Live Apple-y Ever After

September 1, 2014

Apples are prized for their flavor and versatility. Listen to learn a little of the history surrounding this delicious fruit, as well as for tips on how to grow an apple tree in your yard.

This segment of The Old Farmer’s Almanac Garden Musings podcast series was written by George and Becky Lohmiller and is read by Heidi Stonehill, an Almanac editor.


Since the time of the Pilgrims, apples have been America’s favorite fruit. As settlers poured into the New World, they brought with them the seeds and scions of their favorite apple varieties to plant around their homes and to establish commercial orchards. In 1625, William Blaxton planted the first orchard near Boston.

Apples were an essential crop, because they stored better than any other fruit and could be dried and preserved for winter use. This versatile fruit could be made into vinegar, cider, jams, jellies, and desserts, and was used in soups and stews when vegetables were in short supply.
Over the years, at least 7,000 varieties have been grown in the United States alone. About 1,000 of these  antique apples are still available from specialized nurseries. You can enjoy some of your grandparents’ favorites, like the crisp and juicy ‘Baldwin’, first called the ‘Woodpecker’ when it was introduced in 1740. You might even want to sample Ben Franklin’s favorite apple, the ‘Newton Pippin’, considered one of the best dessert apples of that time.

Today’s dwarf apple trees bear full-size fruit but are easy to prune and pick. For really cramped quarters, try a “pole apple.” It grows only eight feet high and two feet wide.

Some folks have shied away from planting apple trees, because of the spraying they require, but new resistant varieties have changed all that. Four flavorful no-spray apples are ‘Liberty’, a slightly tart variety that stores well for months; ‘Freedom’, a bright-red, early-ripening variety; ‘Gold Rush’, a sweet, late-ripening yellow apple; and ‘Jonafree’, a flavorful variety bred from the old-time ‘Jonathan’ apple.

Apple trees should be planted with generations in mind, so choose the site carefully. They require a sunny spot with well-drained, average soil. Dig the planting hole twice as wide as the root ball and no deeper. When back filling, add some peat moss or compost with the dirt. Water twice a week for a month in the absence of rain. Most dwarf trees will bear fruit in three to five years.

About this Podcast

The monthly Garden Musings were written by George and Becky Lohmiller. Early recordings in the series were read by Almanac group publisher John Pierce, as well as Almanac copy editor Jack Burnett. Almanac editor Heidi Stonehill became the narrator in 2012.

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