A crab apple tree helps the pollen go down

John Downie Crab Apples

Ripe John Downie Crab Apples

Crab apple trees improve apple yields and if you have the space in your orchard, you might like to plant a variety such as Malus John Downie or Malus Evereste in November. These are both crab apples that flower pretty much all the way through the fruiting apple flowering season and are sufficiently related to domestic apples to be perfect pollination partners. Because of their long flowering period and viable pollen, you will never have to worry about apple pollination groups again which makes growing fruit trees even more fun….

One John Downie or Evereste crab apple will permit the pollination of an orchard of anything up to 40-50 trees. What is better is that both these varieties also carry masses of crabs that will enable you to make enough crab apple jelly to keep you family going all year. Evereste is probably the heavier cropper of the two, has a semi-weeping habit when laden with fruit which look like perfect miniature apples.  John Downie’s crabs, on the other hand, are probably more decorative.

When planting a crab apple as a pollinating tree, try to get it as close to the centre of the orchard as possible. Obviously, if you have a large orchard and need more than on pollinator, you will want to “sprinkle” them around a bit.  However, (subject to our advice below) it is a bad idea to plant in the hole left by an apple tree that has died or been grubbed out as apples, being members of the rose family, suffer from replant disease.

Our (non guaranteed opinion) based on testing in our own orchard is that replant disease can be overcome with the use of Rootgrow. This is a natural preparation that contains mycorrhizal fungi. These are fungi that occur naturally and that form a beneficial association with plant root systems. They provide water the the plant in exchange of receiving its waste starches.  The fungi grow incredibly fast and can effectively increase a tree’s root system several hundred times in the months following planting.  By the way, whether you are worried about replant disease or not, all fruit trees will establish faster and crop more heavily if you plant them with Rootgrow.  At the time of writing it is the only planting aid of its type that is recommended by the Royal Horticultural Society. We think it is a remarkable product and a real boon to gardeners of all types, not just those who grow fruit trees.

Comments 1

  1. Gautam

    I searched the National Fruit Collection database but was unable to locate the following crabs: Trailman, Kerr, and Rescue. They are all hardy to USDA Zone 2, something not to encountered in the British garden (!!), and are resistant to most North American strains of fireblight, as well as to scab, Cedar Apple Rust and to common diseases. Additionally, Kerr is long-keeping and after a touch of frost becomes very delicious. Alternatively, it may be picked earlier and stored under refrigeration for almost 6 months. Trailman and Kerr are very good eating apples and all 3 make excellent preserves as well.

    Uralskoje Nalivnoje is a small crab that is a personal favorite. It is not distinguished by any special quality except sprightly good eating right off the tree and is overripe by late September at Geneva, NY. Having spent almost two decades at Geneva USDA-ARS, sampling rows 1-22 of the “dwarf’ orchard, discovered some interesting personal favorites and also those that seem to love the conditions at this station. Cannot vouch for their performance in Britain. For example, Sam Young and Edward VII are remarkable for their quality, fruitfulness, thrifty habits, good health, and overall excellence here; yet, not too many are growing them in NY State. Pitmaston Pineapple x 692, a Geneva cross (?), is another extremely worthwhile variety deserving greater recognition. Hope British gardeners will request propagating materials from Geneva, and also material from U. Saskatchewan & Morden and trial more crabapples and Malus sieversii.

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