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I live in an urban area, but have some space in the back for an apple tree. Last fall I picked up two trees on sale at the end of the season on a whim. They've been completely destroyed by rabbits and it's time to start thinking about another tree.

I am considering the following options:

  1. Self pollinating variety with more than 1 type of tree grafted to the root stock.
  2. Get a more established crab apple tree and graft apple scions to it.
  3. Get a single variety and hope the nearby trees* are enough to pollinate it. There are some other apple trees within a couple of hundred feet of my property.

I don't plan on spending the rest of my life here, so I'd like the shortest path towards a tree that will bear fruit.

What is my best bet?

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A larger caliper (larger-trunked) apple tree with spur-type growth habit will likely yield fruit sooner than the other options you've mentioned. Most commercially available apple trees will have been grafted onto a compatible root stock. Some of these root stocks will produce trees that fruit sooner - in particular, the dwarfing root stocks will cause a tree to produce fruit a couple of years sooner than a non-dwarfing root stock. You will probably have to pay a bit more for one of these trees because of the extra care involved in their propagation, but if speed is your goal, it is probably worth it in the long run.

If you can find out what kind of apple trees are growing nearby, that information will enable you to discover 1.) what grows well in your area already and 2.) which types of apples are available for cross pollination of the variety you decide to try. Not all apples are able to cross pollinate other apple trees, though, so be sure to do the research before you pick your next tree.

The grafted multi-fruit trees are okay, but to me they never seem to do as well as a well chosen single-variety tree. Personally, I'd stick with a single variety dwarf or semi-dwarf spur-type apple tree compatible with whatever you have in the neighborhood.

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    The grafted multi fruit trees do have problems. Without proper pruning one type is usually more vigorous and out grows the rest. – kevinsky Mar 26 '14 at 10:59
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    Anecdotally, I've found that in my suburban neighborhood where there are few apple trees but may crab apples, my neighbors and I have no problem with pollination on singly-planted apple trees. – michelle Mar 26 '14 at 13:10
  • That should have been *many crab apples. Also, once you get your new apple tree or trees in, I've found that the inexpensive plastic spiral tree protectors do a great job of preventing bunny damage, and they are easy to install and remove. Highly recommend! – michelle Mar 27 '14 at 19:05

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