Get dirty, have fun and grow more food with great gardening tips from real-life gardeners.
If you long to diversify your land by planting an apple tree, you will find that most apple varieties require cross-pollination by honeybees in order to bear fruit. This requires planting at least two different apple tree varieties close to one another. But you might want to plant one tree, since a single tree will provide enough apples for your family to regularly munch (plus plenty for treats like apple pie or cobbler). Apples are a great nutritious food to have on hand, as a University of Illinois study shows. The fruit’s soluble fiber strengthens immune systems and reduces obesity-related illnesses. And best of all, apple trees are a low-maintenance way to ensure free food for years ahead!
However, those of you living in an urban or suburban area with only a small yard might not want to crowd your space with multiple trees bearing the same fruit, unless you have plenty of neighbors ready to feast on your surplus of extra apples! In this case, you should look into self-fertile varieties, which pollinate themselves — taking away the burden of planting two trees in the same area. Some self-fertile varieties include Golden Delicious, Braeburn, Granny Smith, and Scrumptious. Check the Home Orchard Society for a more thorough breakdown of self-fruitful varieties — there are quite a few.
Keep in mind, however, that even self-fertile apple varieties will bear more fruit if cross-pollinated. Although a self-pollinating apple tree’s produce will be heartier than a typical variety planted alone, you will almost always get the most apples from cross-pollinating varieties.
If you have a small space but love fruit trees, also consider planting a pear tree, since a few pear varieties will yield fruit with no need for cross-breeding (though, as with apple trees, you will have more pears if you do cross-pollinate). For pears, try Anjou and Bartlett. Apricots usually aren’t self-fruitful, but a few varieties that are include Tilton, Wenatchee, Royal and Moorpark. Sour cherry trees are always self-fruitful, while sweet cherries are not. Research fruit tree pollination about selecting fruit trees and read our expert advice on purchasing fruit and nut trees from nurseries or by mail order.
Photo by Peggy Greb/USDA