Apple Trees: a guide to growing (UK) – Dilo de Alwis

All about growing an Apple Tree in the UK

Are you looking to grow apple trees in the UK? With its temperate climate and fertile soils, the UK is an ideal location for growing apple trees. However, with so many apple tree varieties and rootstocks to choose from, it can be overwhelming to decide which apple tree is best suited for your needs. In this article, we will explore the factors to consider when selecting an apple tree to grow in the UK, including climate, apple tree varieties, rootstocks, space and site requirements, caring tips, and harvesting and storage techniques.

Acknowledgements: This article was researched and produced with the use of  chatGPT (OpenAI)

Understanding the Climate in the UK

Before choosing an apple tree to grow in the UK, it’s important to understand the climate of the region where you plan to grow the tree. The UK has a temperate maritime climate, which means it experiences mild winters and cool summers with abundant rainfall throughout the year. This climate is suitable for growing a wide variety of apple trees, but some varieties may be better adapted to certain regions within the UK. Remember, however, that Tatsfield does have a micro climate and is often about 2 degrees centigrade colder than our surroundings.

Choosing the Right Apple Tree Varieties

When selecting an apple tree to grow in the UK, it’s important to consider the variety of apples that you prefer, as well as the intended use of the apples. Factors to consider when choosing apple tree varieties include taste, texture, size, and color of the apples, as well as the intended use, such as eating fresh, cooking, or making cider.

Popular apple tree varieties in the UK include:

  1. Braeburn – A popular dessert apple with a sweet and tangy flavor.
  2. Cox’s Orange Pippin – Known for its aromatic and complex flavor, this apple is ideal for eating fresh.
  3. Gala – A crisp and sweet apple that is good for eating fresh or cooking.
  4. Bramley’s Seedling – A tart apple that is excellent for cooking and making pies.
  5. Discovery – An early-season apple with a sweet and tangy flavor, perfect for eating fresh.

It’s important to research and select apple tree varieties that are known to perform well in the UK climate and are resistant to common diseases and pests in the region.

Types of rootstocks commonly used for apple trees in the UK include:

  1. M9 – Produces small, dwarf trees suitable for small gardens or container growing.
  2. M26 – Produces semi-dwarf trees that are ideal for medium-sized gardens or orchards.
  3. MM106 – Produces vigorous, standard-sized trees suitable for larger gardens or commercial orchards.
  4. M7 – Produces larger trees suitable for traditional, large orchards.
  5. M111 – Produces very vigorous, large trees suitable for challenging growing conditions or poor soils.

When selecting a rootstock, it’s important to consider the size of the tree you want, the available space in your garden or orchard, and the growing conditions of your site. Dwarf or semi-dwarf rootstocks are generally recommended for small gardens or container growing, while larger rootstocks are suitable for larger gardens or commercial orchards.

Considering Space and Site Requirements

Another important factor to consider when selecting an apple tree to grow in the UK is the space and site requirements. Apple trees require sufficient space for proper growth, sunlight exposure, and air circulation. It’s important to consider the following:

Space Requirements

Apple trees should be spaced apart according to their expected size at maturity. Dwarf and semi-dwarf trees require less space and can be planted closer together, while larger standard-sized trees need more space between them. A general rule of thumb is to plant dwarf trees about 8-10 feet apart, semi-dwarf trees about 12-15 feet apart, and standard-sized trees about 18-20 feet apart.

Site Requirements

Apple trees prefer well-drained soils that are rich in organic matter. They also require full sunlight exposure for optimal growth and fruit production. When selecting a site for your apple tree, choose a location that receives at least 6-8 hours of sunlight per day and has well-drained soil. Avoid areas with poor drainage or heavy clay soils, as this can lead to root rot and other issues.

It’s also important to consider the microclimate of your site, including factors such as frost pockets, wind exposure, and proximity to other trees or structures that may affect the growth and health of your apple tree.

