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

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

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

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

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


  • 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

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

  • 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


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


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


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

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.


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

Red Astrachan Apple
Muhammad Ramzan Rafique
Muhammad Ramzan Rafique

I am from a small town Chichawatni, Sahiwal, Punjab , Pakistan, studied from University of Agriculture Faisalabad, on my mission to explore world I am in Denmark these days..

Articles: 4630

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