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Introduction: You probably like apples.
Nearly everyone does. In fact, the average person in the
United States eats more than 40 pounds of fresh apples and
apple products each year! Still, most people don't know
that much about the apples they eat. For instance, did you know
that there are more than 7500 varieties (different kinds)
of apples in the world or that more than 2500 varieties of apples
are grown in the United States? Each of these varieties of apples
is a little (or a lot) different. Some are very sweet; others are
tart or even sour. Though many are red, others are yellow, green, or
striped. Some are hard and crisp; others are soft or even a little
mushy. Some are best for fresh eating; others are better for pies,
or apple sauce, or cider.
Some may stay good and fresh
in your refrigerator for months while others might
spoil in just a couple of weeks.
And I'll bet you didn't
know that the apple trees in an orchard are two-part trees.
They are made up of a bottom part called a rootstock
(the below-ground part of the tree that determines its eventual
size) and an above-ground part called a scion (the c is silent)
or cultivar that determines the variety or kind of fruit it
produces. The place where these two parts join is called the graft.
Apples can be grown in
nearly every state, including Alaska. However, most varieties
(or cultivars) will not grow and bear fruit in all geographic areas.
Many have been bred for specific climates and are much more likely
to live and do well near where they were developed or in other
locations with similar climates. By completing this project, you
will learn about the different varieties of apples that can be
grown where you live. You will also learn about apple rootstocks,
and pollination, as well as some
additional things about apples and orchards.
gardening club in your area has just received
the donation of a choice piece of property to be used as a
community garden. It had been used as a pasture for horses and
is on a gentle hillside. The soil is fertile and perfect for growing
vegetables and fruits, particularly apples! The gardening
club has decided that part of the property should be used as
an apple orchard. The area they have set aside for the orchard
is more than one-half acre in size and measures 210 feet by 150 feet.
The gardening club has set aside $1500 for purchasing apple trees and
supplies necessary for getting the trees off to a good start.
Task: The club has asked for
help from your class
in planning the apple
because they know you have
been studying apples and apple trees. So,
in teams of four students, you are to research
and learn about apples that would grow best and taste best
in your location. You should also find which types of rootstocks
are suitable for your area and learn about their advantages and
disadvantages. Once these two tasks are accomplished, you and
your team are to draw an orchard plan. To complete the orchard
plan you will have to decide which rootstock you will use, which
varieties you will include, how many of each variety you will
plant, how far apart to space the trees, what supplies you will
need, and whether you will plant the entire orchard this year
or plant only a part of it now and wait until next year to finish
it. Remember, your budget is $1500 for trees
AND orchard supplies. It is okay to spend less
than that, but you cannot spend more!
1. Each member of your group
should choose one of the following articles:
The Life of an Apple Tree,
Home Fruit Production: Apples,
How Apples are Grown,
Welcome to the Four Seasons of Growing Apples.
They should carefully read the article they chose
and then tell the other members of the group about some of the
most important things they learned by reading it. These articles
will give you good information that will help you in planning
2. Take a look at the
USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map
and find out
what hardiness zone you live in. You must know your zone in order
to pick apple trees that will do well in your area.
3. Go the
apple rootstocks page
and decide whether you will plant standard (full-size),
semi-dwarf, or dwarf trees. The information on that page will
help you make this choice.
4. Draw a rough draft of your orchard
to see how many trees you can plant in your orchard site. Remember,
its dimensions are 210 feet by 150 feet. Dwarf trees must be
planted at least 12 feet apart, semi-dwarf trees 20 feet apart,
and standard (full-size) trees 30 feet apart. You must have
at least 15 feet between your trees and the border of your orchard.
You can choose to plant your trees further apart and further from the orchard
boundaries, but no closer together than the distances listed above! See
the sample apple orchard diagram
for an example. Draw the boundaries of your
orchard to scale. For instance, if you use 12 inch by 18 inch
construction paper, one inch can equal 15 feet. So your orchard
will be 14 inches long by 10 inches wide.
Draw a circle where each tree will
go. If your trees will be planted 30 feet apart, the centers
of your circles will be two inches apart.
