If you’ve got a sense of curiosity, a smidgen of audacious courage, and a hefty glob of patience you might want to try growing apples from seed. I say patience because it will be about 5 to 6 years possibly as long as a decade before you get any apples.
Apples Not True to Variety
The apples you buy at the supermarket are generally grown from grafted apple trees. One variety of apple is grafted onto the root stock of another and the resulting seeds within will not necessarily produce apples true to the type of apple from whence they were plucked. Basically apple seeds are like a box of chocolate, you never do know what you’re gonna get. Even if you purchase a familiar variety of apple tree from a nursery, it’s more than likely a grafted tree.
An additional variable is that Apple varieties are self-incompatible for pollination, they do not effectively pollinate themselves. The best fruit is produced when different apples cross pollinate one another. You will need to plant at least two apple trees in proximity to one another to maximize fruit production and quality.
Apple Seed Selection
The apple(s) you select for your seeds should be ripe, even slightly over ripe but certainly not rotten to the core. Remove the seeds and plant them as you would any other seed, about an inch deep in a pot filled with a suitable media such as potting soil or seed germinating mix.
After removing the seeds from the fruit there are two methods for step two. One is to cold stratify them in the refrigerator, the other is to plant them outdoors in Autumn and let nature do its work.
Apples require a period of cold stratification before they will germinate and sprout. You can place the seeds in an airtight container and put them in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 months. This will mimic Mother nature and coax the seed to germinate once you plant them in the soil.
Washing the seeds is a good idea but not absolutely necessary. The purpose of washing is to remove any possible contaminants such as fungus and bacteria that may have present in over ripe apples.
Diluted bleach and water will kill off these contaminants. Bleach without additives is perfectly safe in small amounts. If you use too much bleach it could kill the seed. Dilute your bleach with water at a ratio of about 6 parts water to one part bleach which is about 3 cups of bleach per gallon of water. The small amount of bleach will destroy most contaminants without harming the seed.
Wrap the seeds in a moist paper towel, peat moss is better if you have it as it has anti-fungal properties, damp sterile sand will also work, but a paper towel will suffice. Place the seed[s] in a zip lock bag or even a seal-able Tupperware and leave it in the fridge for up to 2 months. Don’t place it the freezer, that’s simply too cold, just the refrigerator. Some seeds will never germinate so it is advisable to prepare more than you will need.
The second method is to Plant them an inch deep in a suitable container with potting soil or seed germinating mix. Water them and place the pot outdoors, preferably in the Autumn. You can either bury the pot or treat it as a potted plant.
Once you’ve planted your seeds you will want to maintain a reasonable level of moisture , the soil should be moist but not saturated.
When warmer weather arrives properly chilled seeds should germinate in 3 to 5 weeks. If you started them in containers, they should be transplanted once they reach 6 to 8 inches in height.
Continue to Part Two >> Growing Apples