Experts reveal the most sustainable crop you can grow in your backyard

According to grow your own experts, the humble apple is top of the crops for backyard gardeners when it comes to food security and sustainability

ripe apples growing on a tree
(Image credit: Mike Powles/Getty Images)

Early fall is one of the key times of year for picking apples, and whether you're already growing them in your own yard or are thinking of adding one of these fruit trees to your space, experts advise you'll be making a great choice. 

Apples are one of the most sustainable crops you can grow, says organic gardening expert Marissa Ames at Mother Earth News. Modern techniques for growing organic apples such as moth traps, fruit barriers, and organic insecticides, like bacterial toxins that only target caterpillars, are helping turn this humble fruit into a possible lifesaver when it comes to fears over food security.

Gala apples growing on a tree

(Image credit: Thompson & Morgan)

What makes apples such a special homegrown crop? 

'Apples’ storability, their versatility for recipes, and the long lives of the trees themselves place the fruit at the top of a list of sustainable fruit crops for food security,' says Marissa. 

There’s lots of advice for how to harvest apples as well as storing apples correctly so you can get the most from your crop. And let's not forget there are plenty of easy ways to use them in preserves and cooking – and not just good old apple pie.

Joelle Kurczodyna, nutritional therapy practitioner, gardening expert and founder of From Scratch Farmstead, agrees and adds that growing interest in organic food is also behind the new interest in this traditional crop. 

'I think one of the big reasons apples are growing in popularity for the home gardener is because more and more people are becoming educated on where their food is coming from and are therefore interested in eating healthy non-sprayed, organically grown produce,' says Joelle. 

Braeburn apples growing on a tree

(Image credit: Suttons)

What's best for your zone?

Many different types of apples can be grown in the United States, but a few stand out as the best for each hardiness zone.

'For those in the Northeast, Honeycrisp apples are a great choice because they are hardy and have a sweet flavor,' says Lindsey Hyland, gardening expert at Urban Organic Yield

'In the Midwest, Granny Smith apples grow well and are perfect for making pies. Braeburn apples are a good option for those living in the Southwest of the US because they also resist pests and diseases. 

'Finally, those in the Northwest US should choose Royal Gala apples, which thrive in cooler climates.'

Granny Smith apples growing on a tree

(Image credit: Thompson & Morgan)

Bountiful benefits

As well as being easy to care for and less susceptible to pests than softer fruits such as gooseberries and raspberries, apple trees are a great backyard tree because they are relatively small and have a long blooming period, says Lindsay. 

Apples also produce a lot of fruit, which can be helpful if you're trying to create a wildlife garden

In addition, learning how to prune apple trees isn't too complicated, and they are resistant to most pests and diseases – yet more reasons why they’re a great choice for home gardeners.

Jayne Dowle
Freelance writer

Jayne Dowle is an award-winning gardening, homes and property writer who writes for publications including Sunday Times Home, Times Bricks & Mortar, Grand Designs, House Beautiful and The Spectator. She was awarded the Garden Journalist of the Year accolade at the Property Press Awards in 2021.