Our Home-grown Jonathan Apples

Home grown Jonathan apple circa 2009

Home grown Jonathan apple circa 2009

It’s apple season at the house of GoG!  I have three apple trees, however only one is doing well, the Jonathan apple.  The other two (granny smith and cox orange pipin) will be moved from the front yards during winter as they are being starved of water and nutrients from a large tree quite close to them.

We planted this tree back in 2007, so it is now seven years old.  I have been using organics methods to grow it.  That means no pesticide sprays, no artificial fertiliser, and lots of love.  I purchased it as a grafted tree from Diggers Club, then planted it about four metres from an ANZAC Peach tree, also on dwarf root-stock.

It has grown well in this position next to the small chicken house.  It has found lots of moisture from the downpipe that is near it, and fertilizer from chooks.

The tree has reached a height of around 3 metres, and a diameter of about 2 metres.  During the last few years, I have been shaping it so that it stays like this.

The chickens keep the codling moth away from the base, with their scratching antics, which limits damage via this pest.  However, the biggest pest are these rainbow lorikeets.  They bring all their friends and have a party in the tree during the height of summer, when food is scarce, and when the fruit is still developing.  They take bites out of as many of the small green apples as they can, not happy with a single fruit.  If you let them, they would eat the entire crop.

Rainbow Lorikeet

 What we have to do is bag each individual apple to protect it from the birds.  I use simple cloth sacks that you can tie with a bit of cloth around each piece of fruit.  You can read about it in this post titled Pest Control for Apples.

Home grown Jonathan Apple with protective bag

Home grown Jonathan Apple with protective bag picked in 2012

So what do the apples look like this year?

Well, the photo below is a sample fresh off the tree yesterday and compared to a commercially grown Jonathan apple.  My apple is the one on the left.  Not much of a contest really, is there?

Home grown Jonathan apple compared to commercially grown Jonathan

Home grown Jonathan apple (L) compared to commercially grown Jonathan (R)

They are absolutely massive!  We have been eating one a night, sharing it among four people.  They are deliciously juicy, and crunchy.  Who needs sprayed and waxed piddly little apples, when you can have your very own home-grown Jonathan apples!

Do you grow apples where you live, and what sort of success have you had with your crop?



  1. says

    Hi Gail
    The other thing that may be playing a part is some trees, particularly young trees, will sometimes be biennial fruiters i.e. will fruit really well one year then nothing the next. The trees essentially exhaust themselves then take a year off. The way to help stop this is to thin fruit extensively (remove at least 50% of the apples that set after flowering) so the tree doesn’t put too much energy into the fruit and hopefully has some energy for the following year.

    • Gail & John says

      Hello Bek,

      Actually that might right although the trees look established but we have only been 2 and bit years, so it is hard to be sure. Definitely no sign of growth this year.

      Thanks very much for your advice.


  2. Madeleine says

    Hi Gav,

    I’m jealous of your apple! My trees are almost 5 years old and still fairly small. This year each tree produced – ahem – two apples!! They weren’t even very nice. I am sure they could have done with a lot more water, and unfortunately when I fertilized the dogs ate all of it ( seaweed pellets) and this cost me a trip to the vet (no serious damage done). I will use liquid fertilizer next time :)

    On the positive side, the peach tree planted at the same time produced 15 kilos, and the nectarine did quite well too. Our pears fruited for the first time and they were delicious.


  3. says

    The pecked and damaged apples need not be wasted. Chop them and squeeze them and make them into juice. :)

    I have 2 apples trees planted, coming up to their first and second winters. We’re a way off fruit. I’m hoping to get on to removing the poplar trees inside the fence and this side of our creek this year, poisoning then getting a digger in to bulldoze or rip out all the stumps to stop them reshooting (there is no other way than poison sadly) and then pulling in a dwarf and espaliered orchard. Hoping it will happen this year.

    In the meantime I harvested bucketloads of wild grown apples last weekend and have several litres of unpasteurised juice in bottles doing its thing plus the leftover apple cooked down with some water to yield a juice for bottling. The apples all looked very crusty with large cracks in them or bird pecks. Any that were obviously wormy were tossed but I’m sure a few snuck through (not thinking too hard on that 😉 ). Still, they’ve yielded plenty of juice and asides from a little work on my behalf and some electricity to process them, they’re free. :) Some are tiny (crab apple size) and others are larger (commercial apple size) but all were wonderfully different to taste. One lot were sweet but dry on the tongue. Truly amazing apples with about 3 bites of delicious per apple. 😉 They will make a fine cider I reckon.

