Selecting apple tree types
Hi. We’re new backyard gardeners trying to pick out two apple trees for our backyard. We originally wanted a honey crisp and a granny Smith since they are our favorites, but we have since learned that those might be difficult and might not grow well here. We’ve also had a lot of people tell us how difficult it is to successfully grow fruit trees in Maryland so I think we better stick with the ones that your website listed as the most disease resistant. Based on that, could you recommend any of the following that might taste similar to either a sweet Honeycrisp or a tart Granny Smith? We are considering crimson crisp, red free, liberty, or freedom. Are there any others you’d recommend? Also do all those varieties come in dwarf or semi dwarf sizes? And one more thing—I’m confused what is meant by Malling 7 and Malling Merton and things like that. What does that mean? We are located in Carroll County in a 6B/7A hardiness area.
Carroll County Maryland
You are correct that some of the most popular apples available in grocery stores are not varieties that are easy to grow (at least here). Extension specialist Stanton Gill, who grows apples locally, suggests these in a recent write-up:
"Unfortunately, some of the disease resistant apples that are sold in
The Malling, etc., terms are notations are for the root stock used. Most fruit trees are grafted onto different variety roots as the root stock imparts various desirable traits, including cold-hardiness, vigor, disease resistance, or dwarfed mature size. Many of the names come from station names or researcher names in Britain, where they were developed.
The four varieties you list are also good candidates with regards to disease resistance. For available root stock options, you can check with fruit tree suppliers Adams County Nursery or Boyer's Nursery for their offerings. You can also peruse the publication below by Purdue on disease-resistant apple varieties.
While selecting for disease resistance is important, keep in mind that there will still be insect pest pressures. https://extension.umd.edu/hgic/topics/apple-pear-insects Identifying pest presence early is helpful in gaining good control, and monitoring guidelines based on each pest's life cycle will guide you as to when to use preventative treatments.
As with all plants, maintaining good health and vigor is the best way to avoid pest and disease outbreaks; stressed plants are more vulnerable. At its core, this means watering well but only when needed, avoiding trunk wounds from lawn equipment, using proper pruning techniques, not over-fertilizing, and siting in an ideal environment for growth (in this case, full sun and well-drained soil at a minimum).