Forgot to Tell the Tree

“Apples requre between 800-1000 chilling hours between 32-45 degrees in order to break dormancy and flower and fruit.  They are unsuitable for areas with milder winters, as they will receive insufficient winter chill and will not fruit, but will slowly decline.  Only a few varieties with very low chilling hours such as “Anna” and Ein Shemer with chilling needs below 400 hours can be grown in mild climates.”

Good thing apple trees can’t read, or this Dixie Red Delight might discover that we only get 250 chilling hours and it isn’t supposed to be fruiting.  Then it would probably tell Bramley Seedling that this isn’t England and it should quit fruiting for us also.   Ignorance is bliss sometimes, but truth and reality are a lot more fun.

The truth is the chilling hour needs of different apple varieties are not known and canot be speculated, and the only way to find out is to plant it somewhere warm and see what happens.  Paragraphs like the one above are written by “experts” who are simply quoting other experts who quoted other experts, none of which have actually stuck the tree in the ground to see what happens.  More often than not, the chilling requirement is much, much lower than anyone would have guessed.  There may be other reasons not to grow it such as the fruit quality in the heat, but chilling hours should not automatically be one of them.

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10 Responses

  1. Which varoety is in the photo?

    It’s nice and leafy.

  2. The variety is Dixie Red Delight; you can see the description at http://www.kuffelcreek.com/applelist.htm It is a very high-quality apple. The trees in the background are apple trees also, all of which adapt in a few years to the climate.

  3. You definitely have my interest up on the Dixie Red Delight. One problem I am running into is the humidity here in South Ga means an extended spray program to stop rot type fungus on apple varieties that have lengthy growing times like a Fuji.

  4. Sounds like you’d be better off with a more disease-resistant apple like GoldRush or Enterprise, both of which produce bumper crops like this one; the quality is excellent in the heat also.

  5. I’ve seen mention on the Sandy Bar Ranch website (http://www.sandybarnursery.com/articles-on-fruit-trees.htm#Apple Trees for Southern California) that you believe that leaf drop triggers dormancy. Does the Dixie Red drop all its leaves and, if not, do you pick them all off in winter? I’m blogging about the subject of chilling hours at my blog and directing people to this blog, so I’d love to be able to add your comments on this. Many thanks.

    • Dixie Red Delight and most of the other apple varieties drop their leaves in the winter naturally with no intervention needed (Granny Smith and Pink Lady keep them all winter and the new ones push the old out in the spring). Stripping leaves only seems necessary in the tropics where day length and temperature are constant, and combined with shutting off the water and horizontal branch training will trigger blossoming. We ignore chilling hours on apples and focus instead on varieties that obtain good quality in the heat.

      • Thank you very much, Kevin. That’s helpful, and it’s fascinating to see accepted wisdom turned on its head by what you achieve.

  6. Do you think the Dixie Red would grow in the alkaline soil of the Phoenix area? I’m not crazy about the low chill apples most often sold around here. I’d say we get around 300-350 chill hours.
    Thanks!

    • Becky;

      The Phoenix chapter of the California Rare Fruit Growers is testing both Dixie Red Delight, King David, and a bunch of other heat-tolerant apple trees in AZ. You might want to contact them.

      • I’ll do that. Thanks for the suggestion.

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