The Top 10 Apple Varieties


The Top 10 Apple Varieties

The top 10 apple varietiesThe top 10 apple varieties

If you’re like most people, you consume apples more often than any other fruit. And with the availability of dwarf trees and cultivars that are very hardy – some to Zone 1 – many Peapols can grow their own.

Buy your trees from a local nursery or from one in a similar climate zone so you’ll have specimens suited to your growing conditions. Two different apple varieties that flower at the same time are needed for cross-pollination; a crabapple will also do the job. Commercially grown trees have two parts: The root portion – or rootstock – determines the ultimate size of the tree and the time until the tree reaches fruit-bearing age, as well as influences its hardiness and productivity. Grafted onto the rootstock is the specific variety, which determines the color, taste, quality, season of maturity, and disease resistance of the fruit.

Choose a site in full sun that has good drainage and air circulation, and is protected from strong winds. Avoid low-lying areas or frost pockets, where cold air settles. A slight slope is ideal so cold air can flow away from the trees.

When planting, dig a hole for the tree twice as deep and wide as the root ball. Fill the bottom with a mix of soil and compost so the hole becomes as deep as the root ball. Don’t add any fertilizer. Position the tree so the graft union (the swollen area several centimeters above the roots) is five to 10 centimeters above the soil line. Then fill in with soil, pressing it down gently but firmly; water the tree well. Spread a two-centimeter layer of compost in a one-meter circle around the trunk and sprinkle with organic fertilizer. Cover with 10 centimeters of wood chips, keeping the chips away from the trunk of the tree. This will help conserve moisture and keep weeds and grass from competing with the tree. Dwarf specimens should be staked permanently, while full-size ones benefit from being staked for the first few years.

During the growing season, make sure the trees have at least 2.5 centimeters of water each week (whether from rainfall or irrigation), from May through August. Pull out any weeds that grow through the mulch. Each spring, pull back the mulch, spread a 2.5-centimeter-thick layer of compost over the soil under the canopy, and dig in organic fertilizer before replacing the mulch.

Some years, trees will set too much fruit, which can result in small apples, a poor crop the following year and a heavyweight that could damage branches. When fruits are marble-sized, thin to one fruit per cluster; for large apples of optimal quality and size, thin to 20 centimeters between fruits on a branch.

If you buy a one-year-old whip without branches, prune back to 1.2 meters to encourage side limbs. For a two-year-old branched tree, thin side limbs to 20 centimeters apart. The second year, remove main lateral ones that are too crowded and any that cross other ones and prune out dead or weak growth. In subsequent years, prune to develop an open apple tree where all branches receive light and good air circulation.

Diseases and Pests

To prevent disease, plant resistant varieties, practice good garden sanitation, and improve the quality of your soil. When the tree has no leaves and before the buds start to open in spring, spray with dormant oil, which contains lime sulfur, to kill overwintering insects and fungal diseases. Ideally, apply two or three times. However, trees must not be treated or be wet with dormant oil when the temperature is below freezing. On the West Coast, treat trees after the leaves fall, in mid-winter, and before the buds start to open in spring. In colder areas, spray only when temperatures allow.

Protect against sunscald and damage by small mammals by installing tree guards on young trees, but not too tightly, as they can inhibit growth and cause the bark to stay moist, encouraging disease. It’s best to put guards on in fall and remove them for the growing season. Once the tree bark is rough, guards are no longer necessary.

Apple Maggot

The adult fly lays its eggs on the fruit and the larvae tunnel into the apple. To prevent these pests from overwintering, pick up and dispose of fruit as soon as possible after it drops. During the growing season, trap adults by hanging sticky red sphere traps (available at garden centers). Put in place three weeks after petal fall.

Codling Moth

The adult moth lays its eggs on the leaves and twigs, and the larvae soon move to the fruit and tunnel inside. As long as there are no untended fruit trees within 90 meters, trees can be effectively protected with codling moth traps, which are available at garden centers. Place in the trees as soon as bloom begins. For serious infestations, spray with Bacillus thuringiensis 15 days after petal fall begins, then five days later, and once again after another five days.


The tiny adult beetle lays its eggs on the fruit and the larvae tunnel into the apple. When the larvae start feeding, the fruit drops and the larvae crawl out and burrow into the soil. Rake up leaves in fall and remove brush piles and other debris near the trees. If curculios are a serious problem, spread a sheet under the tree each morning for three weeks after petal fall and shake the tree. The adults, which play dead when alarmed, will fall onto the sheet.


A fungal disease resulting in olive-colored spots on leaves and fruit; spots darken over time. Leaves may drop off, and lesions on fruit turn hard and corky. Spores overwinter on infected leaves, so do good fall cleanup. Plant disease-resistant varieties such as ‘Liberty’, ‘Freedom’ and ‘Novamac’.

Cedar Apple Rust

Small, rust-colored pustules form on the undersides of leaves. Control with a sulfur spray when the buds have a pinkish tinge and again three weeks after petal fall.

