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The Cortland Apple is an heirloom apple that has been a favorite of many since the time your grandparents or even great-grandparents were kids. With a Cortland Apple Tree in your yard, you’ll be able to enjoy the taste of this sweet, juicy classic just like they did. In fact, the flavor is most intense right off the tree and declines somewhat in storage, so the way to truly appreciate this variety is to avoid store-bought apples and grow your own tree. Cortland apples that have been in storage for awhile are still great for cooking and will make mouth-watering pies, strudels, cakes, jellies, and applesauce.
- Hardiness Zone: 4-7
- Spacing: 12-15'
- Exposure: Full Sun
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The Cortland Apple debuted in 1915 from the New York State Agricultural Experiment Stationin Geneva and was named for Cortland County, New York. Its parents were the famous McIntosh Apple, which contributed a lot of the flavor, and a variety called ‘Ben Davis’, which gave this tree its excellent cold-hardiness. Another remarkable trait of the Cortland apple is that the snow-white flesh is extremely resistant to browning, so slices you cut for a salad or fruit tray won’t get yucky. This tree opens its lovely white blossoms in mid-season and will set fruit without a pollinator, although having another Apple Tree or Crabapple Tree in the vicinity will improve production.
Our grower, Boyer’s Nursery, grows a strain of Cortland apple named Cardinal Cortland Apple. The Cardinal addition to the name says it is a strain of Cortland.
A strain is a known cultivar that differs in some way from the natural vegetative characteristics of the original cultivar. The difference may be in fruit color development, fruit maturity or growth habit. For example ‘Daybreak Fuji’ is an early maturing strain of ‘Fuji’. ‘Super Chief Delicious’ is a strain of ‘Red Chief Delicious’. For some cultivars, there are hundreds of strains that have been found over the years, some of which are no longer commercially available as better strains are found.
How do strains develop? A bud may naturally mutate during cell division on an established tree. If that bud grows out to become a branch producing fruit that is of different appearance; it may be noticed by the fruit grower. The branch is marked and maintained. The limb with the fruit is observed for 2-3 growing seasons to be certain it is permanent.
The difference between an apple cultivar and an apple strain is in the origin; a cultivar is a seedling apple from an intentional or unintentional cross between two apples while the origin of a strain is as a branch sport.
With a Cortland Apple Tree in the backyard, wholesome snacking is right outside your door. You can feel good about the kids indulging in these sweet treats to their hearts’ content. Low-calorie apples—a good source of fiber, vitamin C, and antioxidants—have been shown to combat asthma and some forms of cancer and to help your body regulate blood sugar levels.
How to Grow
In general, Apple Trees are easy to grow, but getting a big harvest of unblemished fruit can be a real challenge, as there are several pests and diseases that find Apples like Cortland as tasty as we do. There are many steps you can take, however, to protect your tree in effective but responsible ways. Our growers are happy to help you find the best plan for you; contact them anytime at email@example.com. Practicing good culture and hygiene will go a long way towards keeping your tree strong and healthy. Plant your Cortland Apple Tree in full sun in a site with well-drained soil and good air circulation. Water regularly and mulch to keep the root zone cool and evenly moist. And always promptly remove and destroy any diseased branches, leaves, or fruit.
Questions & Answers
How much fruit can I expect from my Cortland apple and how soon?
The answer to this question depends on the rootstock being used and the age of the tree. Bower & Branch trees are grown on a semi-dwarfing rootstock and are shipped to you well established. You can expect your first harvest in 3 years and a substantial harvest in 5 years.
In the first two years you may get some apples forming but it is important that these be removed as early as possible. Bower & Branch Growers do allow for a small handful to remain, no more than 10 apples evenly spaced across the entire tree. Remove all other apples as soon as you recognize them as apples when young, be sure to space between the few you allow to develop.
When all fruit is left to mature the fruit will use up important nutrients and energy that your tree needs to develop a root and branch system. Letting fruit mature on your tree in the first two years may result in serious stunting in the development of your tree and will negatively impact future harvest potential.
By year 3 you can leave the fruit to develop on the side branches and just remove the fruit on the central leader. This action allows for strong central leader development for future desired branch structure for producing apples. This will give you a one or two dozen apples to enjoy in year 3, from then you can start to harvest larger and larger crops each year.
The thought for allowing central leader development is that additional primary branches will form for the final overall structure for your tree. Apple Tree pruning when done properly will result in improved pollination and allow for a strong primary structure to enhance harvest and fruit counts.
A mature semi-dwarf apple can produce 5 bushels of fruit each year (126 medium sized apples in a bushel). Apple Trees can live for more than 100 years so your apple tree will be there for years of enjoyment.
Why do you recommend Cortland with all of these apple varieties to choose from?
While every apple has some special characteristics that make it recommendable, Cortland has some special features and benefits that earn inclusion in many home orchards.
This great, all-purpose apple was developed at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva in 1898 and is among the top 15 most popular apples in the US. It is an offspring of McIntosh Apple and is sweeter than its parent. Cortland has proven to be a reliable annual bearer (some varieties fruit heavily one year and lightly the next), and is extremely hardy. They're extremely slow to brown when cut, which makes Cortland the ideal salad apple as well.
Cortland also makes a great choice for cider and matches up well with Macoun, Honeycrisp, and Gravenstein for exquisite cider blending.
What do I need to pollinate a Cortland Apple?
While it has been reported to be self-fertile, to get a bumper crop from your Cortland Apple each year Bower & Branch recommends another apple variety within 100 feet to cross - pollinate (two Cortland Apple trees will not improve cross-pollination). The two apple varieties will cross-pollinate each other and both trees will provide you with an improved harvest volume annually. Braeburn, Empire, Gala, Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Honeycrisp, Macoun, all are very compatible with Cortland for good cross-pollination.
Other pollination partners for Cortland can be native wild crabapple within 100’. Perhaps your neighbors are already helping you out. Crabapples, especially the white varieties are great providers of pollen for apples! Bower & Branch recommends Donald Wyman, Weeping Red Jade, Sargent, or Spring Snow. These named varieties, are grown for flower and show providing tremendous landscape value and do not produce edible fruit for people, but birds adore them.
How big will Cortland become?
We grow our apples on a semi-dwarfing rootstock (S-M7). This will give you an apple that will grow 12-15’ in height and width before pruning to form. You can expect a substantial harvest in 3 to 5 years using this rootstock.
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