Apple Trees for the Urban Homestead

Reader Contribution by Deanna Tworivers
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In 2010 we moved into an urban duplex and began to farm the flowerbeds and back alley. 

One of the first things we did was to dream over the Raintree Nursery catalog. After many hours we settled on the dwarf varieties of Greensleeves (originally and English tree) and Beni-shogun (a type of Fuji developed for the Pacific NW). These trees were planted in large pots, planning ahead to the day when we would have our own home and could plant them in the ground. We also got a free tree from Craigslist. This tree, named River Road, was grafted by a member of a local tree grafting society.

We choose these trees because of their compatibility for pollination times, quality of fruit and compact size, making them practical for a small space and easy maintenance.

Over the years the trees survived in their pots and Greensleeves even produced a few apples.

In October of 2013 we moved to our “new to us” home, a 1/10 acre in a 1950’s neighborhood. Broad streets, established trees and neighbors that garden in the front and backyards. What a nice change!

The following spring one of the first thing we did was to plant the 3 apple trees. They seemed to settle in, growing well but did not bloom.

This spring we are happy to report that all 3 trees are blooming! Lucky for me, my husband Eric, is a great photographer and had fun getting a few shots of the blossoms.   

What was our criteria for choosing our trees?

Size: Consider your space and the requirements for each particular tree. We were looking for something easy to maintain and harvest, compact trees that will fit into a diverse planting so our choice was ‘mini-dwarf’ apple trees grown on a special EMLA 27 or M27 rootstock*. They are easily maintained at only 5 to 7 feet tall.

Bloom time: We chose trees with a compatible bloom time for pollination ease

Fruit: Both trees are known for crisp, flavorful fruit good for fresh eating or preserving.

These small trees are perfect in a border “guild” planting surrounded by comfrey, dill, yarrow, fennel and daffodils where they provide both fruit and beauty year round.

The letters refer to different types of rootstock resulting in smaller trees. “…”M” designates Malling series developed stocks. East Malling Research is a pioneer in the development of dwarfing rootstocks. East Malling Research Station in Kent, England collected clones of the Paradise stocks from France in 1912 from which 24 “M” were designated with no particular order to the rootstock characteristics other than where they were located in the garden at the time the numbers were assigned. In other words, M.2 is a larger tree than M.9, while M.27 is smaller than M.26… “EMLA” designates East Malling / Long Ashton research stations who took the “M” stocks and developed virus free versions. For example., EMLA 7 is M 7 with a guaranteed virus-free stock. EMLA characteristics are often different from the parent “M” rootstock. Note that nearly all the apple rootstocks in the industry are now virus free…”.


1. Fruit Tree Propagation
2. Rain Tree Nursery

You can read all of Deanna’s posts here

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