The national fruit collection at Brogdale has over 2,300 varieties of apples. So if you are indecisive you could be in trouble, but it’s not just the taste of your chosen apple varieties that you have to consider. Before buying an apple tree it’s worth finding out as much as you can about it

Decision, decisions

apple-tree-familyApples are divided into 7 polination groups according to when they blossom. If you only have room for 1 tree you will need to choose a self fertile variety, but even these do better if there is a suitable cross polenator nearby. Otherwise choose your 2nd tree from the same or an adjacent group to your 1st tree. e.g.  A group 2 tree can be partnered with another variety from group 1, 2 or 3. Be aware that varieties that are labelled ‘triploid’ require 2 other varieties as pollinators, but their pollen is infertile.

Apples are generallty either spur bearers (fruit on older wood) or tip bearers (fruit on new growth).If you have limited space then you will need to train your tree. Options include espaliers, cordons, fans and pyramids. If you choose this option then choose an apple variety that is a spur bearer, otherwise you’ll end up cutting off the fruit bearing growth as you prune.

Commercially sold apple trees have the apple cultivar grafted onto a rootstock. The rootstock has a large influence on the vigour of the tree. There are many different rootstocks, some of the ones more suitable to small gardens and containers are listed below.

M26: semi-dwarfing. A good rootstock for container grown apples.

M9: dwarfing. Requires a rich soil.

M27: highly dwarfing. Requires a very rich soil.

General care

Apple trees do best in a sunny but sheltered site. Morning sunshine helps dry off the dew and reduces the risk of infections.

Don’t over feed apple trees, you’ll get lots of growth but not much fruit. If the crop is very heavy it really is worth thinning the fruit to avoid exhausting the tree and severely reducing next year’s crop.


The apple harvest is a real autumn highlight. Apples are ready to pick when then come away from the branch fairly easily.

Pests and Diseases

Bitter pip: This causes brown dead spots on the fruit which get worse on storage. Treat the problem by spraying the effected trees with a foliar feed of calcium nitrate during the summer.

Brown rot causes soft brown patches on the apples with buff or grey rings of mould. Dispose of affected fruit and wind falls as this is a fungal disease and spores from the affected fruits can cause the problem to spread further.