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Low-chill apple varieties for the UK

The apple trees we grow today are descended from a species that originated in the mountains of central Asia. As a result they need a period of cold winter weather, with temperatures between freezing and 5C, as part of their annual life cycle. In practice most apple varieties need at least 800 hours of winter temperatures a year - which equates to about 4-5 weeks between December and February.

Historically UK winter temperatures have comfortably exceeded this requirement, but in recent years, particularly in the south of the UK, winter temperatures have been quite mild and winter has started late and finished early. Fortunately there are a number of apple varieties which can maintain their annual cycle with much shorter periods of winter weather each year. These are known as "low-chill" varieties.

If you can't remember the last time you saw frost on your lawn, these low-chill apple trees might be a good choice for your home orchard.

  • 1st Granny Smith

    See also Granny Smith

    Granny Smith, the famous green apple from Australia, needs just 200-300 chill-hours. That's less than 2 weeks of winter weather!

    Granny Smith is also self-fertile, and an excellent pollinator of other apple trees. The apples have a tart flavour and store exceptionally well.

    The main disadvantage is that Granny Smith needs lots of warm sunshine and a long growing period, so it is only worth considering if you live in the south-east of the UK.

     

    Buy Granny Smith late-season eating apples here
  • 2nd Gala

    See also Gala

    Gala has a wide climate range and can tolerate low-chill climates down to around 500 chill-hours.

    It is of course available in any supermarket year round, but home-grown apples that can be left to ripen properly on the tree are likely to be superior to shop-bought examples.

    Gala does best in the drier climate of the eastern side of the UK, it is not a good choice for areas with high rainfall.

     

    Buy Gala mid-season eating apples here
  • 3rd Crispin

    See also Crispin

    Crispin is a versatile dual-purpose apple, related to Golden Delicious, and suitable for moderately low-chill climates of around 600 chill-hours.

    Crispin is not a good pollinator of other apple trees, but its blossom is particularly attractive.

    It is not well-known in the UK but if you have a sheltered spot it is definitely worth considering. It can be eaten fresh - it has a crisp flesh and a sharp flavour. It is also useful in the kitchen, particularly for apple tarts and any recipe that requires apples that keep their shape when cooked.

    Buy Crispin dual-purpose apples here