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Growing Apples for Great Wine

There are countless varieties of apples in general cultivation in this country and all have their likes and dislikes - yet all the all-round varieties seem to do well almost anywhere.

Like all fruits they like to be treated well and will reward those who remember this. I am concerned with growing apples and other fruits such as plums for wine-making; therefore there seems little point in covering the growing of these fruits in the espalier fashion or as cordons. Apart from the fact that the average home-grower will not want this type of tree, he will want as much fruit as he can get from as little space as he can allow. No one will dispute the quality of fruits grown as cordons, but they are expensive to start with and cannot hope to compete with the bush tree when a lot of fruit is the aim of the grower.

The bush tree is the most suitable for the small garden where the owner wants as much fruit as he can get from a small space and for a minimum of labor.

Deep digging is essential, for it must be remembered that trees, once planted, will remain perhaps the lifetime of the owner.

The roots of apples go a great deal deeper than is generally imagined and provided the right variety for the type of soil is planted, the trees will settle down and fruit well. Unless your garden is in what we call a frost hole - a natural depression in the lie of the land that catches the spring frosts harder than elsewhere and then catches the first rays of the morning sun - you can grow apples without fear of the frosts depriving you of your crops.

Bush apples are usually planted ten to twelve feet apart and are put in before Christmas. Early February is the latest that I would leave this job.

Prepare the soil well in advance and allow it to settle before planting. Six months in advance is not too early to get the first digging done if the soil has never before been broken.

When planting, take out holes a good bit larger than are required to accommodate all the roots without cramping. The depth of the hole will depend on the depth the young tree had been planted before it was delivered to you and this will be clearly marked on the young trunk.

Any roots damaged in transit should be cut off cleanly with a sharp knife.

It is best to drive a stake firmly into the middle of the hole and to tie the tree to this while planting. Spread out the roots, shovel sifted soil over them and firm each layer by treading. Rattle the tree occasionally so that the soil is shaken down between the roots. Plant firmly; insecure planting is the most frequent cause of deaths among young trees. When firmly planted, untie the tree from the stake and bind the trunk with felt or some other material and bind this part to the stake. This will prevent chafing of the bark.

For general purposes it is best not to prune a young tree during the first season after planting, but pruning thereafter is of the greatest importance. Not only does it keep the tree in shape but it prevents overcrowding and ensures regular and heavy fruiting.

In the case of bush apples, each leading shoot - that is the growing tip of each main branch - is cut back by about six inches. The young growths growing off this main branch are laterals; these must not be allowed to become branches otherwise the tree will become overcrowded. These laterals are pruned back to leave four or five buds.

The following precautions should be taken against pests and diseases. Spray during winter with a tar-distillate wash. Spray with a nicotine wash in spring, when the buds begin to open and again a week after the petals have fallen. Fix grease bands to the trunks.

Submitted by:

Brian Cook

Brian Cook is a freelance writer whose articles on gardening and home wine making have appeared in print and on many websites. You can find more of these at http://www.makinggreatwine.com.





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