I wrote yesterday on how to plant fruit trees and it got me thinking about the potential value and return on investment that a food forest, or even just 1 fruit tree can provide. Today I want to look at what an apple tree can yield during it’s lifespan, and maybe try and persuade you that planting one just may be the best investment opportunity around.
Okay. Let’s look at a semi-dwarf apple tree, like the William’s Favorite apple that I showed in the pictures of yesterday’s post. A semi-dwarf apple tree will cost anywhere from 15-40 dollars and you can definitely find a high quality, heritage variety for under 30 dollars. After planting, you can expect some yield in 2 years, but 3-5 years is when this tree will really hit it’s stride.
How much does a semi-dwarf apple tree produce? Around 4-7 bushels of apples per year. A bushel of apples is about 45 pounds, so that makes 180-325 pounds of apples every year. That’s a lot of apples. It’s actually 500-880 medium-sized apples, and would likely satisfy your “apple a day”.
How much are these apples worth? Well, first off, go down to a store and try to buy a beyond organic, no spray William’s Favorite apple. How much is it? It doesn’t exist. You can’t buy it at a store, but we’ll substitute organic apples for our calculations. So, organic apples run anywhere from 1.99/lb. to 3.99/lb., but I’ll use the lower number to be on the safe side. So, at 2 dollars per pound, 1 tree will produce $360-650 worth of apples per year.
But what can you do with hundreds of pounds of apples? Well, you could make homemade apple pie, 60 -100 pies per tree actually.
What about cider? Did you know that President John Adams would drink a tankard of hard cider every morning to prevent gas? Well, your mature apple tree can produce enough apples to make 12-24 gallons of cider per year. That’s 128-256 bottles, or 21-42 6 packs of craft cider. If you’re not a cider drinker, I’ll tell you that a 6 pack of quality cider costs about 10 bucks, and most of these are made from the rejects of the fresh fruit market.
Now, for how long can you expect this investment to return? While standard apple trees, those grown on full size rootstocks, can easily live 100 years, semi-dwarf apples typically live from 20-25 years. So your $30 apple tree will produce around 5000 pounds of apples, enough to make 1500 apple pies, or 600 6 packs of apple cider. And thanks to inflation, who knows how much these will cost in the next 25 years.
I’d say that’s a pretty good deal. And after the first year, once the tree is established, it will require very little maintenance. Now if this 1 tree is surrounded by support species plants that fix nitrogen, attract pollinators, and provide mulch and predatory insect habitat, and maybe a small swale to hydrate the soil and reduce water needs, then this 1 tree becomes a self-supporting, and highly valuable aspect of your property.
And while you can drive out right now and buy a 2-3 year old apple tree to plant, you cannot buy a 10 year old tree that is in full production, with a root system 20 feet deep and capable of surviving drought like no corn field or garden can. All of these, and many more, are reasons to consider planting a fruit tree or two on your property. It’s not that hard, and can be an extremely profitable investment.