I seem to spend half my time at work repatriating rather confused bush crickets. That will be late summer, then. The apples are ripening on the trees, and it is time to decide what to do with them. Take them to Octoberfeast to be pressed for juice, or leave them as winter food for the blackbirds, thrushes, redwings and fieldfares? If all else fails, I suppose you could just eat them. If you have not actually got an apple tree, September is a very good time to plant one – the ground should be fairly warm and moist, which helps the roots develop and get a good strong grip.

If you have not done this before, start by deciding what kind of apple you want – for cooking, or to eat straight off the tree? Do you like sweet Spartans, or acidic Cox? If your garden is fairly damp or enclosed, look for something resistant to the common fungal diseases. And take great care with rootstocks…apples are not grown from seed, as one is never quite sure who the father is. They are grafted onto  various stocks, which determine the height and size to which the tree will grow. No point in using M25 in your back garden; they need to be planted twenty feet apart. On the other hand, you wouldn’t use M27 in the middle of a field: they only grow about three foot tall. ( The ‘M’, by the way, is for ‘Malling Series’ – most of these were developed at the East Malling Research Station, in Kent).

I am assuming you have now chosen your young tree, and that you have bought it in a pot – bare-root plants are always cheaper, but they take longer, too. Give the thing a good soak, and let it stand while you dig a hole about twice the size of the rootball. Mix the soil you have excavated with garden compost or some such (apples ain’t that particular) and a handful of fertilizer. Pull the tree from its pot, untangle some of the roots, and dust them with mycorrhizal fungi, if you have some to hand. If you haven’t, go out and buy some – it really does make a difference. Stick the tree in the hole so that the soil around it is level with the ground surface, shovel in the compost mix, and firm it down.

If all that sounds a bit complicated, just dig a hole, put the tree in, and backfill with soil. It will grow. But a good tree will last a hundred years, and provide a thousand pounds’ worth of fruit: it is worth taking a bit of trouble. Stake it well, and if there are rabbits around, don’t forget the tree guard.


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