Planning an apple orchard

I am lying on the ground in a sheltered area where the snow has melted and the ground has dried some. It is a south-facing berm near my home in PEI and I have sweet cherries planted nearby. I can see the cloudless blue sky above and the bright sun feels so intense on my face. Some birds are singing in the distance but I am not sure what kind they are. No other human evidence enters my mental realm. Wow, it sure is relaxing to take a few minutes and enjoy the outdoors in this beautiful province. There isn’t much of spring yet, but I can imagine what it would be like to smell the fresh soil. Soon it will be here. Soon.

We are nearing the end of winter, even if some days it doesn’t seem so close. Spring is coming and in preparation, there are a number of important things to do now. For many tips and suggestions on what you could do this month to begin your gardening season, you can refer to my previous articles on starting seedlings (find them here).

In PEI we are fortunate that many diverse plants grow well here. Apples are popular with many people, and are a healthy fruit with lots of fibre and vitamins. There are many varieties to choose from, and if dwarf trees are used, they can begin to bear fruit by the third year after planting. If you want to add fruit trees to your gardens this year, there is still time to locate a source for what you are looking for. In the 15 years I have had my orchard, I have tried many varieties, here are a few I think are interesting to mention.

Lubsk Queen: This one ripens in mid-August and is one of the earliest varieties I have found. What I like most about this variety it has a very crisp and crunchy texture that is rare in early varieties.

Pristine: Late August. This is a modern scab-resistant variety that has good flavour and very firm texture. It tends to produce every second year if the fruit is not thinned. Heavy cropper.

William’s Pride: Early September. It is the best early apple in my orchard and has superb flavour.

Burgundy: Mid-September. Actually classed as a cider apple but it is very good for eating. It has red flesh under the skin and is a regular heavy cropper.

Wolf River: Late September. By far this is the best cooking apple I grow. The large fruit are easy to peel and have wonderful post-cooking texture and colour.

Hudson’s Golden Gem: Late September. It is a very large oblong russet-type apple that is very sweet.

I will also cover some varieties that ripen in October-November in a future article, but this gives you an idea of some varieties out there. Of course, if growing apples in your own yard is not an option for you, there are orchards across PEI which you can source fresh local fruit.

I think now is a good time to go visit a maple syrup shack and enjoy another of PEI’s virtues this time of year. Remember to find a spot where you can enjoy the hot March sun. Happy Gardening.

About Christopher Dunbar

Christopher lives in western PEI along with his spouse and 4 kids, on a property that was once owned by his great grandparents. He grew up in a large farming family and has deep island roots. This rural background and exposure to outdoor living has given him a keen interest in our maritime culture and the many plant types that grow here. He furthered his interest in growing things by obtaining a master’s degree in in plant biology. Not surprisingly, all of his 25-year career has been involved in agriculture and food. He spends some of his spare time growing berries, flowers, vegetables and tree fruits of all kinds in his gardens. He and his family really enjoy the unique lifestyle that PEI has to offer.
Writing creatively about adventures in rural living is also one of his passions. Feel free to contact him if you want to share any of your interests.

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