October brings with it the national celebration of all things apple, and it’s also the perfect time to start thinking about your own plans if you fancy growing some yourself. While you might think it would be difficult to grow fruit here, many varieties of apples thrive in Yorkshire soil – and once you’re through with the early stages, they take very little maintenance.
So which variety is for you? Emneth Early and Keswick Codlin apples are very popular as they have a short growing season (perfect for our late frosts because they flower late and mature early), and can thrive in damp climates while still producing a fairly bountiful crop. The Keswick Codlin is good for both cooking and eating as it is (plus, it’s great with cheese), while Emneth Earlys are better off being cooked into a pie or crumble. Other popular cooking varieties to grow at home include the Grenadier and the Bramley, or if you’re looking for apples to eat straight off the tree, try Beauty of Bath (which has a sharp, aromatic flavour) or James Grieve (originally grown in Scotland) which is ideal for eating, cooking or juicing.
Once you’ve decided on your variety, order it in October ready for bare root planting. According to the Northern Plant Group, it is actually best to wait until early spring (around February or March) to plant your bare root tree to avoid the damp, which can rot the roots.
Plant the tree in reasonably dry soil, or on a mound if you’ve got a particularly wet area, and make sure to match the depth of the nursery’s planting – this will be evident from the tree. If you’re planning on creating your own orchard, make sure you leave enough space between each tree – dwarf rootstocks will only need around 10 feet between each tree.
The early stages of your apple trees do require some maintenance, but if you put in the work now, you’ll be well rewarded later. They need a thorough winter pruning and then a decent summer chop – while the tree is still young, and keep the main trunk clear of any offshoots to avoid misshapen or overgrown trees. Within the first couple of years you’ll start seeing a handful of apples appearing. Keep picking them off at strategic intervals, as this will encourage bigger, healthier fruit to grow instead of lots of tiny ones.
Soon not only will you have a windfall of delicious, home-grown apples, but you’ll also be contributing to ending the plastic-wrapped culture of supermarket apples – a win in anyone’s book.
Where to Go to Celebrate Apple Day
Where: Newby Hall & Gardens
When: Sunday 29th September
What: Newby Hall and Gardens celebrate Apple Day a little early to coincide with their end of season. Join them for apple pressing, apple displays, orchard tours and their hotly-anticipated apple throwing championships – will you win the coveted title of ‘Golden Arm’? Season ticket holders can bring a friend free of charge.
Where: Helmsley Walled Gardens
When: Saturday 19th October
What: Helmsley Walled Garden’s annual celebration of all things apple is set to be another fantastic family day out, with pruning demonstrations, apple tastings, and all manner of apple-related trails, quizzes and activities to learn more about the nation’s favourite fruit.
Where: Beningbrough Hall, Gallery & Gardens
When: Sunday 6th October–Sunday 13th October
What: Discover Beningbrough’s many varieties of apple during their annual Apple Week celebrations. Try your hand at apple pressing, pluck apples directly from the tree, and sample cider and chutneys. For something more substantial, head to the restaurant after and treat yourself to an apple-based dish crafted by one of their chefs.
Where: Across Leeds
When: Dates throughout September and October
What: Leeds Urban Harvest is a volunteer-run community project which helps stop the excess apples (and pears) of Leeds going unpicked and wasted by picking them and turning them into juice or cider. They’re always keen for new volunteers, so visit their website for dates of picking and pressing sessions.
Where: Bowling Community Orchard
When: Sunday 13th October
What: Bowling Community Orchard’s Apple Day usually attracts over 500 visitors who come to sample ‘Falapples’ from Wrapture, try their hand at fruit pressing, and pick experts’ brains over their unnamed apples. There are art activities too to help get the kids involved and engaged with fruit-growing and wildlife.
Where: Ampleforth Abbey
When: Regular dates until the end of October
What: Ampleforth Abbey has been growing apples for 200 years, and now has over 2,500 trees over 10 acres and 50 types of apple. They host regular tours around the orchards until the end of October, where you can learn more about their award-winning cider production from Orchard Manager Tim Saxby.