Expert tips for growing apples

Head gardener at Gravetye Manor, Tom Coward gives his top tips for growing apples. 


The Orchard at Gravetye Manor dates back to the 1890s when the charismatic garden writer William Robinson first moved to Gravetye. The sheltered, two-acre, south-facing slope is quite protected from frosts and cold winds and warms up in the summer to ripen some amazing fruit. Here head gardener Tom Coward gives his top tips for growing apples.






1. Apples need full sun to grow well, but cookers and early cultivars can take a little shade. Frost pockets and windy, exposed sites are best avoided and all apples hate getting waterlogged.

2. Decide how you’ll use the fruit before planting. Large orchard trees work well in a wild garden and produce lots of fruit, but it can be a lot of work to deal with big crops. Espaliers or cordons look smart and produce the best-quality fruit from the smallest space but take a lot of work to do well.

3. Take time to research and taste fruit. Many gardens and nurseries have apple days, which are a perfect opportunity to find cultivars that are special to you or your area.

4. Take time to decide on the best rootstock for your tree as this will govern its ultimate height and vigour. Dwarf rootstocks are more manageable and can fit into smaller gardens but may need care, such as staking and weeding. More vigorous rootstocks will give you a much bigger tree, with bigger crops that will live for much longer.

5. Control the environment. Young apples hate having their feet grassed over, and if the soil is kept open and you mulch around the tree’s roots they have a much better chance of establishing. We control weeds around our trees and give them a thick layer of home-made compost each year.


Useful information

Gravetye Manor Hotel & Restaurant, Vowels Lane, West Hoathly, West Sussex RH19 4LJ.
Tel: 01342 810567. Web: 


Words Tom Coward

Photos Andrew Montgomery

This article was taken from a longer feature in the October 2017 issue of Gardens Illustrated (251). 



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