A favorite of teachers and recommended to keep the doctor away, apples are a nutritious and tasty fruit. Because apples are cross-pollinators, most commercially produced apples yield seeds that will produce a different type of apples when planted and grown. When they bloom, insects pollinate the flowers with pollen collected from nearby apple trees, which may be of a different variety altogether. Still, the way apple trees grow and produce new apples is the same for all varieties. From seed to tree to fruit and back to seed completes the cycle. Once the tree reaches maturity, the cycle takes one year.
The seeds of an apple are contained within the apple, at the center or core of the fruit. When the apple is ripe, it falls to the ground or is picked. The fruit is either eaten or naturally decays, exposing the seeds. The apple seed must go through a process of stratification--either manually or naturally--before it is capable of germinating. In the stratification process, the seed is exposed to moisture and cool temperatures for weeks or even months, depending on the temperatures and moisture levels.
Apple seeds take six or more weeks to germinate and sprout in the spring. The young sprouts are very fragile and susceptible to changes in temperature. Also, the young trees are at risk of being choked out by weeds, so it is necessary to maintain vigil over any weeds around them. Normal rainfall should be adequate. In drought conditions, supplement with up to 2 inches of water per week.
Care of Trees
Trees will take several years to reach the point where they can begin producing fruit. Well-drained, nutrient-rich soil and annual applications of fertilizer will help. Pruning to maintain shape and develop a sturdy framework for fruit growth and harvesting is another annual step. Apple trees love sun and should be growing where they can receive as much as 12 hours of sunlight each day.
When the tree has reached an age where fruit production can begin, small blossoms will emerge in the spring. These must be pollinated, usually by insects, with pollen from another apple tree. The blossom will drop off and the apple will begin to grow. Water requirements increase during this part of the season. Different varieties of apples will ripen at different times of the year. Generally, a light tug on the fruit should dislodge it from the tree when it is ripe.
Apples can be stored for months in a cool, dry place away from light. They are useful for a variety of food, including apple butter, applesauce, pie filling and other desserts. Apples that are stored too long may begin to spoil: Remove their seeds for planting again in the spring after following the stratification process.