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How to grow an apple tree from a seed … we hope

September 10, 2011

We took a lovely field trip to Steele Orchard in Cullman yesterday with Buddy’s school, where the kids got a tour, and I got four big bags of delicious apples.

We learned that apples typically have five seeds, and that because most apples are hybrid varieties that are promulgated by grafting, the five seeds can produce up to five different kinds of apple trees, some of which may not even bear fruit. So, if you’re planning to start an apple orchard, starting from seed isn’t exactly your best strategy, but if you want to try it anyway, here is what we were told to do:

1. Get the seeds from ripe fruit, clean them, and soak them in water overnight.

2. For each seed, add some soil to a small plastic cup with a tight-sealing lid.

3. Poke a hole in the soil, put the apple seed in, and cover it with soil.

4. Water it lightly. Don’t make mud. Just get the soil a bit moist.

5. Put the lid on the cup and seal it.

6. Put the cup on a shelf in a refrigerator. Not in the door. Not in a corner. On a shelf. I’m just telling you what we were told. 😉 The temperature should be between 35 and 40 degrees. If it freezes, it’s over.

7. Take it out three months later.

8. Put it in a sunny windowsill, still sealed, until it sprouts.

9. Now, remove the lid. Water lightly about once a week. Don’t make mud!

10. When you have a nice little sprout with leaves, prepare a larger container, like a cut-off cardboard milk carton, by filling it with potting soil and making a hole in the soil a little deeper than the plastic cup. Take the sprout and soil out of the cup and put it into the carton, covering the top with soil.

11. Continue to grow your apple tree in the milk carton until it’s 3 inches tall and ready to plant outside. Choose an out-of-the-way sunny place where it won’t get mowed, trampled, or otherwise disturbed.

12. Keep it watered and wait a few years to see if your seed produced a fruit-bearing tree. If so, you’ll need to do some more research to learn how to care for a fruit-bearing tree. (Hint: Too much fruit will stress a tree and it can even die; you have to thin the fruit to about one every 8 inches; also, you have to prune it regularly to stimulate apple production.)

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