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Grow at Home: Awesome apples from seed & how to plant Apple trees

Written by Sarah Talbot

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Posted on 25 January 2021

Girl eating a green apple and how to grow apples form seed the best way

Ever eaten an apple and wondered how to grow an apple tree?  Or

pondered whether you could plant the pips and grow your own apple tree from seed?  Well if you have then I can tell you it is not only possible but also not too difficult. 

However, many people would advise against it.   

This is because in most cases, apple trees don't come true from seeds.  This means that their fruit may taste completely different from the apple you enjoyed so much.  The apples may end up being better suited to cider making than eating.

This is because apple trees produced from seed are genetically different from their parent and it is said, usually inferior. Most apple trees are propagated by grafting which allows growers to produce trees that are genetically identical to one another.

Seeds that comes from an heirloom, or open-pollinated, varieties should produce more reliable results though.  So, if you want to grow an apple tree from seed with more certainty that the apples will be nice, then this is an option for you.

The last note of caution is around the size of the resulting tree.   Even if the apple that gave your seed was from a dwarf tree, the tree that grows may inherit its size from the parent.  Meaning your tree could grow to 30 foot high and 30 foot wide!  Something to leave for posterity as it could bear fruit for centuries but not great for a 20 foot square back garden!

Still, the apples we have now must have come from seed at some point so if you have an apple seed and the means to plant it why not give it a try?  If nothing else you will have pretty blossom that the pollinators will adore.

Its a great project for gardening with kids although they may be at Uni by the time the fruit is ready to eat! Apple trees grown from seed won't produce fruit for about 6 to 10 years.

Sowing

Apple seeds need cool moist conditions so autumn/fall/ winter is a great time to plant.  Although you can use the fridge at other times of year to fake the low temperature needed at the start.  

Soak the seeds in a bowl full of cool water for an hour. Use as many seeds as you have as the germination rate is only likely to be a third to half of them so they aren't all going to sprout.  

There are two ways, either:

  1. Moisten some kitchen paper, place the seeds on it then fold over. Place this in a sealable plastic bag. Add a moist, wrung out sponge to the bag to prevent drying out. Or
  2. Place a layer of moist sand in the bottom of an old marg tub and place the apple seeds on the moist sand, Cover with another layer of moist sand. Punch a couple of small holes in the lid and then place it on the container. 

The seeds need cold stratification to break dormancy. i.e. this means they need to be at around 3°-5°C (37°-41°F) for about 6 to 8 weeks - so place the bag or container either outside or in the refrigerator depending on temperatures. Check every now and then to make sure its moist.  

When the time is up, remove the seeds from the refrigerator and plant 1 1/2cm (1/2") deep in a small pot filled with well watered, good quality potting compost.  Keep in a cold frame, sheltered south facing spot or under a Bell Cloche outside until the seeds germinate. Its important not to let them dry out and make sure to water slowly to prevent the seed being dislodged.  

Once temperatures reach a fairly regular 23°C (75°F) you should see germination around 2 to 3 weeks later. When you see the seedlings, move the pots to a partially shaded spot.  

When they reach 5cm (2") tall and produce a set of mature leaves you can re-pot them. At this point you can prune the roots if you want to to encourage the production of new feeder roots.  To do this brush the soil off the roots and snip off one-third the length of their roots using clean garden snips. 

Re-pot the seedlings into individual 4-inch pots filled with garden soil. Grow in partial shade with a good weekly watering until the following spring. Then transplant them into their final position once nighttime temperatures are consistently above 10°C (50°F).

Planting (Grown from Seed or Grafted)

Apple blossom in white and pink and how to grow apples from seed

This applies to bought, grafted trees as well as to those grown from seed.  So if the space you need has put you off growing from seed then you can always buy a little tree and proceed.  

Apple trees like full sun in a well-drained location. Don't plant apple trees at the bottom of a hill, where cold air can settle.  These frost pockets can kill blossoms and any developing fruit.

Clear a 1.2m (4 foot) circle where you want to plant. This will give the tree the best chance rather than it competing with grass and weeds while it is becoming established. 

Spacing

Dwarf trees 1.2-2.4m (4 -8 feet) apart,

Semi-dwarf trees 2.4-4.8m (8-16 feet) apart

Standard trees 4.2-5.5m (14-18 feet) apart

If you have bought a bare root tree.  Unwrap it and place in a bucket with its roots covered with water for at least an hour and up to 24 hours.

For bare root or your home grown tree. Dig a hole slightly larger and deeper than the tree's rootball. Fill the planting hole with water, and allow the moisture to soak into the soil.

Haxnicks Tree mat for weed suppression around young trees and saplingsAdd excavated soil to make a mound in the center of the hole. Spread the roots over the mound. Keep the dark soil line on the trunk just above ground, and backfill with soil. Firm the soil gently then water thoroughly.  Make sure when you finish that the soil comes to a shallow mound at the original soil line on the trunk.  Add soil to achieve this after watering if needed.  Slope the mound gently away to prevent water sitting beside the trunk.

Cover the bare soil around the tree with a Tree Mat to help suppress any weeds.  

Settling In

Water your new tree weekly unless it rains. Once the tree is established, water it every two or three weeks

Strim Guard protects the trunks of young trees from mower or strimmer damageIn Spring, remove the Tree Mat and dig some well rotted manure from about 15cm (6") from the tree, out to the width of the canopy.  Water, then replace the Tree Mat. 

Keep weeds and grass back from it.  If you need to mow or strim then add a StrimGuard to protect the trunk so it doesn't get any cuts that could let in disease.

Whether it is seeds or grafted trees good luck with your apple growing and here is a recipe that you might like for Apple Biscuits.

Comments

6 Comments

  • Hi, Mrs P – they sound like they are large enough to go out. They don’t like excessively wet weather while they are establishing so maybe check the forecast to make sure there aren’t any huge deluges on the horizon. Be sure to clear an area around them so that they don’t have to battle with other plants like weeds or grass. Spread the roots as you plant and sprinkle soil between them to ensure no air pockets too. Best of luck – orchard here you come!

    Posted by Haxnicks | July 13, 2021
  • Hi there! We’ve grown a few apple plants from seeds since last winter. They are between 1 ft and 2 ft tall. Are they ready to be planted in soil or still too small? Thank you!

    Posted by Mrs Pearson | July 13, 2021
  • Hi Bernie, that is great – so happy that your patience has been rewarded! Hope they taste good too?

    Posted by Haxnicks | May 11, 2021
  • Hi I have planted apples from supermarket apples. I think I got lucky that they are not humangous for my small garden, taste is not bad either. I think it has taken 10-12 years until I have tasted the fruit of my labour.

    Posted by Bernie | May 11, 2021
  • Hi, Ben – that is great. You might find that being in pots is stopping the Apples fruiting. If the plants have become pot bound then they will avoid fruiting to conserve their energy. This isn’t always reversible but if you can get them in the ground and give those roots chance to spread then you might be lucky. Love the mini oak forest too! You’ll need quite a bit of room for those!

    Posted by Haxnicks | May 04, 2021
  • I’ve managed to grow a number of apple trees from seed. I still have four of them left from when I planted the seeds eleven years ago.
    They haven’t borne fruit but I still have hope. However they are in large tubs and ideally I need to find an adequate location for them to plant them in the ground.
    They are healthy looking with plenty of leaves on them and it has been great to see them grow.
    I’ve also manage to get all 8 acorns I was given to grow and these are looking as if they’ll make mighty fine oaks some day.

    Posted by Ben Valentine | May 04, 2021
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