Growing Your Own Winesap Apples
Winesap apples are great for munching on as a snack, creating sauces, or to use for baking projects. These apples are mostly red, usually with a little bit of yellow or green lingering about. The texture of a winesap apple is nice and crisp when you bit into it, but it has a surprisingly tart flavor--although not unpleasant! Winesaps are one of the most popular choices for making apple sauce, tarts, pies, and cobblers because they retain their flavor and bake so well.
For most of us, having our own stash of winesap apples seems like a dream. --But it doesn't have to be. With a little bit of land and the proper knowledge, you can grow your very own winesap apples in a mini home orchard, and we're going to tell you how! First off, you'll need to make sure you have the space to accommodate at least two apple trees. Why two? Winesaps, and indeed most other apple trees, require cross-pollination with other trees in order to produce apples. Yep, that's tree sex for you, but it's an absolute necessity if you want something more than a large non-fruiting tree in your yard.
The best thing about apple trees is that you don't have to choose two of the same species in order to get fruit. Unless you really love winesap apples, or intend to sell them, I recommend choosing another species of apple tree that you also enjoy but that has a different flavor to winesaps. This will give you a variety of apples to choose from and will keep you from getting bored. You should bear in mind that winesaps keep for months, sometimes into the winter, so you may want to consider growing them to keep and another species to eat during harvest season. The tree that you choose to cross-pollinate with your winesap will need to be an early-producer so that the trees bloom at the same time. Some good choices are red delicious, empire, and gala (although you'll have to watch the gala as it can bloom anywhere from early to mid season).
To save yourself some time, go ahead and purchase one-year old saplings from a garden nursery. These should be around four to six feet in height and appear nice and healthy. Avoid any that appear to sag or show signs of disease (this is unlikely if you are visiting a trustworthy nursery). If the roots appear dry when you get the trees home, allow them to soak in water for about 24 hours, then be prepared to plant them right away. The winesap does best in USDA zones 5 - 8, in which case the best time to plant would be in mid to late autumn, but a good three or four weeks before there is any chance of frost. If you aren't sure which zone your area falls in, you can easily look online or check with your local plant nursery.
The trees are going to need soil that is well drained, so don't plan on putting them in a ditch or any area of land that dips down, as this will allow water to pool around the roots which can severely weaken or kill your trees. The hole that you dig for each tree should be twice the size of the tree's roots, and each hole should be separated by a distance of about twenty-five feet. If you don't want the full sized variety, you can always opt for dwarf or semi-dwarf varieties of the trees, which produce plenty of fruit but don't grow as tall and only need to be spaced 10 - 20 feet apart. Once you have your holes prepared, have someone help you lower the roots into the ground until the top of the roots is nearly level with the ground. Back-fill the hole with soil and take care to pack it nice and firmly around the roots to ensure that the tree is secure. Once each tree is planted, give them a good watering--then relax!
Trees planted in the fall are more likely to pull through the winter months with more strength because the early planting will have given them ample time to establish their roots before they become dormant. If your tree has never been pruned, you may have to do so in the winter, while it is dormant. Pruning will help your tree's branches keep from overcrowding, which will allow it to produce more fruit. Ask your local garden nursery for instructions on pruning. It will likely be several years before your trees start to bear fruit (usually around four or five for most species of tree), but the wait is well worth it when you are finally able to harvest your apples!