Commuting to my allotment via two trains (who does that?) alongside a full-time job means I only go once a week for two hours. So I’ve done a lot of research into plants that require the least effort possible – step forward the stepover apple.
One of many perennial crops I grow, mini apples produce money-saving food quite literally on trees. No matter how small your garden, I encourage you to plant one now, during bare-root season. The flowers and fruit look gorgeous, they’re fun to train and they pump out perfect pommes every autumn.
By mini I’m talking about apple trees grafted on to M27 rootstock, the most dwarfing of all. I’ve successfully trained three varieties – ‘Pinova’, ‘Katy’ and ‘Falstaff’ – as 45cm tall, 1.2m wide (18in x 4ft), T-shaped stepovers on the ends of my veg beds and I love them to bits. Not least because they make my plot look fancy. Friends grow theirs in sunny spots on city patios as standards in pots, cordons on balconies and stepovers in raised beds.
Save money and buy now in winter as young “maiden whip” bare-root plants (stick a ribbon on and what better Valentine gift than a muddy twig?) Take two trees from the same pollination group so they flower together for good cropping, as most apples aren’t self-fertile.
Pruning is easy, quick and Zen. You shape in winter and trim in late summer. For now, plonk an apple tree in some soil and off you go. I’m adding ‘Ashmead’s Kernel’ and ‘Royal Gala’ to a new micro-orchard with other fruit and nuts.
At 15 to 30 apples per tree when established, that’s a lot of home-grown fruit for less maintenance time a year than it’ll take to eat them.
Find Jack’s Garden Blog of the Year at jackwallington.com. Follow him on Twitter @jackwallington and Instagram @jackjjw