5. Now that you know how many apple trees
will fit in your orchard, you will need to see if you have enough
money in your budget to buy them all this year. Remember, you
have $1500 for trees AND supplies. Use the following prices:
Trees on standard rootstock - $17 each
Trees on semi-dwarf rootstock -
Trees on dwarf rootstock - $20 each
Shipping and Handling: Add 5% to the
total amount for the purchase of your trees.
(If you think these prices are too
high, take a trip to a local nursery or garden shop and substitute
Supplies: Add $1.00 per tree for a plastic spiral
wrap (for protection against animals and weather), plus an additional
$1.50 per tree for wood-chip mulch (one $3.00 bag will be enough
for two trees). The mulch will keep the soil moist and help
get your trees off to a good start. Also add 50 cents per tree for protective
sprays to keep insects and tree diseases from harming your orchard
during the first year. Finally, if you are planting dwarf trees,
add another 50 cents per tree for stakes to keep the trees from falling
So, add $3.00 per tree for standard
or semi-dwarf trees or $3.50 per tree if you are planting
Remember, your total cannot be more that $1500.
It is okay to spend less! And you can buy some trees this year
and the rest next year.
6. Now that you know how
many trees you will plant, go to the
choosing apple varieties page
and pick the varieties (kinds of apples)
you want to grow in your orchard. Your orchard must have at
least five different kinds (varieties) of apples; you must
include at least one early-season apple, one mid-season apple,
and one late-season apple. At least two varieties in your orchard must
be good for cooking and two for fresh eating. And most importantly,
the apple varieties you pick must be ones that are recommended for
growing where you live!
7. Decide how many trees of each of the
varieties you will plant.
8. Go to the
apple pollination page
and read about cross-pollination before you
decide where to put the trees in your orchard.
9. Draw a final diagram
of your orchard. As you decide where to place each tree, it is
important to think about pollination. Number each tree,
and either on the side of your diagram or on another piece of paper,
write the names of the apple varieties you have chosen. Next to
each variety, list the numbers of the trees that represent that variety.
sample apple orchard diagram
for an example.)
10. On a separate piece of paper, list
the apple varieties you chose to include in your orchard and write
a brief description of each. In your descriptions, include information
on color (red, yellow, green, striped), size (large, medium,
small), season (early, mid-season, late), use (fresh eating,
baking, sauce, cider), characteristics (hard, soft, crisp, juicy),
taste (sweet, tart), storage (how long it will stay fresh), and any
other qualities you think should be noted. Use the sites on the
choosing apple varieties page
to find this information. If you need additional information
about an apple variety, try a search on
Type in the variety name, then a plus (+) sign, and
then the word apple (for instance, Haralson+apple).
11. Compare your orchard diagram to those
of other groups. What rootstock did most groups choose? Did the groups
make similar choices of apple varieties? How much of the $1500 did groups
spend? Why did some spend more than others?
12. Decide as a class which orchard plan
would you choose for the garden club orchard. Discuss the reasons for
Want to learn more about growing apples and
other fruits? Try the activities below:
1. Visit the nursery sites page
(Some Nurseries which Sell Apple Trees)
and find out where you could order the varieties of
apple trees you picked for your orchard. Compare the prices at the
nursery sites to those listed in part five of the process section
2. Learn more about apple rootstocks by visiting the
links at the bottom of the
apple rootstocks page.
3. Investigate the history of apples
in your area. When were apples first planted? Who planted
them? What varieties did they plant? Go to
Apple History and Information Links
to get started.
4. Add other types of fruit trees to the orchard
you planned. Replace some of the apple trees with pears, plums,
cherries, and other types of fruit that will grow well in your area.
5. Have a back yard? Pick the two apple
varieties suited for your area that sound the best to you.
Talk to your parents about purchasing and planting them in
your back yard!
AppleQuest Teachers' Page
Apple Rootstocks Page
Choosing Apple Varieties
Some Nurseries which Sell Apple Trees
Apple History and Information Links
Edmund J. Sass, Ed.D.
College of Saint
Benedict/Saint John's University
You can reach me at