My friend Betty is a bee keeper from Burbank. She told me that I need two different varieties of Apple tree in order to produce fruit, and that I wouldn’t get any fruit for three years! Is that true? And, if so, wouldn’t it be a better idea to grow a banana plant? I’ve read that they produce fruit a whole lot sooner. And, I’ve noticed a few banana trees planted around the town where I live.
Frieda Fruitfinder, San Diego, CA
Congratulations! You are on the right path by observing your environment and researching cultural requirements for your garden wish list. Having a plan is a big part of a successful garden. Let’s start with your first question, is it true that apples don’t self-pollinate?
The simple answer is “sometimes.” There are varieties of apples that are self-fertile (self-pollinating), though they will yield a lot more fruit if cross pollination occurs. These are good options for small space gardening and include Golden Delicious, Braeburn, Granny Smith and Scrumptious, among others. A word about cross pollinating: even a bouquet of flowering crab branches set on a table near your apple tree will enable cross-pollination, without requiring an additional, permanent tree.
Like most fruit, apples require patience and long-range planning for abundant yields. Typically, you should plan on three years before the first, small crop and then another three years with the proper pruning to yield a full crop. Remember when you shop to research the number of cold hours each variety requires to bear fruit in your climate.
“Wouldn’t it be a better idea to grow a banana plant?”
The presence of banana plants in your area is a good sign. An even better indicator would be if they are flowering as that is required for the plant to bear fruit. They will also bloom without rhyme or reason; you could see a flower in as little as 8 or 9 months or as long as 18 months. Notice I said flower, not fruit. The process of maturation can take another 2 months, read more about bananas here: http://webebananas.com/culture.html. Bananas do have some specific needs in order to thrive and produce fruit:
o In the heat of summer, it’s nearly impossible to overwater. In the winter you only need to maintain dampness. Overwatering will lead to rotting of the roots, stressing the plant, and ultimately reducing size and quantity of fruit.
o Plentiful sun and low wind are best. Temperatures up to about 95 degrees are ideal. Consider dwarf varieties, such as Cavendish, if you plan on potting it and bringing it indoors during cold spells.
o When the weather is warm and plants are actively growing, you almost can’t over-fertilize. Any organic 16-16-16 fertilizer will work.
o Soil type is almost irrelevant as the plants are shallow rooted, 12-18" deep at most. I’ve seen them in heavy clay, cobble and even in pure compost. The important issue is matching water application with soil or drainage type.
o A good, heavy layer of compost or other similar organics on the surface of the soil is important.
Keywords for links: Apples, Bananas, Self-pollinating, Patience, Planning