GARDENING Growing Charles Ross apples

Outdoor Living
Introducing the tasty Charles Ross

Organic living
Charles Wieland

Visitors to our orchard in The Organic Centre often ask us ‘What is the best variety to grow?’ and although this is a hard question to answers, more often than not we recommend Charles Ross.
Named after its cultivator and introduced in 1899, it is a mid-season dual-purpose variety. They are a good, large size; conical shaped; and look a bit like a Cox. The flesh of these sweet, aromatic apples is firm and a creamy-white colour. They are best used in cooking early in the season. I have heard they are used a lot in producing baby food. This is a really juicy apple that also makes great cider.
Planting in single rows is the most suitable for organic systems, as it allows easy inspection and makes weed control easier. We always mulch 1-2 square meters around the tree with compost or grass. My colleague Phil Wheal recommends growing Charles Ross on a M26 rootstock, or alternatively on MM106. They are vigorous rootstocks and suitable for most soils. M26 produces a semi-dwarf or half-standard tree of up to 14 feet or 4.5 metres. You will need to stake it for the first six years or so, and the tree needs about two to three years to produce. M26 rootstocks are also tolerant to crown and collar rot.
Prepare the soil in advance; remove the weeds and have plenty of compost available for the planting hole of about 1 square metre. Spread the roots naturally, drive the stake in on the side of the hole from which prevailing winds are most frequent. Never bury the graft union. Water in well.
Charles Ross is a mid-season (May) semi-fertile pollinator, and so crops better if grown in the company of another pollinator, such as a Bramley or even a Crab Apple. Make sure the pollinators all flower at the same time!
When pruning, bear in mind that the objective for pest and disease management is to facilitate air circulation and so reduce humidity and hence scab. Pruning also helps to avoid excess shading of fruits. Pruning takes out growth spurts; lush growth is more susceptible to aphids and scab.

When focusing specifically on apples, several anti-cancer studies show that daily intake of this fruit provides better anti-cancer benefits than lesser amounts. So there may be some truth to that old phrase, ‘An apple a day keeps the doctor away.’
Apple polyphenols are standout nutrients in this widely loved fruit. These polyphenols include flavonols, anthocyanins (if the apples are red-skinned) and several dozen more health-supportive polyphenol nutrients. Apples are a good source of fiber, including the soluble fiber pectin, and are also a good source of vitamin C. Apple nutrients are disproportionately present in the skin, which is a particularly valuable part of the fruit with respect to its nutrient content.
I recently overheard a discussion in a school yard between two parents, who were arguing about organic food. One did not seem too convinced, until the other said: “Wouldn’t it be great if you had an apple tree at home where you could send your children to pick and eat them straight away!” I rest my case.

Apple Butter
  • Ingredients
  • 1/2 kg of sweet, juicy apples
  • Cinnamon
  • Vanilla extract
  • A few drops of vodka (for adults only)
Cut apples, steam until soft (in a little water), puree and heat to 72 degrees Celsius for 15 seconds.
Add spices and vodka, and fill in sterile twist-cap jars.

Hans Wieland is joint manager of The Organic Centre, Rossinver, Co Leitrim, which offers courses, training and information in organic growing, and runs an Eco Shop and an online gardening store. For more information, visit, e-mail or phone 071 9854338. Questions or comments? Contact Hans at