Hoemgrown: Grow an apple tree from seed

If I am growing an apple tree from seed, should I start it outside or inside in a pot? If inside in a pot, when should I put it outside? The first year, do I remove all of the apples, or just thin them out?

— Mitchell

For the seed to germinate, it needs to be exposed to cold temperatures for three or four months. If the apple was lying outside in the weather, it should be OK.

If not, you should put the seeds in a plastic bag with some moist peat moss and place the bag in the refrigerator for three or four months. This is necessary because the seed has a natural dormancy that is only broken by this cold treatment.

When it comes time to sow the seed this spring, I’d do it outdoors because there’s enough light for the seedlings to grow well. You often don’t get enough light in the house to make the plant happy.

It really doesn’t matter if you do it in the soil or in a pot, just make sure that the soil is in good shape before planting the seed. The soil should be light and loose and well-drained with a good amount of organic matter.

As far as removing the fruit from the tree, you shouldn’t have to worry about that for several years. Apples flower and bear fruit on small stems called spurs and these spurs take several years to develop.

I wouldn’t expect to see any fruit for three to six years. If the tree is still quite small when it starts setting some fruit, I think it’s a good idea to remove the fruit so that the energy of the plant goes into growing it up. There will be plenty of time for fruit in the years ahead.

Do you carry chocolate lilies and/or do you know where I can get them? I live in Michigan and heard these were good to get rid of those pesky moles.

— Debora

I’m afraid I don’t carry them, and I’d expect that they’ll be hard to locate.

Looking them up, there are several plants that go by that common name. The most common are several species of Fritillaria.

These plants tend to smell bad and are just about the only thing that people up in the high country around here can plant that the deer won’t eat. I’d expect that they would have the same effect on your moles.

Fritillaria is a bulb that is planted in the fall and blooms in the spring. There are several types out in the trade but the common one is a large plant often called Crown Imperial.

Check with a garden center near you in September or October, and try some of those.


After crocus are done blooming, do they need to be cut back to allow for next year’s bloom?

— DeLoris

After any of the spring flowering bulbs, such as crocus, have finished blooming, you want to cut off any old flower stalks down as low as you can, but leave the foliage alone.

This is a very important time for the foliage as it’s feeding the bulb underground and building it up for next year’s bloom. If you cut the foliage off, the bulbs will come back weaker and eventually die out.

This also is a good time to fertilize your bulbs to help them grow strong.

In three or four weeks the foliage will start to yellow and dry up.

You can cut it off at that point.

Dennis Hill is the nursery manager at Bookcliff Gardens, http://www.bookcliffgardens.com. Send questions to Bookcliff Gardens, 755 26 Road, Grand Junction 81506; or email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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