Sweet Sixteen Apple Tree- Zone 3
Characteristics of the tree
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Sweet Sixteen is an attractive apple; medium-sized and yellow in colour with red stripes. The skin is moderately thick. This apple is known in particular for its unique taste: sweet with an acidic hint, and incredibly full-flavoured. It is quite crunchy, and very juicy. The taste of this apple ranges from hints of cider, spices, anise, cherry, vanilla bourbon and nuttiness, to name just a few! The flavour is already good before the apple is completely ripe; at this point it has more tartness and the cherry flavour is more pronounced; but at full ripeness its taste is really amazing; on our table it’s the apple everyone reaches for first!
While it is a wonderful apple to eat fresh, it also gives excellent results when cooked. The taste is even more refined when the summer is not too hot. The fruit matures over a three week period in October, and will keep for about 4-5 months in a cool room.
The Sweet Sixteen apple tree is a vigorous grower, a spur-type bearer and hardy to zone 3b. It is susceptible to fire blight, but has not been noted as particularly susceptible to any other major disease. It is generally a reliable annual bearer.
The Sweet Sixteen apple can be traced back to the work of Dr. William H. Alderman. In 1936, at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, Dr. Alderman crossed the varieties Minnesota 447 (also known as Frostbite) and Northern Spy, to produce an apple tree that he named MN1593. In 1947, a series of tests on the MN1593 variety were carried out. This continued for 31 years until Sweet Sixteen was released to nurseries in 1978. Just as we are, Dr. Alderman was also promoting standard rootstock on apple trees when growing in northern areas. This is a photo of William Alderman (on the left) as he examines the apples in the university research centre. Republished with permission and much thanks from the Department of Horticulture at the University of Minnesota.
The apple trees we produce are grafted on standard-sized rootstock, so they are ‘full-sized’ apple trees (as opposed to dwarf or semi-dwarf). The life expectancy of this type of apple tree is around 100 years. The illustration shows different stages of its growth up until the age of 20 years (as one rarely plans a landscaping arrangement with a longer time period in mind). At 100 years old, the apple tree will be even larger than shown here – it can reach 7 m in height and spread over 9m – while the house might no longer exist!
You should note that this illustration is meant only to give a general indication of what you can expect, and the growth of your tree might look somewhat different. The development of a tree depends on the soil type, irrigation, fertilisation and climatic conditions. What we show here is based on our observation of observations of the growth of apple trees in zone 4, in rather poor soil. In zone 2, growth will probably be slower, while in a rich soil it would be faster.
All our apple trees are sold bare-root, without pots. They have been cultivated directly in our soil. Bare-root trees must be taken out of the ground and shipped during their period of dormancy, which is why we only ship trees in the spring. A big advantage with these kinds of trees, is that they take up very little space, and can therefore be easily shipped by mail all over Canada!
This photograph shows a 2-3-foot apple tree, just like one that you might receive. Depending on the height you choose at the time of purchase, the tree might be a little smaller (1-2 feet) or somewhat taller (3-5 feet.)
All our apple trees are grafted on standard-sized rootstock, which we grow ourselves at the nursery. Trees that are grafted on standard-sized rootstock will become full-sized apple trees (as opposed to dwarf, or semi-dwarf.) While the life expectancy of a dwarf apple tree is only about 20 years, full-sized apple trees such as those we propagate have a lifespan of around 100 years. We believe it is of the utmost importance to plant for future generations, which is one of the main reasons we prefer these kinds of trees.
Besides this, standard-sized apple trees also have many other qualities that set them above dwarf and semi-dwarf trees in our view. For example, their deep and well-developed root systems allow them to draw water from deep underground during periods of droughts. They are more vigorous and resilient, which in turn also makes them more disease-resistant. They are very hardy, and last but not least, much more productive!
To learn more about grafting and the role of rootstocks, see our article here!