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An Apple a Day
The benefits of fruit in our diet are frequently highlighted and if you are a regular consumer you will have noticed the rise in food prices in general during the past year. What better way to help counteract the impact of this situation than growing ones own supply. In addition growing trees such as the apple brings other benefits.
Pears, cherries, plums and apples are amongst my favourite foods but it is the latter which is probably the easiest to grow. If grown reasonably naturally we can avoid any pesticide contaminants and many state that in this form apples taste much better. A major benefit in growing a fruit tree is the visual impact they make especially when they are in flower and the fruit are mature.
Apples do not have to be grown in a formal manner as in rows in an orchard setting. I feel that they are perfectly at home in a range of situations such as a mixed border or as an individual specimen on a lawn. However I do wish gardeners would plant them through the many hedges that surround our homes. I greatly dislike the bulk of the wooden fences that appear especially in new housing developments but they do have a unique use which is the growing of apples along their length and ideally in a fan or espalier form. The shelter and heat trapped by the fence is ideal for the growing of apples which in turn provide the additional benefit of screening the bare wood.
Many home owners are not inclined to grow fruit trees such as the apple because of the potential difficulties of pollination and pruning. This should not be a reason and I am certain you will have noticed on a frequent basis apple trees in private gardens laden with fruit. I visit many gardens as part of my business and I can assure you most of these trees are never pruned or provided with pollinators. Simply grow them as you would a normal tree in the garden and you will be surprised at the result. The use of pollinators, systematic pruning and pesticide control by professional apple growers is to achieve high yields so that they can compete in the market place.
To grow apples, a must is to have a good soil which is free draining; they detest wet poorly drained soil. A second important requirement is the choice of variety. Forget about Cox, Golden Delicious and Gala, they will simply not do.
However there are those that will succeed and amongst these I include Egremont Russet, Discovery and Katy; the latter two are beautiful apples to see and to eat. Apples have been grown all over Ireland for centuries; a number of varieties have been raised here and many survive to this day. From a retention of our heritage point of view it is a good idea to have some of these in the garden and the names are also fascinating too. Blood of the Boyne, Bloody Butcher, Long Finger of Offaly and Greasy Pippin are just a few of them that we have in our own garden.
Whilst must of us think of the apple tree in a food capacity, the additional benefits should not be forgotten. Next time consider also how the apple adds to our heritage, folk lore and the enhancement of our environment.
Maurice Parkinson, Ballyrobert Cottage Garden and Nursery, Newtownabbey.