Apple-growing facts and tidbits

Jerry Vitalis

Chisago County Master Gardener

Jim Birkholz will begin our spring class series with an apple pruning class on Jan. 28. He will follow that with a class on apple insects and diseases on Feb. 11.

I spoke with a former Master Gardener today who was with us at Jim’s first class, in his orchard, more than 10 years ago. I have taken all of Jim’s classes since then and still have a lot to learn.  Proper pruning techniques insure better fruit production and a much healthier tree.

I have known for many years that if you plant an apple seed, your chances of growing the same variety of apple as the seed are nil. In order to get the same variety, you must graft the desired variety from rootstock, usually a type of crab apple.

John Chapman (Johnny Appleseed) spread millions of apple seeds up and down the Ohio Valley because he wanted to plant apple trees before settlers moved west. The barefoot crank had a chain of nurseries and 1,200 acres of prime real estate before he died a wealthy man in 1845.

How did Johnny Appleseed get sweet, juicy apples from seeds? The answer is, he didn’t. There were hundreds of different varieties of apples that were not worth eating. The truth is they didn’t eat them anyway, but rather turned them into hard cider. Coming from Europe, immigrants were convinced that the water wasn’t good, so hard cider (an alcoholic beverage) was a great replacement.

In the early 1900’s a lady by the name of Carrie Nation from the Women’s Christian Temperance Union thought that drinking hard cider had got out of control — hence the Prohibition Act. Carrie Nation’s purpose was to chop down not only saloon doors but also Johnny’s apple trees.

Today our goal is to raise sweet, crisp apples for fresh eating and preserving. Please join us for our spring classes on apple trees.  For more information and to register, call 651-277-0151 or visit our website at