  4. says

    Is apples something you need or grow in the ground, are they hard to take care of, and how long approximately till they fruit? I’m a beginner gardener, and I live in a townhouse in Brisbane. As I rent, I can’t do much to my backyard, so I grow in pots. I’d love apples though! Sorry for all the questions!

    • Gavin Webber says

      Hi Andrea. Apples need a cold winter to set fruit, so your climate may not be suited to grow them, unless you can find a variety that doesn’t need that cold period.

      Down here in Melton West, it took 3 years before I saw fruit, but it took 5 years before we got a decent crop, and only when we have cold winters.

      Your climate is better suited to growing tropical fruits, now that climate change is kicking in.

      It won’t be too long before my apple trees stop setting fruit. It is 1st April and 33°C here. Ridiculous.

      Times they are a changing.


      • says

        I grow ‘Anna’ and ‘Ein Shemer’ apples grafted onto dwarf rootstocks up in sunny Redcliffe. They taste amazing and now that I’ve planted them out in a nice spot (they were in pots) I’m hoping for loads of apples once they recover from my neglect.

  5. Gail & John says

    Hi Gavan,

    This year our apple trees have not yield one single apple. It is mystery to us. We have Granny Smith and Gala and I guess picked kgs of fruit last year, nothing this year. We live in the Southern highlands of NSW it is colder, but I don’t think that should be a problem at all. Can you give us some advice please?

    We are absolute novices with apple tree growing.


    • Gavin Webber says

      Hi Gail. I have found that you need a correct pollination type so that each tree sets lots of fruit. Do a bit of research and you will find that Jonathan is a good cross pollinator for most types of apples. You just may need another tree to help you out.


      • Gail & John says

        Hi Gavan,
        thanks for your advice. In that that case we will plant another tree.
        Last year we took two crab apple trees, would that have made a difference to our lack of yield this year?

  6. says

    Thtat is an awesome looking apple. A win for home grown!
    I grow apples (46 varieties on 57 trees at last count) mainly as dwarf trees espaliered to fit them all in. Most of my trees are pretty young (the oldest planted in 2009) and many haven’t fruited yet. But each year I get another couple of types to taste. This year the best have been White Transparent, Early Victoria (in Jan!) and the most prolific will be the Sundowners and Pink Lady (between 50 and 35 apples on each respectively). I’ve been picking Grand Duke Constantine and Hubbardston’s Nonesuch this last week and they have been fabulously delicious, though not as big as yours. i’ve only had one so far pilfered (not sure if it was a possum or bird), and am not netting the crops but will keep an eye on them. I’m sure having cats helps keep the birds away. :)

  7. says

    Wow, I am impressed. We have found much the same thing with fruit trees grown near the chicken pen, they are able to access so much more nutrition and the chickens do keep the pests away.. I found an old apple tree on the side of the road with giant apples on it and took about 10 cuttings from it …. I am on the way to having my own apple orchard at no cost to me .
    Was thinking of you last Tuesday as I made paneer with a cheese making kit. with all my excess goat milk. Cheese making is so much fun!

  8. Jo says

    Your apples look amazing. Good to see that with a bit of effort you can get a crop without pesticides.

  9. says

    Your apples look fantastic….well done….and it’s no comparison to the store bought one on look, size and of course your testament to taste.

  10. says

    Apples are magic.

    We had 6 varieties but lost 2 to the heat (and my stupidity when I tried to straighten them, damaging the roots in the process) last year.

    The idea was to have fresh apples 6 months of the year. Even with the 4 varieties we have now we get fresh apples for about 4 months. We are eating the Granny Smiths now but, like you, we lost a lot to the Rainbow Lorikeets this year. First time we have had this big a problem. So next year the apples will be netted.

    I’ve found one of the varieties so I can replace that this winter but I am still chasing the other.


    • Gavin Webber says

      They are indeed Mick. I bought some apple stockings today for next season. Apple Pouches from Green Harvest. They look like they will work. You get 100 in a box, so I am going to protect them from as soon as the petals fall off the fruit this year.

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