The Other North Star
I have said it before and I will say it again; when growing fruit in Manitoba your options are limited at best. Without a doubt apples are the most popular choice. Many of us grew up with an apple tree or knew someone who had one.
When planting apples it is the Gemini apple that is the top choice for Manitoba. Let me tell you why. The biggest thing that sets this tree apart is its incredible cold tolerance. We planted our first Gemini apple in our parking lot with open north wind exposure. We did this purposely to test it and see what the tree was made of. And it thrives out there! After 11 years it still produces a bountiful crop every time.
As an important note I would not recommend planting any apple tree in an area with north or west wind exposure. They will always perform best in a wind sheltered area. That being said if you want an apple tree but have no shelter Gemini is still your best option.
Other important factors for its location would be full sun, and good soil with good drainage. Apples are not fond of clay and will not survive in sogginess. Try to find an area with black soil that is raised up so excess water can drain away. It will do best with an inch of rain per week but if nature does not provide you can always substitute with the hose.
Gemini apple has what is called a complex flavour, it has a sweet and tangy taste within one fruit. The apples are the size of a fist and green peal with pink blush colour it when sun kissed. The fruit is crisp and juicy making it enjoyable for eating fresh but can also be used for baking. It will store in the fridge for up to 6 weeks.
An important factor that should not be overlooked is the importance of cross pollination. Apples will not produce fruit without another apple tree to help pollinate. Plums, cherries and pears will be of no help, it must be an apple. It also must be a different selection of apple. Two Gemini apples have identical DNA and it is impossible for them to pollinate one another. As long as someone on your neighbourhood block has another apple tree it should do the job, but you will get the best results if they are within 200 feet of each other.
Most apple tree will bloom in the middle of May. The flowers are apple blossom white, meaning it is mostly white with a hint of pink. Sometimes a late frost will damage the flowers and therefore damage the crop. So if you see negative temperatures in the forecast don’t be afraid to toss some old blankets over the tree for night. The fruit will ripen at the end of August and will begin to fall. Watch out for the birds as well as they don’t mind taking a peck out of a green apple from time to time. Protective netting will help keep the feathered fiends at a distance.
The tree will grow to a height of twenty feet and about the same width. A dwarf Gemini apple has been developed as well that will stop growing at half the height and still produce the same size fruit. Handy if you want the tree but have a small yard.
As far as fruit is concerned this is the best apple in Manitoba. Is that just my opinion? Perhaps. Am I biased? Of course.
But I’m still right.