Amazingly enough, there are more than 7500 varieties of apples worldwide, and although Maryland is not necessarily known for its apples, a cursory review of what is grown in orchards around the state resulted in a hefty number of the usual suspects along with some intriguingly named varieties: Sun Crisp, Summer Rambo, Nittany, Ida Red, York, and Mutsu, (aka Crispin), Enterprise, Arkansas Black, Pristine, and Blondie.
Lockbriar Farm in Kent County grows a number of varieties, including Stayman, Ginger Gold, Candy Crisp and Pink Lady – you can buy from them at their farm in Worton or at the Chestertown Farmers’ Market. White Marsh Orchard outside of Centreville, also at the Chestertown Market for about eight weeks, had some early summer apples, but other than that, you need to travel to Cecil County, or southern Queen Anne’s to find other nearby growers. What about growing your own ? The Spy asked owners of the above farms for advice.
Homeowners will need to plant at least two varieties of apple trees together in order to maximize fruit production and quality, Harlan said, and to make sure that the varieties chosen have overlapping bloom dates, so that both varieties bloom at the same time. Some varieties, such as Winesap, Mutsu, Jonagold, and Stayman, produce sterile pollen and should never be used as pollinizers. However, pollen from other varieties can be used to pollinate these. Lockwood recommended buying dwarf fruit stock labeled B9, or Bud9.
Apple trees need full sun and will tolerate a wide range of soils as long as water and nutrients are not limiting and soil pH is adequate. You will need to prune and the trees should be sprayed from full bloom throughout the summer – your local garden center can help you out there.
Both Tom Harlan of White Marsh Orchard and Wayne Lockwood from Lockbriar stressed that fireblight, a destructive bacterial disease of apples and pears that kills blossoms, shoots, limbs, and, sometimes, entire trees, is a major problem in the Mid Atlantic. Lockwood said Stayman was fairly resistant, along with McIntosh, Fuji and Delicious. (A combo of Stayman and Golden Delicious makes fabulous applesauce.) He suggested checking nurseries for disease resistant varieties.
I think of apple trees as doing double duty in the garden. Yes, they require some work, but in return you have gorgeous flowering trees in the spring, and then a delicious treat in the fall. Now is a good time to plant on the Eastern Shore – do it now and in 3 or 4 years you’ll be picking bushels from your own back yard.