The Apple Tree and Developing Personal Sustainability

What Does It Mean to Have Personal Sustainability?

When I think of personal sustainability, I think of what I can grow in my own backyard so that I am able to continue to live where I am even when life gets tough. I think about the basics needed to live. Of course we need water, protection, shelter, warmth and food. Beyond that, we can survive in relative comfort. When growing food in my backyard, one of the first things that come to mind is a garden, next, chickens, and then perhaps goats. Somewhere on that list is an orchard and if I'm smart, at the top of that list should be an apple tree or two or more. If my yard had only room for one tree, make that tree an apple tree. Johnny Appleseed had the right idea.

The Sustainability of Apples from a Tree in Your Backyard

Apples can be used in more ways than any other fruit tree. In place of fast food, they can be eaten as a quick snack. Apples can also be baked, fried, deep fried, served as a side dish as applesauce, or made into desserts such as apple pie, apple bread, apple cake, apple fritters, the list goes on and on.

They are not difficult to store for the winter months when local fresh fruit is scarce. Blemish-free apples can also be stored as is throughout the winter in a cool frost free environment wrapped in newspaper. In addition, apples can be peeled, and cut up and put into the freezer. They can also be peeled, cut up or sauced and canned. They can even be dried.


Making Applesauce and canning it is one way to store apples during seasons when fresh local fruit is not available.
Making Applesauce and canning it is one way to store apples during seasons when fresh local fruit is not available.

The Sustainability of Homemade Vinegar

Apples can be juiced and I can drink it as apple juice, or I can press on an apple press and made into apple cider. Allowed to ferment, apple can be made into an alcoholic beverage known as hard cider, or it can be allowed to ferment longer to make into apple cider vinegar. Making apple cider vinegar adds to my home's sustainability. Now that I have vinegar, not only am I able to utilize preserved apples, but I also have a way to preserve vegetables from my vegetable garden and have a flavorful vinegar for my vinegar and oil dressings as well.

Sustainability Beyond a Single Apple Tree

If I were to think about increasing sustainability using an apple tree, I could think that by planting the apple tree, I would have years of apples and that would be the end of how I see sustainability in an apple tree. With a single standard apple tree I could expect about twenty years of apples from that tree. Some years I might not get any, but another year's bounty properly stored would make up for those years that my apple basket turned up empty.

If I wanted to increase sustainability by growing apples even further, I might think that by planting seeds from that apple tree. I would probably be disappointed by the results. Seeds from apples of a specific variety will not produce a tree like the original. I might get an apple tree that produces a great tasting apple tree, but I could also end up with a small hard crab apple from that tree. It is hard to tell, and I wouldn't want to have to wait all the years it takes to grow the trees to discover that I have an apple tree that produces inferior apples. That is why most apple trees today are not grown from seeds, but are grown from scions from the desired cultivar grafted into rootstock.The video below shows how it is done.

Increasing Backyard Sustainability

Every one of us can increase our ability to provide backyard sustainability and nearly every one of us can add at least one apple tree to our yard. We would do well to eat what we grow on those trees as well as storing and utilizing those apples beyond the growing season. We can also continue down the path of sustainability by learning to graft trees to share or barter with neighbors and friends. In the process, we provide a more stable food source for our families and our surrounding community.

© 2014 Donna Brown

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Comments 20 comments

billybuc profile image

billybuc 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

Well you know I love this hub; anyone who sings the praises of sustainability is singing my song.


cygnetbrown profile image

cygnetbrown 2 years ago from Alton, Missouri Author

Me thinks that we harmonize quite well on this sustainability, William Holland.


dragonflycolor 2 years ago

I work for an apple company and they have a specific system in place for each variety of their apples. It is an interesting view on growing apple trees and how to keep them producing even 40 years later!


cygnetbrown profile image

cygnetbrown 2 years ago from Alton, Missouri Author

Thanks for the comment dragonflycolor! Keeping apple trees producing as long as possible is definitely a goal worth having!


