A Tale of Four Apple Seedlings

I’m a proponent of what I like to call darwinist gardening; as in, I prefer to allow heavy selection pressures to act on my plants, so only the most fit pass on their genetics. This minimises my labour in the long term: as I don’t use pesticides or chemically-synthesised fertilisers, my plants need to fend for themselves.

It’s an observational science: not a quantitative one. I don’t always know if the differences in plant vigour are due to the plant’s genetics, or differential soil conditions, or both: in that way, it’s an integrated – albeit non-replicable – way of testing both new plants, and the microclimates within the site.

Last year, I planted seeds from a few imported ‘Pink Lady’ apples. From the 20+ that germinated, I chose four of the hardiest, and planted them in a competitive environment, surrounded by ferns and other tall perennials. They were left to their own devices over winter.

My plan was initially to inarch graft all four of them to local rootstocks, but observing them, my plans have changed. There is one of the four trees that is faring exceptionally well (pictured: second row), while the other three are languishing (pictured: first row).

For me, this means pulling out the three less vigorous trees, and allowing the fourth, healthy tree to use the soil resources of the area: I can already see it’s the better investment.

More on plant breeding