Modern Varieties

  • ‘Cortland’ Great flavor; uses: fresh, baking. Stores very well. Late; Zone 4
  • ‘Empire’ Dark red, high quality; uses: fresh, baking. Late; Zone 4b
  • ‘Freedom’ Large, red; immune to many fungal diseases; uses: fresh, baking. Late; Zone 4b
  • ‘Golden Delicious’ Sweet, high quality; uses: fresh, baking. Late; Zone 5
  • ‘Greensleeves’ Has the green skin and crisp tartness of ‘Granny Smith’, but greater hardiness; uses: fresh, baking. Late; Zone 4b
  • ‘Liberty’ Juicy, red; very disease-resistant; uses: fresh, baking. Stores well; highly recommended. Late; Zone 4
  • ‘Lodi’ An improvement on ‘Yellow Transparent’, green-yellow; use: baking. It doesn’t store well. Early; Zone 4
  • ‘Novamac’ Red, high quality; good disease resistance; use: fresh. Late; Zone 4b
  • ‘Paulared’ Flavour is similar to ‘McIntosh’; use: fresh. Early to midseason; Zone 4
  • ‘Spartan’ Quite scab-resistant; uses: fresh, baking. Stores well. Late; Zone 4

Heritage Varieties

  • ‘Cox’s Orange Pippin’ Exceptional quality, orange-red; use: fresh. Late; Zone 5b
  • ‘Duchess of Oldenburg’ Green-yellow splashed with red; use: cooking. Scab-resistant. Early; Zone 3
  • ‘Golden Russet’ Uniquely flavored, aromatic, golden brown skin; uses: fresh, cider. Stores well. Late; Zone 4
  • ‘Snow’ (a.k.a. ‘Fameuse’) 300-year-old Canadian variety; aromatic, sweet; use: fresh. Midseason, Zone 4
  • ‘Wealthy’ Juicy, aromatic, red with white flesh tinged with red; scab-resistant; uses: fresh, baking. Midseason; Zone 3
  • ‘Wolf River’ Huge, hardy and healthy; uses: baking, fair for fresh. Late; Zone 3
  • ‘Yellow Transparent’ Yellow; uses: long-time favorite for baking and sauces; somewhat scab resistant. Earliest apple; Zone 3

Pick Your Own

Get the most out of those crisp fall days by heading out to a pick-your-own apple farm. Some sell other products and offer hayrides, petting zoos, and other child-friendly activities.

Atlantic region

Boates Vinegar & U-Pick, Kinsman Corner, Woodville, N.S.; 902/678-7671.
Daniel’s U-Pick, Martock, N.S.; 902/798-5432.
Dempsey Corner Orchards, Aylesford, N.S.; 902/847-1855.
Elderkin’s Farm Market & U-Pick, Greenwich, N.S.; 902/542-7198.
Gates U-Pick, Port Williams, N.S.; 902/ 542-9340.
Foote Family Farm, Woodville, N.S.; 902/ 678-4371.
Bostwick’s Pick Your Own, Kingston, N.B.; 506/763-2943.
Charlotte’s Family Orchard, Gagetown, N.B.; 506/488-2630.
River View Orchards, Keswick Ridge, N.B.; 506/363-4282.
Uris Williams & Sons, Ste-Antoine, N.B.; 506/525-2376.


Brantview Apples & Cider, St. George; 905/833-5459.
Cannamore Orchard, Crysler; 613/448-3633.
Chudleigh’s, Milton; 905/878-2725.
Pine Farms Orchard, King City; 905/833-5459.
Wagner Orchards, Maidstone; 519/723-4807.


Abbaye Cistercienne, Rougemont; 450/469-2880.
A la Croisee des Pommes Inc., Ste-Joseph du Lac; 450/623-8621.
Cueillette 640 Enr., Ste-Joseph du Lac; 450/623-8635.
Ferme Hillspring, Franklin Centre; 450/827-2565.
Ferme au Pic Enr., Dunham; 450/295-2306.
Ferme R. Giguere, Ste-Famille; 418/829-2647.
Verger Trois Pommes, Rougemont; 450/469-0858.


Treasure Valley Markets, Cadillac, Sask.; 306/785-4602.
Pearl Creek Farm, Melville, Sask.; 306/ 728-5572.
The Berry Farm, Sherwood Park, Alta.; 780/657-2275.
Pork Palace Orchard, Brosseau, Alta.; 780/657-2275.
Sprout Farms Fruit Tree Nursery, Bon Accord, Alta.; 800/676-0353.

British Columbia

The Apple Barn Pumpkin Farm Ltd., Abbotsford; 604/853-3108.
Chilliwack Corn Maze & Greendale Apple Farm; Chilliwack; 604/819-6203.
Willow View Farms, Abbotsford; 604/854-8710.


KEY: ‘Carrol’: 1, ‘Cortland’: 2, ‘Cox’s Orange Pippin’: 3, ‘Donald’: 4, ‘Duchess of Oldenburg’: 5, ‘Empire’: 6, ‘Freedom’: 7, ‘Golden Delicious’: 8, ‘Golden Russet’: 9, ‘Goodland’: 10, ‘Greensleeves’: 11, ‘Harcourt’: 12, ‘Liberty’: 13, ‘Lodi’: 14, ‘Norkent’: 15, ‘Novamac’: 16, ‘Paulared’: 17, ‘Snow’ (a.k.a. ‘Fameuse’): 18, ‘Spartan’: 19, ‘Sunnybrook’: 20, ‘Wealthy’: 21, ‘Westland’: 22, ‘Wolf River’: 23, ‘Yellow Transparent’: 24.

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