 yrs
  • Semi-dwarf 10 yrs
  • Dwarf 5 yrs



Years of Useful Life:

  • Standard 35-100 yrs
  • Semi-dwarf 30-50 yrs?
  • Dwarf 10-30 yrs




PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS OF THIS PLANT




Graphic showing the different sizes of rootstocks.

Table showing characteristics of some rootstocks.



Size: Depends on root stock

  • Own root, Standard: 20-26’ (6-8m) high x 20’ (6m) wide → tall, not for fresh eating apples which should be picked from the tree, but can be used for juice/cider apples which can be picked up off the ground
  • Semi-Dwarf: 13-16’ (4-5m) high and wide
  • Dwarf: 8-13’ (2.5-4m) high x 12’ (3.5m) wide



Roots:  Flat, mostly shallow roots

Growth Rate: Medium


Apple Tree in Fall

GROWING CONDITIONS FOR THIS PLANT

Light: Full Sun
Shade: Tolerated mild shade
Moisture: Medium
pH: 6.1-7.0

Special Considerations for Growing:

  • Tolerant of most garden conditions
  • Negatively Affected my Juglone (Produced by members of the Walnut Family: Hickory, Pecan, Walnut, Wingnut)



Propagation: Typically by grafting

Maintenance:

  • Pruning annually to every 2-3 yrs
  • Needs nitrogen and potassium to sustain cropping



Disease/Pests:
Numerous diseases including various types of Apple Scab, Blotch, Rot, Canker, Mildew, Rust, Pit, Scald, Mottle, Blight, and pests including Nematodes, Codling Moth, Aphids, Bird, to name just a few.

Concerns:

  • Seeds and leaves contain cyanide.
  • May spread easily.



Red Astrachan Apple

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