Jean Vernon retells the story of Johnny Appleseed and encourages a little tree planting
Yes you can grow apple trees from the pips inside ripe apple fruits, but if you want a reliable crop of tasty apples it’s not the best way to get started.
If you have a large area and want to experiment then planting any trees from seeds, pips and nuts is fun and a great long-term project for the kids.
At best you might be lucky and grow a very productive interesting strain of apple, it’s pretty unlikely to resemble the fruit that you took the seed from in the first place, though it will of course share some of its characteristics. At worst it could grow huge, take years to fruit and be an unexceptional apple (but it might be OK to make your own cider!). But before you give up, you need to consider the fun factor, the excitement of growing from seed, the anticipation of your first homegrown apple and all from a little seed collected from your fruit.
Make a fortune
Johnny Appleseed reputedly made his fortune doing just that, growing apple trees from pips and planting orchards all over North America to lay claim to the land. In those days (the early 1800’s) you could claim land by developing a permanent home there and planting 50 apple trees was a sufficient gesture to achieve that status. John Chapman (the real-life folk hero) travelled extensively though North America planting apple trees, growing orchards and then selling the apple tree rich land to settlers. He is said to have owned more than 1200 acres of land on his death in 1845.
While today it is more reliable to buy and plant a grafted apple tree from a reputable supplier, Johnny Appleseed, a devout member of the New Church preferred to plant apple seeds, rather than graft the plants because he believed the technique of grafting injured the plants. Often pictured with a sack of apple seeds, he is credited with creating some of the great American cultivars of the 19th century.
Planting trees is a nod to the future, a living legacy that will outlive each of us and span a few generations. Choose your trees with care and consider carefully where you plant them, but do plant them. Whether you gather the autumn fruits and sow the seeds in pots, left in the cold to germinate, or dig the saplings planted by winter hoarding squirrels and replant in more sensible places, there’s a lot to be said for seed sown trees, especially planted on empty wasteland or unloved plots.
But for a garden specimen, a focal point and a tree to mark a birth, a death or a marriage choose wisely. Your tree will last more than a human lifetime and be a legacy for the future. Visit a tree nursery, an arboretum or a botanical collection. See the tree in full size and full glory and with the right advice from the nursery of your choice, you can then choose your sapling from field grown specimens that can be lifted in their dormancy and planted straight into your own plot. And remember, as a dear tree loving friend once said; “You are never too old to plant trees”.