Caring for Apple Trees in the UK

Once you have selected and planted your apple tree, proper care is essential for its healthy growth and fruit production. Here are some tips for caring for apple trees in the UK:

Planting and Pruning Tips

  1. Plant your apple tree at the appropriate depth, making sure the graft union is above the soil line.
  2. Water your apple tree regularly, especially during dry periods, and avoid overwatering or letting the tree sit in standing water.
  3. Mulch around the base of the tree to conserve moisture, suppress weeds, and regulate soil temperature.
  4. Prune your apple tree annually to promote proper shape, airflow, and fruit production. Pruning should be done during the dormant season (late winter to early spring) and can include removing dead, diseased, or crossing branches, as well as shaping the tree.

Pest and Disease Management

  1. Keep an eye out for common pests such as aphids, codling moths, and apple maggots, and take appropriate measures to control them, such as using insecticidal soaps or traps.
  2. Monitor your apple tree for signs of diseases such as apple scab, powdery mildew, and fire blight, and take preventive measures such as applying fungicides or removing infected branches.
  3. Practice good orchard hygiene by cleaning up fallen leaves, fruit, and debris to reduce the risk of pest and disease infestations.

Harvesting and storing apples is a critical step in the apple tree growing process. Here are some guidelines for harvesting and storing apples in the UK:

Harvesting Tips

  1. Apples are typically harvested when they are fully ripe, which is determined by their color, texture, and taste. Different apple varieties have different ripening times, so it’s important to know when your specific apple variety is ready for harvest.
  2. Apples are usually harvested by gently twisting or lifting the fruit from the tree, being careful not to damage the branches or the fruit.
  3. Avoid harvesting apples during wet conditions, as this can increase the risk of bruising and rotting.
  4. Handle the harvested apples with care to prevent bruising or cuts, as damaged apples are more susceptible to spoilage during storage.

Storage Tips

  1. Apples should be stored in a cool, dry, and well-ventilated place, such as a garage, basement, or a specially designed fruit storage area.
  2. Apples should be stored in single layers, not touching each other, to prevent bruising and rotting. You can use crates, baskets, or shelves to store apples.
  3. Check your apples regularly for any signs of spoilage, such as mold, soft spots, or shriveling, and promptly remove any affected apples to prevent further spoilage.
  4. To extend the storage life of apples, you can wrap each apple in newspaper or store them in perforated plastic bags to help maintain humidity levels.
  5. Avoid storing apples near other fruits or vegetables that produce ethylene gas, as this can accelerate the ripening process and cause apples to spoil more quickly.


Selecting the right apple tree to grow in the UK involves considering factors such as rootstocks, space and site requirements, and proper care and maintenance. Harvesting and storing apples also require careful attention to ensure that the fruit remains fresh and delicious for as long as possible. By following these tips, you can enjoy a bountiful harvest of apples from your own tree and savor their natural sweetness and crispness throughout the season.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Q. Can I grow apple trees in containers? A. Yes, you can grow dwarf or semi-dwarf apple trees in containers, as long as they have sufficient space, sunlight, and proper care. Make sure the rootstock is M9.

Q. How often should I water my apple tree? A. Apple trees should be watered regularly, especially during dry periods, but be careful not to overwater as it can cause root rot.

Q. How do I know when my apples are ripe for harvest? A. Apples are ripe when they are fully coloured, have a firm texture, and a sweet taste. Different apple varieties have different ripening times, so it’s best to refer to specific guidelines for your apple variety.

Q. Can I store apples in the refrigerator? A. Yes, you can store apples in the refrigerator, but be sure to keep them in a perforated plastic bag to maintain humidity levels and prevent them from absorbing odors from other foods.

Q. How long can I store apples? A. The storage life of apples depends on the variety and storage conditions, but on average, apples can be stored for several weeks to a few months if stored properly. Regularly check for signs of spoilage and remove any affected apples promptly to prevent further spoilage.

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