First of all, when you eat an apple – do you just start biting? Or do you cut it into slices? In what is very likely a throwback to my many years in braces, I am still firmly in the “cut it into slices” camp.
Of course, we separate out our food scraps and share with our farm animals, and my apple scraps always go to the sheep. I am concerned about the seeds (I remember learning as a little girl that apple seeds were poisonous?), so I typically try to remove as many as possible.
Seeing that pile of seeds on my cutting board gave me pause, though. I fully understand that commercial apple tree varieties are grown via grafting, but waaaaay before grafting, Johnny Appleseed planted actual apple seeds! Me and my green thumbs were on a mission.
Getting the apple seeds
Imagine life for an apple tree outside. It experiences all four seasons, and it changes accordingly. I considered that I would at least need to mimic the winter “dormancy” stage to have any luck with sprouting. Knowing I wanted to try this out, I carefully cut my apple in half, and picked out the seeds.
I am amazed at how simple this process was. After working so hard to save seeds from many of my favorite vegetable varieties – this was a super easy task.
In my opinion, this was the step that lead to my success. I moistened a paper towel, and gently wrapped the seeds. I then placed the paper towel in an unsealed plastic baggie.
Then, I wrote the date on the baggie and stuck it in the furthest corner of my fridge for them to enjoy the forced winter. I packed these seeds in October, 2021 – and pulled them from the freezer after 5 months.
I wasn’t sure what I would find when I opened the paper towel, but much to my excitement – my apple seeds sprouted!
I folded the paper towel gently back, and left the package on the counter to get used to “springtime.”
Planting the seedlings
Our lucky apple seedlings got their start in our microgreens room, which means that light and humidity were already covered. Affiliate links: For an at-home apple tree start, I would suggest seed trays like these that have a humidity dome, as well as additional lighting with a timer. Soil is also an important consideration, and a moisture controlled potting mix will help keep your seedlings moist.
Begin by loosely filling your tray with soil, and leveling the top. Poke your finger straight in the cell, and drop your seed in. If roots are already visible, be sure to point them downward. Cover the seed gently with additional soil. Depending on the moisture level of the soil, now is also a good time to water. The seed trays allow you to lift the cells and water from the bottom – which is the easiest and most uniform way to handle this task. Start with about 1/4″ of water in the bottom tray, and then set the apple tree cells on top.
Waiting for growth
It won’t take long until your seeds begin to break through the soil! I planted these seeds on February 5, 2022. As you can see from my seed markers, I tried this method with Kieffer pears, June apples, and Gala apples.
And this is barely a month later!
Not all the seeds I planted had already sprouted roots, so I was unsure how many would come up. I wasn’t surprised that only 1 of my Kieffer Pears sprouted (the seeds were from a single pear I found on our tree in November last year – so the dormancy period wasn’t nearly as long as it was for the apples). There are 4 June apples, and about 15 Gala apples sprouted!
Transplanting to a larger pot
In about a week or so, I will go ahead and transplant my seedlings to larger pots. I definitely don’t want them to root-wad in the grow tray, and that way they can start stretching their little legs. Once the threat of frost is over (after Derby Day here in KY!), I will start transitioning them outside. And then, come fall, they will be planted in the ground.
It will be a surprise!
Since these are not commercially grown varieties of apples, I have no idea what their fruit will taste like. It will be a fun surprise in about 10 years when they start bearing fruit!
S&B Bell Farms is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to www.amazon.com