Selecting apple tree types

Asked March 30, 2020, 1:15 PM EDT

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

1 Response

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 industry really don’t have much going on in the taste category. Over the years, I have had a chance to try out
most of the varieties in my orchard. ... The following are
some that I suggest that have good disease resistance here in Maryland and taste good.

Williams Pride - Interesting apple that does not receive a lot of publicity. This apple ripens in September and is
crisp, juicy and fairly good flavor. I have not seen fireblight hit this variety even in the bad fireblight seasons of
2017 and 2018. It is very resistant to apple scab, cedar apple rust, and powdery mildew. I would use this cultivar
on an M-7 understock.

Redlove - This is an interesting apple from Switzerland. I was not sure how well it would perform in Maryland
but so far it has done well. It has shown fairly good resistant to scab, cedar apple rust and powdery mildew. The
interesting thing with this apple is the flesh is red white a white area in the carpal area surrounding the seeds.
Good flavor and good for ciders. We made delicious applesauce with this one.

Goldrush - The apple does not ripen until late October to early November but it is worth waiting for. It has a
real crunch to the apple with a tart then sweet flavor that is different from the rest. It also stored for 2 – 3 months
after harvest if kept at 32- 40 °F. It is a gold colored apple that is medium size. This is one tough apple when it
comes to disease resistance. I rarely see any disease problems with this cultivar.

Arkansas Black Twig - This is a “back to the future” apple. It was found in Arkansas back in the 1880s as
genetic sport off a Winesap apple and was very popular for 50 years then fell pretty much off the map. It is an
apple that is almost black or dark purple in color with white, alabaster flesh. It is one very tart tasting apple, but
people who love tart fall in love with its flavor. I rarely see any disease problems with this apple cultivar and it
is reported to be very resistant to codling moth damage. I must tell you it is not an overly productive apple tree
but this is perfect for most homeowners who are happy with a less than abundant crop coming 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. 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).