Growing apples in NSW

A reader has asked if he can grow ‘Pink Lady’ apples in Morisset NSW and, if so, does he need a second tree for pollination? Good question, Malcolm!
As a general rule, except for areas of high altitudes, apples are not grown commercially in latitudes of less than 33.00° South because most varieties of apples require 1000-2000 hours of temperatures lower than 10° C. in order for the flowering buds to mature properly through winter. Poor maturation of flowers buds results in flower drop, which reduces the number of fruit. However, a slight shortfall in chilling days is not as critical in the home orchard. In the backyard, the variety of apple and the microclimate of the property will also have an influence on the success of the apple crop. A property on sloping ground where cold air can drain away will stay warmer on winter nights than a property in a valley where cold air pools at night and night temperatures will be lower and take longer to rise through the day. Morisset is a lovely spot near the shores of Lake Macquarie. It has a latitude of 33.11° South, which is borderline for successful apple growing.

‘Pink Lady’ – has been listed as a relatively low-chill variety. This excellent apple, which was featured on ABC’s Landline program recently, was developed in Australia as the ‘Cripps Pink’ is crisp, with a thin skin and sweet flesh. It is also an attractive, late-maturing variety that has a bright pink blush on a yellow background, and well worth remembering when choosing an apple variety to grow.
I would think you have a reasonably good chance of success with this variety Malcolm, especially if you can situate the tree where it has a bit of shelter from hot afternoon sun. This will allow soil and air around the tree to stay a bit cooler in winter months and prevent sunscald of the fruit during summer.
Most apple varieties require a pollinator for successful fruiting. The pollinators for ‘Pink Lady’ are: ‘Granny Smith’, ‘Delicious’, ‘Gala’ and ‘Fuji’. In your area Malcolm, I would choose either ‘Granny Smith’, which performs well in warmer areas, or ‘Fuji’, which is another low-chill variety.
Low-chill apples
Apples and pears require longer chilling than peaches (700-800 hours). For gardeners who yearn for their own apple trees but live in an area with mild winters, ‘Sundowner’, a sibling of ‘Pink Lady’ requires even less chilling than its “sister”. It also needs a long, hot summer and autumn. ‘Granny Smith’, an excellent cooking apple, was bred in Sydney. It likes a warmer climate and can be grown in northern NSW (and some parts of Queensland). ‘Anna’, a variety developed in Israel, requires only 450 hours of chilling, and ‘American Dorset Golden’ requires only 250 hours of winter chilling. ‘Fuji’, developed in Japan, also does well in areas with mild winters.
Please remember though, when selecting low-chill varieties of fruit trees, that areas with mild winters may also have wet summers, and prolonged rainfall can result in a waste of your hard work by spoiling the crop. Also remember that plants grown in unsuitable climate conditions for their variety will become stressed, and stressed plants attract pests and disease.

Some varieties of fruit trees require particular methods of pruning. The Complete Book of Fruit Growing in Australia by Australian author Louis Glowinski is a handy reference for pollinators and pruning information of fruit trees, but it does not give organic cultivation or pest control information.
Pruning and Training by Christopher Brickell is a UK book with detailed information on pruning different types of fruit trees.

5 thoughts on “Growing apples in NSW

  1. I know nothing about growing fruit trees but would love to grow apples in Coffs Harbour.
    Would I be successful if I planted an apple tree in a large pot and feed it correctly ( I would learn all about it) This way I could plant it in the correct location and when it rains a lot in the summer months I could put “A raincoat” over the soil that would not allow flooding and allow the soil to drain well.

    Christine, the reason apple trees are grown in cooler climates than Coffs Harbour is that they require a particular period of temperatures below 7° C., or frost, to initiate budding. However, Daley’s have some dwarf apple trees that don’t require chilling, and you may find a variety that suits you on this site: Dwarf apple trees – Lyn

  2. Can u advise me on where in Australia I can purchase a Russett apple tree from 100% Organic stock ?
    I know that Heritage Fruit Trees in Victoria have an amazing range of fruit plants, including a dwarf Roxbury Russet Apple, but I don’t know if this would be suitable for you. That website also has an interesting section on the differences between ‘Organic or Not’.

    If you are including rootstock in your “100 % organic stock” requirement, I suggest you contact Australian Certified Organic or NASAA, as they would most likely be able to advise you of a source. Or, if any other reader can help, please feel free to do so.– Lyn

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  4. Morisset area has different micro climates ,sugarcane has been grown commercially at the sugar bay area on the peninsular and the tip of this area is relatively frost free due to the lake,cooranbong and areas further from the lake will receive cooler overnight temps and some frosts.

    Thanks for that information, Zonr. – Lyn

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