Uganda Apple Training Seminar

March 30, 2014 - Leave a Response

Training Seminar

We held the first training seminars on apple culture at our Apple Center at Nakifuma, Uganda.  We were going to hold them at a hotel in Kampala, but decided that they would be much more valuable to the attendees if they got to see some actual apple trees and the operations of the nursery.  Those are some of the newly-grafted apple seedlings in the bag in front, and we also did some grafting during the seminar.  They are three hours in total and cover Apple Basics, Apple Varieties, Planning the Orchard, Planting the Orchard, High Density Orchards, Apple Pests & Disease, Disease-Resistant Apples, Training for Productivity, Drip Irrigation, Fertilization, Grafting and Propagation, and Apple Marketing.

The cost of the seminar is 20,000/=  ($7.84 USD) and the seminars are held monthly.  You can get more information and the flyer at

Training Seminar Field Work

Still Making Apple Trees

March 12, 2014 - 2 Responses


The grafting season is winding to a close here in Southern California, but we still have fresh rootstocks and all the varieties of scionwood, including our champion bearer, King David (pictured).  If you were contemplating getting an order in this spring, now is a good time to do it, as one big order can wipe us out for the season.  And what a season it’s been; we’ve shipped to India, Africa, Hong Kong, Cayman Islands, and a bunch of orders to that hot bed of apple-growing, Hawaii.  Oddly enough, we’ve also had orders from Wisconsin and New York, which is OK since our apple trees do just fine there also.  Not many fruits have this range of climates where it will grow.

First Uganda Apple

February 27, 2014 - 4 Responses


They got their first apple at the Uganda nursery, and let me tell you, it’s one expensive apple.  Hopefully it will have a bunch of buddies by next year.  The guy holding it with the cap on is from NARO, the National Agricultural Research Organization, kind of like the Ugandan version of the USDA.  He said the nursery operations were impressive and they look forward to working with us.

Growing Apples in Hong Kong

February 12, 2014 - Leave a Response


We shipped an apple order to Hong Kong this week.  Yes, I know that Hong Kong is not the first place you think of when someone mentions apple growing, but all in all it was a very smooth experience.  The permitting process was quick and easy, shipping time was four days, and inspection upon arrival was a breeze.  My client already has them potted and on the balcony.

I’ve actually been to Hong Kong in 1985, and am aware of the tropical climate.  But I have no doubt that our apple trees will grow there, and if they follow my directions in my book Growing Apples in the Tropics, they’ll be picking some nice apples in a few years. 


January 22, 2014 - Leave a Response


I don’t like to gloat with half the country facing deadly cold, but a reader’s query prompted my commenting on our weather.  Southern California has been in the 80′s for weeks now, and not a drop of rain in sight.  We haven’t had the heater on in quite a while, and you can leave for work without a coat.  Last Saturday we had a workday at the community garden, and if you didn’t have sunscreen on, you got burnt.

So how does this all affect the apples?  Not a bit.  This weather is actually not that uncommon for us, as it can hit 80 degrees any day of the year, and often does for weeks at a stretch in the winter months.  Up in the mountains it can wreck havoc, as many apple trees are at silver-tip stage right now, and could possibly blossom months early and then get killed by a spring freeze.  But down here in the valley they blossom and fruit pretty much like they always do, whether it’s cold or hot.  A friend of mine speculated that it has more to do with day length than weather, but in any case the trees figure out what to do and carry on.  Fruiting seems to have much more to do with how the tree is trained, rather than how many chill hours we receive.

Hawaiian Apples

December 17, 2013 - 3 Responses


We ship a lot of apple tree orders to Hawaii, but as is often the case with parents, never hear back from the “kids”.  However the above image is courtesy of Forrest and Kim Starr, who sent a link to photos of apples and trees around Maui, Hawaii.

The training and growth habit is terrible on some of the trees, and proper training could greatly increase the health and productivity of the tree (plug my book Growing Apples in the Tropics).  But it gives evidence that, like many areas we ship to, apples have been grown there before and are quite happy in a tropical environment.  We’re pleased to introduce a much wider range of varieties that will extend the harvest season for months and compete against the best of what’s in their supermarkets.

