How to Grow Apple Trees from Seed
How to Grow Apple Trees from Seed. With the right preparation, apple seeds are simple to grow at home, and seedlings are frequently more robust than their grafted nursery counterparts. An apple tree seedling needs three to four years to catch up to and surpass a transplanted apple tree in growth. The tree you have there could continue to bear fruit for hundreds of years.
Apples don’t “come true to seed,” which is the major reason they aren’t cultivated from seed. Similar to humans, the offspring may share some characteristics with their parents, but they also have their own personality and habits. Because people like certainty, apple trees are grafted together rather being planted from seed.
How to Grow Apple Trees from Seed
The truth is that every apple variety that has ever been delicious started off as a seedling. Since you’re probably going to compost the apple core anyhow, there is nothing to lose by starting an apple plant from seed.
Several hundred years ago, people brought apple seeds with them and planted seedling orchards throughout the Northeast. These same orchards later gave rise to many of the prized heirloom types I currently cultivate. Hard cider needs a specific proportion of high tannin or high acid apples to brew correctly, thus those that weren’t as pleasant when eaten out of hand went into making it.
One year, we conducted a large apple taste test using more than 30 apple varieties we purchased from a nearby heirloom apple orchard. Nobody knows who the second parent tree was because they were all in an heirloom orchard. However, it’s more likely that the father tree was a tasty heirloom rather than a wild crab apple. This increases the likelihood that any given seed will produce offspring with positive traits.
We chose the seeds for the planting from our most favoured types because a seedling tree will inherit some traits from its parents. Even if many of them are best suited for making hard cider or pleasing deer as windfalls, they will still provide the bees with enough of blooms and honey in the spring. In any case, they’ll benefit our other, more delicious trees by pollinating them, so it’s a win-win situation.
Get Apple Seeds Prepare for Planting:
To come out of dormancy, apple seeds need to be cold stratified. For at least six weeks prior to planting, the seeds must be stored in a wet, cool environment. Apple seeds should be placed in a wet paper towel, which should then be placed inside a plastic bag with a small opening to allow for air circulation. Check the towel to ensure it is still moist about once a week while keeping it in the back of the refrigerator.
Some of the seeds may have already begun to sprout after six weeks. That’s advantageous since apple seeds rarely germinate. Although I’d hazard a bet that ours were at least 60%, some sites claim as low as 30%, so there’s no doubt that it varies.
If you purchase local apples later in the year, months after harvest, they have already been refrigerated for a considerable amount of time. Those seeds should also be cold stratified in a wet paper towel because additional stratification won’t harm them, but insufficient cold hours will result in no apple seedlings. It’s possible that some of the seeds within long-stored local apples have already begun to germinate when you rip them open.
How to Plant Apple Seeds:
Apple seeds can be sown like any other seed after at least 6 weeks in a wet paper towel in the refrigerator. If it has been since the last spring frost and the soil can be cultivated, they can be directly seeded outside. We often sprout them in pots because they have low germination rates and early predation from squirrels, mice, and voles can be a problem.
I add a little seed starting potting mix and around a dozen seeds to a repurposed one-gallon nursery pot. As with any other spring-planted seed start, keep the soil warm and moist (ie. tomatoes).
How long do Apple Seeds take to Germinate?
Apple seeds actually germinate quite quickly six weeks after being exposed to cold. The seeds that have already begun to sprout on the paper towel in your refrigerator will emerge from the soil first and quickly after planting. In 1-2 weeks, the seeds ought to pop out of the ground if the soil is warm enough (around 75 degrees F).
The apple seedlings are then cared for in containers until the baby trees are at least 4-6 inches tall. That makes it less likely that we will lose them where they are planted, but staking them is also a fantastic idea because a young tree at this point can be killed by a careless step.
Plantation of Apple Seedlings
Wait until springtime evening temperatures are consistently above 50 degrees if you want to plant them sooner rather than later (or early summer here in the north country).
The apple seedlings will start the process of developing into a full-sized tree as soon as they are planted in the ground. Seedling apples will grow robust and healthy, but also enormous, because they are not grafted on a rootstock that dwarfs them and restricts their nutrient availability. Apple trees can be kept smaller with proper pruning, but planting full-sized apples as least 20 feet apart is still recommended.
When Do Apple Seedlings Begin to Bear Fruit?
Surprisingly, not much longer than a pricey nursery tree with grafts. Apple trees from nurseries typically begin to give fruit eight years after planting. They might have been in the pot for a while, which is why their roots were a little bit stunted. Large 6″ tall nursery trees don’t adapt well to transplanting, even in the finest of circumstances, and it takes them some time to recuperate and start growing actively once more.
Our apple saplings are currently taller than our grafted nursery trees after three years in the ground. In roughly 5 more years, we anticipate them to be ready to harvest alongside our other common apple kinds, but only time will tell.