VVanNess profile image

VVanNess 2 years ago from Prescott Valley

I would love to have a fruit tree or two or three in my backyard. We planted a couple in Texas before we had to sell our home. We just missed out on getting to enjoy the "fruit" of our harvest. :)


cygnetbrown profile image

cygnetbrown 2 years ago from Alton, Missouri Author

How sad, VVanNess. I hope you do get to plant a couple of fruit trees.


Zsuzsy Bee profile image

Zsuzsy Bee 2 years ago from Ontario/Canada

To keep going on the same line... my chickens,ducks and goats love to eat the apple peels and any shriveled up old apple that is not suitable for me. That is usually why I make my cider, hard cider, dried apple rings etc. over a few weeks in the winter. All the left-overs get cleaned up by to the menagerie, thus extending their feed also. Not only do they love it but it is also healthy for them all.

Super hub, voted up, useful and interesting

regards Zsuzsy bee


cygnetbrown profile image

cygnetbrown 2 years ago from Alton, Missouri Author

Thank you Zsuzsy Bee! That's exactly right, what we don't use, our furry and feathered friends love!


ChristyWrites profile image

ChristyWrites 2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

It really makes sense to live this way and that's impressive you make such great use of those apples! I would love to have fresh apple juice too, without all those extras that companies add when they package it.


cygnetbrown profile image

cygnetbrown 2 years ago from Alton, Missouri Author

Yes, Christy Writes, Making apple juice is easy! Find a local source of apples and get a juicer. You're right, it is so much better than packaged, sterilized apple juice.


annart profile image

annart 2 years ago from SW England

I love apples and I live in the heart of apple orchards and cider production, Somerset. I often make apple sauce to go with pork and even more often my apple crumble is enjoyed by the whole family.

We had two mutually supporting apple trees in the garden in France; they gave us a good harvest most years, as well as some mistletoe and a hide-away for my granddaughter!

An apple orchard lasts for decades and a properly pruned tree can yield for just as long and more.

Apples are indeed versatile; one of the basic foods of England.

Great hub! Ann


cygnetbrown profile image

cygnetbrown 2 years ago from Alton, Missouri Author

Hi Ann,

You remind me of an apple tree that we had when I was a child. I remember that we used to play under it as though it were a play house.


teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 2 years ago

I just started eating an apple a day because of the health benefits. I love your message!


cygnetbrown profile image

cygnetbrown 2 years ago from Alton, Missouri Author

Thanks, teaches12345, I too believe in the benefits of eating apples every day. I knew a lot before about healthy things, but the more research I do, I realize how little I really do know. I think, as you know, the more you actually do what you know is more than simply knowing it.


mylindaelliott profile image

mylindaelliott 2 years ago from Louisiana

Apples are so good for people. An apple a day is really a true thing for people.


cygnetbrown profile image

cygnetbrown 2 years ago from Alton, Missouri Author

I agree, mylindaelliot! Thanks for your comment.


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 2 years ago from Dallas, Texas

I learned a lot from your article and watched the entire video on grafting. My Grand Dad grafted his pecan trees way back in the early 1920s. My Dad used to tell us about how it was done. Thanks to your info, I've changed my mind about trying to start trees from seed. I'll buy another apple tree this year.The drought has been so hard on the trees.

Interesting reading.


cygnetbrown profile image

cygnetbrown 2 years ago from Alton, Missouri Author

It's great to hear from you, Peg! There are permaculture techniques to improve a tree's survival rate during droughts. You should check them out. Eventually, I will be writing about them too!


ladyguitarpicker profile image

ladyguitarpicker 2 years ago from 3460NW 50 St Bell, Fl32619

Hi, I found your article very interesting. I have a lemon tree, persimmon, fig tree, but no apple tree. It just won't grow here, I guess not cold enough.


cygnetbrown profile image

cygnetbrown 2 years ago from Alton, Missouri Author

Awe, but here we don't have the lemon tree! I guess that means we just have to share, right?

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