Second Harvest

November 18, 2013 - Leave a Response

SP Winesap 2013

We spent a good part of October touring our local mountains and picked a lot of wonderful apples, apples which ripened in the warm, sunny days and clear, frosty nights of the mile-high mountain air.  Tops on our list was a Northern Spy tree in a 100-year-old orchard that gave the spiciest, deepest-red apples you could ever hope to taste.  Along with those we also had Winesap, Rome Beauty, White Winter Pearmain, Yellow Newtown Pippin, Yellow Bellflower, Golden Delicious, and a new one for us this year, Northwestern Greening. 

But all those apples are now all eaten, or pressed into cider, sliced and dried, or sliced into a pie crust that’s frozen in the freezer, ready for baking at Thanksgiving or Christmas.  They are but a fond memory of our fall vacation time.  But our lowland apples are coming into ripening, and we are having an encore of some of those mountain favorites that give them a good run for their money.

Granted, they aren’t quite up to the best of the best from the mountains; but neither is anything we can get in the store.  However, if the mountain apples scored a perfect “10”, we’ve tasted some solid “8”s with our lowland apples that are just now ripening and promise to improve in the next couple of weeks.  These are on M111-rootstock trees that have taken a few more years to come into bearing, but are promising to develop into a first-class apple orchard.

 A big surprise to us was Winesap, which hasn’t been productive in the past, but has often been suggested by Southern apple growers.  This year the tree had a good crop of nice-sized apples with decent color.  The flavor is classic Winesap, sweet-tart, juicy, spicy, crisp and zingy.  The seeds were still a bit pale and so I’ll try again in a week or two, but they are definitely at the pie stage right now.

 GoldRush was also a zingy winner, almost like Fuji but with quite a bit more bite.  The aroma was heavenly.  I heard these improve in storage, and so I put a couple in the refrigerator.

 King David was still a couple weeks off from being ripe, but an honorable mention goes to Black Oxford.  It is starting to resemble the specimens from Maine, its home territory, and the flavor was crisp, tender, but still a bit green with really pale seeds.  We’ll also try that in a couple weeks too.

Marty and I both remarked that even if one of these apples are this good in Uganda, all of East Africa will be beating a path to their door.

Palace Apple Tree

November 5, 2013 - Leave a Response

Bulange Apple 11.5.13


This is one of our apple trees planted on the main entry drive to Bulange Palace, Buganda Kingdom, Uganda (that statue to the right of the tree is His Majesty, Kabaka Ronald Edward Frederick Muwenda Mutebi II Kimera, Kabaka of Buganda).  There’s a couple more on the front lawns and they’re causing a bit of excitement as they’re growing like weeds, something previously thought not possible at this low elevation in the tropics.  It will be bearing apples in a year and I imagine that will also cause quite a stir.

Gotta Love It

October 14, 2013 - Leave a Response


No, it’s not a flower bush, it’s an apple tree (click on the photo for full-size).  An apple tree on M111 rootstock, grafted in March of this year.  Did I mention it’s in  Uganda, East Africa, where it never gets below 45 degrees?  The variety is Anna, and there are a dozen like it in this field along with Dorsett Golden, all the same size, all blossoming like there’s no tomorrow.  If we allowed them, they’d all have a big apple on the tip bending the tree over so it rests on the ground, and would do that twice a year as their season is endless.  If all apple trees behaved like this, nobody would go hungry.

But much to this client’s disappointment, I’m recommending that all the blossoms be picked off, and the side shoots cut of so that there’s just one shoot being trained as a central leader tied to that stick the label is on.  This tree is way too small to start bearing apples; but there’s no doubt that it could and would if allowed to (you gotta love it).


October 12, 2013 - 3 Responses


There seems to be a mystery afoot regarding the description of Foxwhelp, a traditional English cider apple.  When the English say “cider”, it is invariably alcoholic cider, and certain apples are used for it that impart qualities to the fermented cider that don’t always taste very good fresh, and some are downright nasty until fermented.

That’s supposedly the case with Foxwhelp, but we found it quite excellent fresh, albeit a bit intense.  It had a nice balance of really tart, really sweet, and very “appley”; moderately juicy, and a faint aroma.  All in all a very nice combination, nothing that I would call “harsh”.

Now I don’t know if our hot climate mellowed it out, or if (like many people suspect) the Foxwhelp in New England of the USA is a different variety from the ancient English one.  Regardless, it is a pretty apple that may find some use here; I’m intending on grafting more of these.


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