I'd like an apple tree in my yard. I am looking at a website from UC Davis (http://homeorchard.ucdavis.edu/general-site.html) and it states that:
"Warmer sites should be reserved for early blooming species, such as almonds, apricots, Japanese plums, or hardy citrus. Colder locations are more appropriate for apples, pears, quince, European plums, berries, and other late blooming species."
I live in a very warm area. If I want an apple tree I will have to carefully choose my planting site and variety. Another potential issue is that many apple trees require pollination from another apple tree which blooms at the same time. This is an important factor in my decision of which variety to plant.
On the UC Davis site is a very helpful document (at http://homeorchard.ucdavis.edu/varieties.pdf) which explains some of the fruits that are available to the home orchardist. One element I especially appreciate is the description of "spur type varieties". This is a short list of some varieties that are naturally dwarfing due to different genetic makeup. The document also lists a few apples which do not require as much cold weather. These trees, grown in hot Southern California, would likely be my best bet. They are: Anna, Beverly Hills, Dorsett Golden, Einshemer, Gordon, and Tropical Beauty.
My next stop was The Arbor Day Foundation website at www.arborday.org. Here I typed in my zip code and discovered that I am in zone 9! That means lots of hot weather. A quick search for "apple" trees did not yield any trees higher than zone 8. I may pick out zone 8 trees and create a microclimate by placing it very close to other fruit trees. If I do that, the temperature inside the trees will be less than if I only plant one tree. The listings of apple trees also state that they are not drought tolerant. I will need to figure out how to get the trees plenty of water without losing too much to evaporation. I also don't want the soil to be waterlogged, either. Growing trees close together to shade the ground and using a mulch will probably be my best bet. Also having healthy soil will help water get to where it needs to be.
I did not find the best apple tree for me today. I will keep looking since there are so many cultivers out there that I am sure there is something for me. I can plant some of the varieties I have found, but it will take lots of planning and work. I might go with a couple of the apple trees that the UC Davis website lists as being appropriate for Southern California.
Another thing to consider: Do I really need an apple tree? There are plenty of other options. Should I spend extra time, resources, and space to make this work? Something else can be planted in that spot. This is certainly a topic that demands more thought. Part of permaculture and biodynamic gardening is choosing the right plant for the space, not necessarily forcing a plant to grow where it isn't fit to. However, using permaculture and understanding microclimate can allow a person to choose the best location if the person really wants that plant.