Monday, 13 June 2016

Growing Apple Trees in the Subtropics

According to the Prose Edda, "Iduna keeps in a box the apples which the gods, when they feel old age approaching, have only to taste of to become young again. It is in this manner that they will be kept in renovated youth until Ragnarök" (or the destruction of the gods).
                                                     Henry David Thoreau

Though apple trees will grow in part shade they fruit best when they are positioned in full sun and should have at least five hours of sun a day.   As a member of the Pome family, apples need regular careful pruning to ensure a maximum yield. Apple trees need deep fertile soil and their water needs peak during the spring and summer months when the fruit is forming.

I have three apple trees planted that have been cultivated for warmer climates. My three are Coastal Cropper, Tropical Beauty, and Anna. Coastal Cropper is the oldest of the three and bears a lot of fruit. However I haven't netted the tree early enough in the growing season as yet, and the King Parrot's have eaten all my fruit the last two or three years. It is a low -chill, self-fertile tree. Tropical Beauty originated in South Africa. It's pollination group is PG2 and the fruit is supposed to be ready for harvesting in March through April.  My third apple , Anna is supposed to have the lowest chill requirement of any apple and it is also supposed to be self-fertile. Though mine has yet to fruit , I have read that early in the ripening stage it is supposed to taste a bit like a Granny Smith and then later when it is fully ripe it has a flavour similar to Red Delicious.  Anna is also supposed to be able to cross pollinate with Tropical Beauty. Anna originated in Israel where it was bred to produce an apple that could deal with almost tropical climates. I take that to mean sub-tropical.

Apple trees uses from a permaculture perspective are:

Popular fruit, very portable.  Used in cooking
Beautiful tree especially during flowering.
Apples are a source of vitamin C and fibre
Part of the “BRAT” diet for convalescence following stomach upsets or diarrhoea
Ripe apples are sometimes used to treat constipation
Apples have also been used in poultices to treat skin inflammations
Apples can be preserved by drying

Apple companion plants are said to be nasturtium and chives.

I feed my trees annually after flowering finishes. I like blood and bone with crushed granite (as a rock mineral) added as the granite dust provides a source of potassium as well as other trace elements. Rock minerals are supposed to increase the water holding capacity of the soil, and increase soil life (microbes).  Apple trees, it has been said, also like a bit of dolomite.   It is also good to give apple trees a monthly dose of liquid seaweed it is best applied to the leaves of the tree if possible.

What are your tips for growing apples?

March 2017 Edit: During February we harvested some of our Anna variety. The earlier harvested apples did indeed taste like a Granny Smith and when the apples were left to ripen a little longer they did taste more like a red delicious. We were very impressed with the fruit from this tree.


  1. The variety for Israel is an interesting one. Israel has a wide range of climates from desert to sub tropical. Throw in dreadful soil due to decades of abuse and other factors - so this variety should be pretty hardy one would think.

    1. I hope it is hardy. Seems a tough little tree so far. Wallum country can make it hard for a lot of plants to establish themselves, though the apple trees seem to like it.

  2. Sherri, no tips from me as my hubby cut down our apple trees. Not sure what the pest was that was the problem...apart from the birds of course. Do they attract fruit fly? Most of our fruit trees seem to so consequently we don't pick much fruit.

    1. Coddling moth is the most commonly mentioned pest when people talk about apple trees, Chel. Fungal diseases, Lightbrown apple moth and wooly aphids are problems too.

  3. Just what I needed names of apples to try and grow here.

    1. We bought our apple trees from a nursery on the Bruce Highway. They graft their own stock and are very knowledgeable.

    2. do you know if the coastal cropper is self fertile? i have planted a coastal cropper and a pink lady together hoping they will self pollinate each other. I cant find any information about coastal croppers anywhere though

    3. I have just checked my gardening notes - it seems I do manage to keep some gardening notes :-) - and coastal cropper is self-fertile but for best results cross pollinating with either Golden Dorset or Einshimer is recommended.