Growing apple trees on the farm or in the home garden has been part of our history since shortly after the first Europeans settled in North America. Although Gurney's Seed and Nursery company wasn't founded until 1866, a few hundred years after settlement, we have a strong history of involvement with the finest apple breeding programs in the country. We have several criteria for selecting apple varieties for our customers to grow. A few include, high flavor, ease of growing and disease resistance.
The varieties of apple trees available to grow are numerous. We have whittled our list down to some of the finest apples the home gardener can grow. To help you decide, there are a few factors to consider before selecting an apple tree for your yard or garden.
Pick the right apple for your plans
Are you planting an apple tree solely to have apples for fresh eating? Do you want to cook with them? Would you like to store them away for the winter? Are you totally hands off after planting the tree and need a variety with great disease resistance? As you can see it is a matter of personal taste, location and the fruits final use when considering what to choose. Once you have decided what suits your needs, then you need to make sure it will grow in your region. After those decisions are made, you may want to choose another variety to pollinate your selection. The final step is whether you want a full-sized apple tree or a dwarf tree.
Best Fresh Eating Apple Trees
Which Apple varieties grow in my zone?
Most of the apples tree varieties offered by Gurney's can be grown throughout much of the United States. There are a few issues to keep in mind especially if you live in an extreme northern climate or in a warm winter area. All Fruit trees need a certain number of chill hours. Chill hours are the number of hours when the temperature stays at 32-45 degrees Fahrenheit. Chill hours start accumulating once your tree goes dormant in the fall. Most of the USA receives at least 800-1000 hours of chill. As you get into southern USA, the Southwest and some parts of coastal Californian, chill hours decrease, and variety selection becomes more important. In the very deep south, choices become even more limited.
If the tree does not receive the correct amount of chill, it may not bloom or even leaf out in the spring. For several varieties, the chill hours are not written in stone. Many people report having had success in low chill areas with varieties that were thought to have higher chill requirements. While we do not include chilling hours within the product descriptions, you can rely on the hardiness zone information that is given after each variety description. The higher the hardiness zone rating the less amount of chill is needed. For example, a tree that is rated zone 7 or 8 will need less chill than one listed for zone 4 and 5.
You will also want to keep in mind the time of harvest listed in the description. If you are in Minnesota and the description has a late October harvest date, this might not be the best apple for your area.
Best Selling Cold-Hardy Apples Trees
How do apple trees cross pollinate?
To ensure fruit set, most apple trees need to be cross-pollinated by another variety. Apple varieties are placed in 'Flowering Groups'. These groups are based on flowering time. Not all varieties can cross pollinate each other even if they are blooming at the same time. We recommend you refer to Gurney's Pollinator chart to pick varieties that will cross-pollinate. The nearest pollinator should be at least 50 feet or closer. The benefits of growing two or more varieties extend beyond pollination. You can extend your apple harvest by planting apple trees with different harvest windows. If you are in doubt, it is always good to plant a crab apple tree since they can pollinate a wide range of apple varieties. Even better, you may already have a crab apple growing in your yard.
Cross Pollinating Apples
Should I buy a full sized or a dwarf apple tree?
Rootstock are what your favorite apples are grafted or budded on to help control size. There are three general categories of rootstock based on how they affect tree size. Dwarf, Semi Dwarf and Standard. Gurney's offers apples varieties on standard and dwarf. Selecting a rootstock depends on your space limitations and ability to maintain the apple tree. Standard size trees grow 15-25 feet tall and our 'Reachable' dwarf apple trees top out at 6-8 feet tall.
The particular rootstock we chose for standard or full-sized apple trees offers many advantages. They develop a very strong and vigorous root system. This helps them tolerate drought conditions and provides a strong anchor for the top growth. Our standard trees are the best rootstock for clay soil conditions and are resistant to soil pests and blights. Standard-sized trees take a few more years to produce fruit compared with dwarf trees but once they do, production is very high. Standard trees are also very long lived. In fact, there are a few trees scattered around the country that are 200 years old or older.
Gurney's Dwarf apple trees, marketed under the Reachables brand, also have many advantages for the home gardener. Reachables branded Apple Trees produces full-sized leaves and fruits, but on a smaller tree. That makes it easier to fit into your garden, orchard or even a container. The small size also allows you to plant several apples in the same amount of space as one full sized apple tree. It's also easier to manage than full-sized trees. One person can prune, spray, net and harvest the tree-all while standing on the ground. They also start to bear fruit much sooner than a Standard sized tree. Sometimes in their second year after planting. Since Reachables produce full sized fruit on a small tree, a tree support is required.
Once you order, home grown apples are only a few years away and can last you a lifetime!
Reachables are easy to grow
Easily cared for by one person
No ladders required
Easily netted by one person