Growing Crab Apples
Although grown mainly as ornamental trees, many species of wild apples, and their cultivated varieties, are valuable for making preserves and wine.
They need little pruning, and so are less trouble to grow than dessert and cooking apples. Some crabs are too large to warrant space in small gardens, but many are grown on dwarfing stock and one of these planted in a lawn will provide blossom in late spring and colourful fruits in September for making into jellies, pickles and wine.
Crab apples will grow in any fertile, well-drained soil. A dressing of rotted manure or compost will help the tree to get started, but no feeding is needed subsequently.
Choose a variety on the most suitable stock to suit the site. Crab apples can be grown as standards which have spreads of up to 25 ft (7.5 m), so check the size of varieties offered by the nursery.
Crab apples are generally self-fertile, so only one tree need be grown to provide fruit. Even a dwarf tree will yield about 20lb (10 kg) when established.
Crab apples are small round apples which are usually used for making jellies, though some varieties can be used for dessert. The trees bear particularly pleasing flowers, and as these are followed later by brilliantly coloured fruits, crab apples make most effective standards in the flower garden. Many varieties also have brilliantly coloured autumn foliage.
All varieties are happy growing in grass, for the sward takes up the excess nitrogen in the soil, which has the added advantage of making the fruits even more highly coloured and attractive. For easier picking, half standards are preferable to standards. The care and management of the trees is exactly the same as for ordinary apples. (The varieties listed below will be found in most catalogues under malus or pyrus.)
The following have medium-size or large fruits, which are borne in profusion and are suitable for making jelly or wine:
`Dartmouth’: a broad tree; crimson fruits; flowers late May.
John Downie’: drooping habit; orange-scarlet, conical fruits; flowers late May. The finest variety for making jelly.
`Red Sentinal’: medium-size tree; red fruits; flowers early May.
`Veitch’s Scarlet’: oval, scarlet fruits; deep pink blossom in May.
Dartmouth, October or November. Deep crimson covered with blue bloom like a plum. Strong grower. Sometimes called Hyslop.
Golden Gem, October or November. Bright golden, like huge cherries. Attractive foliage. Medium grower.
John Downie, October or November. Rich scarlet, oval. Crops heavily. Very decorative.
Red Siberian, October or November. Cherry coloured, somewhat small. Strong grower. Makes large tree.
Siberian Yellow, October or November. Bright golden-yellow, somewhat small. Very prolific.
Transcendant, October or November. Yellow with crimson cheek. Medium grower. Fruit large enough for dessert.
Veitch’s Scarlet, October or November. Golden, blushed crimson, oval. Strong grower. Sometimes used as dessert.
How to grow crab apples
Plant during autumn or winter, and secure the tree to a stake for a few years until well rooted. Keep the soil well watered if the weather is dry in the spring following planting.
No regular pruning is needed except to remove dead, diseased or crossing branches. Do this during the winter.
Pests and diseases
As for cultivated apples.
The apples ripen in September and October. Although fruits of some varieties will stay on the tree all winter, they are better picked and used at once.