Apple, Red McIntosh –
Nearly as well-known and widely-grown as an apple can be, ‘McIntosh’ has been a commercial and backyard favorite since 1798, when the original tree was selected in Canada. The fruits vary in size on the same tree but have in common a deep red skin underlain by green and a firm, tender, white flesh that is juicy, sub-acid, and aromatic. The tree is vigorous, medium-sized and rounded. Bloom and fruiting are heavy. Like all domestic apples it is descended from a species of apple found in southwestern Asia that hybridized with other apple species over centuries. In spring, the tree blooms with sweetly fragrant white flowers that attract bees and other pollinators, all essential to full harvests.
Though the fruits of ‘McIntosh’ have tough skins, they can be eaten out-of-hand without peeling. They can be baked, producing a sweet, tart result. In pies, because they render a lot of juice, they need a thickener. The fruits also store well, if unbruised.
While this tree prefers full sun and well-drained soil, it will tolerate light shade and bouts of drought. For best fruit production, it must be vigorously pruned and maintained. It is susceptible to apple scab, a leaf disease. Growing it in full sun helps keep the leaves dry which discourages the disease but does not eliminate it. For small yards and small spaces, there are dwarf versions of ‘McIntosh.’
Winchester Gardens generally stocks this item.
Apple, Red McIntosh (Espalier)
Green, Dark Green
Choose a site with full sun, moderate fertility, and good air circulation and water drainage. Apples will tolerate a wide range of soil types.
Spring planting is recommended in central and northern areas. Where fall and winter weather is generally mild and moist, fall planting is successful. Buy dormant, bare-root, 1-year-old trees, if possible. When planting trees on dwarfing and semi-dwarfing rootstocks, be sure the graft union stays at least 1 inch above ground.
Set bare-root trees atop a small mound of soil in the center of the planting hole, and spread the roots down and away without unduly bending them. Identify original planting depth by finding color change from dark to light as you move down the trunk towards the roots. If the tree is grafted, position the inside of the curve of the graft union away from the afternoon sun.
For container-grown trees, remove the plant from its pot and eliminate circling roots by laying the root ball on its side and cutting through the roots with shears. Don’t cover the top of the root-ball with backfill because it could prevent water from entering.
Space standard trees 30 to 35 feet apart, semi-dwarfs 20 to 25 feet apart, and dwarf trees 15 to 20 feet apart. Surround each tree with a mouse guard before filling the hole completely. Water, prune, and mulch young trees right after planting.
Water young trees regularly, especially those on semi-dwarfing or dwarfing rootstocks, to ensure that the root system becomes well established. Renew the mulch periodically, but pull it away from the tree in the fall so mice don’t nest over the winter and eat the bark. Begin training trees to their permanent framework in the first season. Prune bearing trees annually. Apples are susceptible to a number of different disease and insect pests, depending on region. Contact your cooperative extension office for information on managing pests in your area.
Expect to wait 3-5 years after planting for your first full harvest. Fruits ripen 70-180 days from bloom, depending on the cultivar. Pick apples by hand to avoid bruising them. A ripe apple separates easily from the branch and has firm flesh. A soft apple is overripe but can still be used for cooking. Late-season varieties are the best for long-term storage at cool room temperatures. Some types, such as Cox, McIntosh, and Jonathan, decay if stored in the refrigerator.