Apples & pears

Apples and pears are very popular backyard fruit trees. They are grouped together as ‘pome’ fruit and are part of the rose family (Rosaceae). Also classified as pomes are quince, nashi and medlar.

Plant potted apples or pears at any time (but avoid extremely hot or cold conditions). In winter plants are widely available as bare-rooted plants. Apples in particular, along with some pear varieties, require crosspollination. In areas where apples and pears are common backyard trees, it may not be necessary to grow a pollinator but for best fruiting, plant the recommended pollinator with your selected variety. Crabapples may also act as a pollinator. Apples and pears are bee pollinated.

For small gardens or for containers, select dwarf grafted trees such as an apple variety like Dwarf Pink Lady™ cv.’Cripp’s Pink’

There are also multi-grafts available with two varieties grafted on one rootstock often including a pollinating variety. Apples and pears can also be grown as espaliers in small spaces.

At planting time and to reduce transplant stress and aid plant establishment, water with Seasol or Seasol GOLD. Before planting improve soil by digging in well-rotted manure or compost or for a no dig option use Seasol Liquid Compost.

As there are many varieties of both apples and pears, choose your favourite fruit variety (for example ‘Pink Lady’ or ‘Granny Smith’ apple). If there’s room in the garden for more than one, choose varieties that ripen at different times to extend the harvest season.

TIP: If you are unsure of the variety of apple or pear that would suit your garden, check out your hardware or garden centre, who will have expert knowledge of the varieties that will suit your location

Growing conditions

Aspect Apples and pears need a bright, sunny location with shelter from strong winds. Ideally, they should have sun from the morning onwards but can tolerate a little afternoon shade especially in summer.

Soil Apples and pears grow in a wide range of soils but grow best with good drainage in deep, fertile soils.

Climate Although most apples and pears are cold climate plants that require a period of winter chill to flower and fruit, there are low-chill varieties to grow in warm coastal and subtropical zones.

How to Espalier a plant

General care

Watering Adequate and regular watering is critical for fruit formation and development. Lack of water can lead to loss of flowers or fruit. Deep water at least weekly especially when plants are in new growth, flowering or fruiting. Water more frequently if plants are in hot, dry or exposed conditions or if they are growing in containers.

Feeding and mulching Feed every season during the growing season (in spring, summer and autumn) with a complete fertiliser for fruiting plants such as Seasol plus Nutrients Fruit & Citrus. In winter when trees are dormant apply an application of Seasol Plant + Soil Booster around the canopy of the tree to revitalise soil.

Plants in containers can be liquid fed monthly with PowerFeed PRO SERIES for Fruit & Citrus while they are growing (spring to autumn). Protect the area around the base of the tree with a 5-7cm layer of coarse organic mulch, which will help keep the soil evenly moist and weed free, or with mown grass.

Pruning Young trees should be pruned at planting and in successive years to establish an open, vase shape. Apples and pears fruit on fruiting spurs. They are pruned after harvest or in winter, which is the ideal time to do a hard or renovation prune. In summer pinch out some of the small fruit from each cluster to encourage fewer but larger fruits.

Watch out The main pests that attack apple and pears are aphids on new growth, woolly aphids on roots and branches, pear and cherry slug (which particularly attacks pear leaves in late spring and summer), and codling moth. Birds also attack fruit so trees may need to be netted in autumn using bird and animal safe netting. Encouraging chooks to forage among apple and pear trees can reduce some insect problems, or apply EarthCare Enviro Pest Oil insect spray. Remember to apply to both sides of the foliage and repeat 14 days later if necessary.

To avoid fungal diseases such brown rot, apply an organic fungicide spray such as Sharp Shooter Lime Sulphur in late winter before leaf growth, and clean up diseased wood and remove diseased fruit.