Apples, and Growstuff

Our apple tree grew two whole apples this year*, and on Tuesday we ate one of them. It was, as that update mentions, very tasty. Tonight we will eat the second one.

That update link goes to Growstuff, an awesome open-source project I’m involved with. We’re aiming to build a platform to track, discuss, and learn about edible gardening. A kind of Ravelry for gardeners, if you’re a knitter/crocheter and therefore aware of Ravelry.

I’ve tried many different ways of tracking my gardening over the years, and none of them have worked particularly well. I’m really hopeful that Growstuff will turn into a solution to this. In particular I want to see an Android app so I can add things from my phone while sitting at the kitchen table with a cup of tea after a bit of planting or weeding or harvesting. It’s massively early days yet, but it’s a fun project to work on, and it’s visibly improving every development cycle. This morning I worked with pozorvlak on adding multiple gardens — so (once it’s accepted and pushed to the dev site) that will be working. I’m still feeling thrilled about Doing A Thing that is a visible step towards a properly usable site.

If you’re interested, we’re actively looking for developers. We’re doing pair-programming, so if you have limited or no experience, you can pair up (remotely or in person) with someone. You don’t need much time — I worked on the gardens thing with 2 x 1 hr sessions, because that’s all I have right now. If you’re not interested in coding, non-coders are also very welcome to help work out what wants to be on the site (you could start by joining the mailing list).

Now I want to go out and do some gardening. Shame it’s pitch dark and cold out there. My peas, broad beans, and winter lettuce are all coming along nicely, though. Alongside that apple (and some bread and hummous), we had a small garden salad, which, in midwinter, is pleasing.

The nights have nearly done drawing in. Roll on spring. Hopefully by March I’ll be tracking my spring plantings on Growstuff.

* It actually grew more, but I broke off all but two so as not to overload it in its early years — it was planted as a 3yo tree last winter so I thought it could handle a couple of apples, unlike a maiden.

Self-fertile apple trees for small gardens

I’m keen to have a fruit tree in our garden, and my mind turned to what’s really the default UK fruit tree: the apple. The thing with apple trees, though (and in fact many fruit trees), is that if you want to get actual fruit, the tree needs to be fertilised. For the vast majority of apple varieties, that means having at least one other apple tree, of the right pollen group and which blossoms at the right time, planted somewhere fairly nearby. In an orchard, a big garden, or even in an allotment where you can count on other allotmenters also having apple trees, that’s fine. If, on the other hand, you have a tiny garden like mine, one tree is going to be pretty much all you can fit in.

Happily, in this modern age, you can get self-fertile apple trees; that is, trees which will pollinate themselves. Even so, they’ll do better (crop more heavily) if pollinated by another nearby tree, but you’ll get a crop anyway. For my purposes, all I want is a few eating apples, and a tree to sit under, so that’ll work fine for me.

The choice, though, is a bit limited — here’s one list*, although note that some of those (the starred ones) are only partly self-fertile, so best to avoid if you don’t want to rely on having another tree in the vicinity. In my case, it’s limited further by the fact that the apples best-liked in our household are the Cox/Russet kind of axis. I couldn’t find any self-fertile russet types, but here is my list of self-fertile Cox-types:

For me, I think it’s a toss-up between Red Windsor and Winston, with a probable bias towards Winston. I shall consult the rest of the household.

A quick note as well on rootstocks. M27 will give you a very small tree (up to 2m), but unless you’re seriously space-limited or growing in a pot, you’re probably better going for M9 (full height up to 2.5m), which is a little bigger and significantly more productive. Both M9 and M27 require permanent staking. If you have the space, M26 is bigger still, and MM106 a decent standard size, growing to 2.5-4.5m. For my 40m2 garden, I’ll be choosing M9 as a good compromise between size and productivity.

* I have noticed some disagreement between different lists on whether or not particular apples are self-fertile. I recommend cross-checking a couple of sources before buying.