Apples would be the first fruit mentioned when the subject of fruit trees is raised, so we would be amiss not to start with them.
There are excellent orchards in Loudoun that are sources of a wide variety of apples, so we continue to PYO at these orchards frequently, even buying excess that we make into applesauce. As you will see, the list of pests and diseases that can potentially attack an apple tree or its fruit is quite extensive, requiring long hours of studying and possibly numerous sprayings throughout the growing season, so leaving apple growing to the local orchards might be the approach to take. Don’t worry, there are many other fruits and nuts to pick from, so don’t be dissuaded right off the bat.
Let’s take a look at our criteria (and add a couple) to see how apples may (or may not) be a factor in our landscape;
Disease resistance: In the Mid Atlantic, there are many diseases which can affect apple trees and their fruit, which can be reviewed at the Mid-Atlantic Orchard Monitoring Guide and at the WVU Index of Fruit Diseases. While these lists are long, some of the more troublesome ones in this area tend to be Apple Scab, Cedar Apple Rust, Fireblight, and Powdery Mildew. The good news is, there are varieties that are resistant in varying degrees to these diseases. To simplify matters, let’s take a look at those cultivars that are ;
VR = Very Resistant
R = Resistant
MR = Moderately Resistant
|Variety||Resistance ratings||Tree growth habit||Comments|
|Apple scab||Cedar apple rust||Fire blight||Powdery mildew|
|Dayton||VR||MR||R||MR||Semi-vigorous, spreading||Sometimes prone to bitter pit|
|Enterprise||VR||R||R||MR||Moderate to high vigor||Best flavor after Very resistant month in storage|
|Freedom||VR||R||R||R||Vigorous, spreading||Good pollinator for Liberty|
|Jonafree||VR||MR||MR||MR||Moderately vigorous, may have some bare wood||Similar to Jonathan in appearance, not prone to Jonathan spot|
|Liberty||VR||VR||R||R||Vigorous, spreading||One of the best disease-resistant cultivars, a McIntosh-like fruit. Susceptible to European Red Mite and San Jose Scale|
|Nova Easygro||VR||VR||R||R||Moderately vigorous, spreading||Developed in Nova Scotia|
|Novamac||VR||VR||R||MR||Vigorous, upright and spreading||Susceptible to preharvest drop, developed in Nova Scotia|
|Priscilla||VR||VR||R||MR||Moderately vigorous, thin branched||Fruit cracking when overmature|
|Pristine||VR||R||MR||R||Moderately vigorous, spreading, wide crotch angles||Less susceptible to bruising than Lodi|
|Redfree||VR||VR||MR||MR||Vigorous, spreading,wide crotch angles||Some bare wood on limbs|
|Trent||VR||R||MR||R||Moderately vigorous, slightly upright||Susceptible to bitter-pit, from Ontario|
|William’s Pride||VR||VR||R||R||Vigorous, spreading, large tree size||Not recommended on a MM. 111 rootstock due to bitter-pit, prone to water core|
Pollination: Apples require pollination from another cultivar that flowers during the same time (crabapples can also be used as a pollinator). Semi-dwarf trees should be within 50 feet of their pollinator; dwarf trees within 20 feet.
|Pristine||early||late July||1.5 months||Medium-large; yellow
with blush; slightly tart
|Williams’ Pride||early/mid||late July||1.5 months||Medium-large size; red fruit;
softens quickly; spicy,
|Redfree||early/mid||early Aug||1 month||Medium size; bright
red; well-balanced flavor
|Jonafree||early/mid||early Sept||2 months||Similar to Jonathan|
|Liberty||early/mid||early Sept||5 months||Small-medium size;
red over green color;
McIntosh-type of fruit;
tart with coarse texture
|Enterprise||mid/late||mid Oct||6 months||Large; bright red;
spicy and juicy
|Trent||mid/late||late Oct||6 months||Medium-Large; Red blushed
over light green, sub-acid
,less than McIntosh
Fruiting Schedule: See above chart for times.
Harvest: To ensure maximum storage life, apples should be harvested when mature but not yet fully ripe or overripe. If harvested before they have matured, apples will have poor eating quality, will be more susceptible to storage disorders such as scald, cork spot, and bitter pit, and may not ripen properly. 
Storage: See above chart for storage duration. An apple continues to live and respire after it is picked. Although respiration cannot be halted completely, the objective of postharvest cooling is to slow the process and thus increase storage life. Even if apples are to be stored for only a short period, it is still very important that the field heat be removed from them as soon as possible. Apples respire and degrade twice as fast at 40 F as at 32 F. At 60 F they will respire and degrade more than six times faster. The optimum storage temperature for apples depends on the variety, but all are within the range from 30 to 40 F.  Ventilation keeps ethylene and carbon dioxide from building up to damaging levels. While refrigerators are generally used by commercial orchards/wholesalers, backyard orchardists can also take advantage of root cellars and barrels in garages for late season apples, as long as humidity levels can be maintained.
Size: The size is predominantly determined by the rootstock. Virtually all commercially available apples (with some exceptions) use a rootstock to impart size and disease resistance qualities to a grafted variety. Some common rootstocks are shown below along with their sizing tendencies. Note: Standard size apple trees are very difficult to manage, due to the need to prune, harvest, and inspect. Semi-dwarf trees are much more manageable, and dwarf trees are by far the easiest.
There are many other rootstocks available, and it helps to know which rootstock a nursery is offering with a tree (though often times that information is not at the fingertips of the person answering the phone. I normally discover the rootstock on the tag when the tree arrives.)
Growing Techniques: These range from the ordinary freestanding to espalier, trellis, and spindle (advanced trellis) techniques. Most beginner backyard growers default to the usual freestanding central leader, which is fine for simple purposes. Espalier produces a decorative look that also provides support for dwarf varieties. Trellising gives easy access to a number of dwarf apple trees that can be space efficient. Spindle systems are by far the most productive in terms of space, productivity, and time to full bearing .
|Technique||Density per acre||Spacing|
|Slender Axis||908||4’x 12′|
|Tall Spindle||1320||3’x 11′|
|Super Spindle||2178||2’x 10′|
Part 2 will cover pests and miscellaneous.
— Will Stewart
1. University of Missouri Extenstion Office, Apple Cultivars, http://extension.missouri.edu/publications/DisplayPub.aspx?P=G6022
2. NC State Extension Service, Postharvest Cooling and Handling of Apples, http://www.bae.ncsu.edu/programs/extension/publicat/postharv/ag-413-1/index.html
3. Maryland Extension Office, Root Cellars, http://extension.umd.edu/publications/pdfs/fs803.pdf
4. Purdue Extension Office, Storing Fruits and Vegetables at Home, http://www.hort.purdue.edu/ext/ho-125.pdf
5. Terence L. Robinson, Cornell Department of Horticultural Science, Modern Apple Training Systems, http://orchard.uvm.edu/uvmapple/hort/ROBINSON_ModernAppleTrainingSystemsVTFGAFeb2006.PDF
6. Michael L. Parker and C. Richard Unrath, Department of Horticultural Science, North Carolina State University, High Density Apple Orchard Management, http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/depts/hort/hil/pdf/ag-581.pdf