Yesterday, it took me about 90 minutes to make a quart of homemade applesauce and start a small orchard of apple trees from seeds at the same time. Here is why and how I did it.
Eddie and I want fruit trees down on our property. The more the better. This is why I never, ever throw out fruit tree seeds. Yes, we know it will be a few years before they start producing much, but it will also be a few years before we are down there full time to enjoy them. Should be good timing. And if we don’t make it down there for whatever reason — God Forbid — someone will surely enjoy that fruit even, if it is only the deer. No harm done, right?
But before we begin, let me clarify that this was just an experiment! We are aware that these pretty little trees will not produce fruit that is true to the parent (which was never the goal), and in fact, they might not produce at all unless properly grafted. We acknowledge that we still have much to learn about fruit trees, and as we learn more, we will share it with you. I plan to study up on grafting over the winter. So although they may never produce a thing, they are still fun to have around! Please do not interpret this article to mean more than is intended. Thanks!
Last January, I tested the theory (I do that a lot) of growing apple trees from seeds and now we have 56 baby apple trees and 11 baby lemon trees (ranging from 4-10 months old) growing in our backyard. Will they ever produce? I have no idea, but that is not the point. We still have much to learn about raising fruit trees. The point is that (since we have nothing to lose but a little time) whenever we wash, peel, core, and cook up apples for applesauce (or pie or whatever), we don’t just compost those cores! No, no. We harvest the seeds and do the following:
When you see the seed casing start to split (see above), that means you are getting very close to having a root. You may want to check every few days when that happens. Plant when you have a root that is about the same length as the seed. If you do not see a root yet, make sure the paper towels are still wet, and put them back in the fridge. Once the root is long enough, gently remove them from them wet paper towel (use tweezers if necessary, being careful not to touch the root or break it) and plant them root down in seedling pots — about as deep as the seed is long and place them in a warm sunny spot. They need at least 8-10 hours a day of full sun, so if you are starting them in winter indoors, you will need artificial light.
Then just keep them damp (but well drained) and watch what happens in about 30 days.
Note that different varieties sprout after different periods of time. Fujis sprouts in as little as 3 weeks, Red Delicious about 3 months, but Granny Smiths can take a lot longer … maybe 8 months and I have not had great success with Granny Smith … they are pretty persnickety. But eventually, most of your seeds will sprout. Be patient and keep them wet and cold until they do. If they mold, change the paper towel. If the seed gets mushy, throw it out. It is dead. But as long as the seed stays firm, you are okay.
You can also do this with lemon trees, but the process is different. You don’t keep lemon seeds cold, you keep them warm. Find instructions for starting lemon trees here in this post. Have you ever sprouted a fruit tree from seed? I would love to know how you did it!