Introduction: How to Grow Apple Trees From Seed
Hello! This tutorial will show you how to grow apple trees from seed.
First, here are a few things you should know:
-If you grow an apple tree from seed, it probably won't grow the same type of tree. This is because apple seeds don't grow true, which means that every seed is unique.
-Since you're growing a whole new variety of apple tree, it's possible it might take 10-15 years to actually fruit, if it even does fruit. You aren't guaranteed that it will!
-Statistically, only about 30% of the seeds successfully germinate. And some that successfully germinate may not live long afterwards. Don't be scared off, when I started I had around twenty seeds and after a month i ended up with only five seedlings. This is completely natural, don't give up!
-If your trees do eventually produce fruit, you aren't guaranteed they will taste good. Since you've created a whole new variety, there's no sure way to tell!
Now, to start!
Step 1: Germinating the Seeds
To start, you're going to need to gather a few things:
-A plastic sandwich bag
-Somewhere cold, like a refrigerator
First, you need to gather the apple seeds. Some apples may only have a couple, while others may have six or seven! I usually use four or five apples worth. Whatever you do, make sure not to damage the seeds, as they most likely won't ever grow. It's best if you cut the apple with an apple cutter, or eat the apple down to the core then split it in half with force. You can use a knife if you wish, but it might damage the seeds. Once you've gathered your apple seeds, make sure to wash any remains of the fruit so that they don't rot. I find it easiest to use a small strainer, so that you don't lose any of the seeds.
Now that your seeds are prepped and ready, you will need to prepare your paper towel. All you need to do is stick it under a faucet so it becomes slightly damp. Then you will need to squeeze most of the water out so there isn't too much moisture. Once you've done that, you can place the seeds on the napkin, and then fold it up and place it inside of the sandwich bag.
Now that it's in the sandwich bag, make sure it's sealed up and place it inside of your refrigerator. You can expect to wait up to two months before you see any signs of growth. Essentially what you're doing is simulating nature. When apples mature and fall from the tree, they decompose yet the seeds remain on the ground. Unless animals get to them first, they remain on the ground throughout winter. Once spring hits, the seeds come out of dormancy and start to sprout! Essentially, they're programmed to germinate after a period of coldness. Make sure to check on them around once a week, and if any seeds start to rot, it would be best to remove them and replace the paper towel so the rest of the seeds don't rot as well. Also keep an eye on the moisture level, if it seems a little dry you should add a small amount of water to it.
I checked on my seeds after a month, and it turns out they all sprouted! But don't be surprised if they don't before, or even after the first two months. If they haven't, it's okay! They really aren't supposed to sprout yet. Take the bag out of the refrigerator and place it in a sunny location. South facing windowsills work best, but any sunny location will do. Blow some air into it (which creates a mini greenhouse), and then seal it up.
Leave them in the bag until they sprout. They should start sprouting within two weeks. If they haven't all sprouted within a month and a half, the ones that haven't probably never will. You can pitch them if you wish, or just leave them to see if they finally sprout.
Step 2: Planting the Seeds
After the seeds have sprouted, you can plant them right away. Generally, it doesn't matter what direction you plant them in as eventually they will make their way up, but it's best to plant them root-end down. (That little green bit poking out of the seed? That's the root!)
It would be best to plant them individually in a cell tray, but if you wish to plant them in one pot until they're more established that works as well! Generally you can fit three or four in a decently sized pot, just make sure they have room to grow as once you have them covered it's best to leave them sit until they're much more mature.
I planted mine about half an inch deep, but I wouldn't go much further as the seeds will probably die before they finally poke out of the dirt. Keep these seedlings inside for the first month or two, as they're quite fragile and will need some time to grow.
Step 3: Saplings!
With luck, it's been a few months and your saplings have grown quite a bit! Now it's time to think about planting them outside. The best time to plant them depends on when you first started the seeds. It's generally a good idea to plant them in the spring (once all dangers of frost have passed) so that they have the whole summer to establish a good root system before winter, but it's also alright to plant mid-summer. However I would not recommend planting any later as the cold temperatures of winter will most likely kill them if they aren't established! If you started too late in the year, the plants should survive the winter inside. Once the saplings are a foot tall, they should be alright to plant. I would put some sort of mesh around them at first, because I learned from first-hand experience that deer enjoy the saplings quite a lot!
Now, as I originally stated, the seeds never grow true to their parent plant, so there's no telling what kind of apple you're going to end up with, if one at all. Most people who grow apple trees from seed are only doing so for a rootstock, which is used to graft a branch from a specific variety of tree onto to create another tree of the same fruit. If you wish to learn more about grafting, Progressive Farmer has a fantastic tutorial that can be found Here.
Enjoy your trees, and good luck!