Following up on a recent theme related to the joys of heirloom apples…
I thought I’d conclude with an article identifying a few good sources for purchasing antique and heirloom apple trees for planting in the home garden or to use in starting a backyard orchard.
Antique Apple Trees for the Home Garden
There are many varieties and types of heirloom apple trees available to the home gardener. There are even options for gardeners with little or no space for tree fruits to reap the pleasures of cultivating and harvesting home-grown heirloom apples in spite of their space limitations.
While I would generally prefer to grow the standard, full-sized fruit trees if space was not an issue, there are various rootstocks that can be utilized to restrict the size of the heirloom apple tree and make it better suited to fit the home garden and backyard landscape.
Antique apple trees are available in heights ranging from tiny five-foot mini dwarfs, to thirty-five foot full-sized trees. The smaller dwarf types have weaker root systems that will probably require permanent staking. They also are not as hardy, making them riskier for growing in extremely cold climates or areas that are subject to frequent drought conditions.
The dwarfed apple trees will produce fewer apples per tree but can be planted much closer together, resulting in comparable harvests per square foot of growing area. The dwarf trees also provide you with an opportunity to plant a larger number of assorted heirloom apples in less area than you could when growing standard sized trees.
Training Heirloom Apple Trees
There are also pruning techniques that can be employed to adapt antique apple trees to grow within small areas or even in containers. One such style of fruit tree culture is known as espalier and produces compact trees shaped in an assortment of forms such as cordons, tiers, and various “U” shaped espaliered trees.
I plan to experiment with an espalier form known as a “step-over” to grow a few heirloom apple trees right around my raised bed vegetable garden. A step-over is simply a tree trained with only two branches growing off of its trunk in a “T” shape. It can be trained to grow under a height of three feet but will bear harvests of normal sized fruit.
Then there’s the option of growing your heirloom apple trees in containers right on the patio or deck. As with the smallest mini dwarf fruit trees; container grown antique apple trees may require support to keep them standing upright, and additional protection or shelter during the winter in extremely cold climates.
So don’t allow limited space, rocky soil, or other obstacles deter you from growing and enjoying your very own antique apple trees and the delicious fruit that they will produce in the home garden or backyard orchard.
Heirloom Apple Tree Sources
Here are links to a few unique ornamental fruit and heirloom apple tree suppliers that offer an assortment of unusual fruits for the home gardener:
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