Plant to Pick: KinderKrisp Apple

By Debbie Lonnee, originally appeared in Northern Gardener Magazine

May 2020

ApplesWe are not far away from apple season and what a wonderful time of year it is!  Many northern gardeners enjoy growing their own fruit and vegetables and here is a new apple that may appeal to a lot of gardeners.  

‘KinderKrisp’ apple was introduced just a few short years ago and has become wildly popular with homeowners that like to grow a few fruit trees in the backyard.  It was developed by David MacGregor of Fairhaven Farms, which is in Wright County, Minnesota. 

One of its parents is the famous U of MN variety ‘Honeycrisp’, which we all know and love.  KinderKrisp is an open pollinated seedling out of Honeycrisp and the other parent is unknown but thought to perhaps be something in the crabapple (edible) family.  

Ripening in late August to early September (great for kids heading back to school) one really nice attribute of this variety is that the fruit is smaller in size than a Honeycrisp, and that is great for lunch bags and snacking.  It is a wonderful fresh eating apple, and once you bite into one, the flavor will blow you away.  It may remind you a bit of the newer SweeTango® apple that recently was introduced by the U of MN but is not available for homeowners to grow.  While it is difficult to describe flavor, the flesh is firm and crisp and the taste is sweet.  Besides fresh eating, it can be used for cooking, making apple cider or applesauce. 

Apple trees are propagated via grafting or budding.  Hardy to zone 3, please be aware of the understock of this apple when you are purchasing a tree.  In colder areas of the state, stick with a “standard” understock (some growers use Malus antonovka or Malus ‘Dolgo’).  When grafted onto a standard, the tree will reach its natural mature height which in the case of KinderKrisp can vary across the state.  In warmer areas of the state, you may be able to find it grafted onto some type of dwarfing stock – one commonly used dwarf understock is Malling #7 (also known as EMLA 7) which will hold down the size of the tree to about 60% of the size of a standard tree.  (Dwarf trees are easier to prune and maintain, it’s easier to pick the fruit and they fit into smaller garden spaces).  Dwarf apples will start bearing fruit 2-3 years after planting.  Standard trees will take up to 8 years to become fruit bearing. 

To grow apple trees in Minnesota, you must have two separate varieties that pollinate each other.  You may use any other hardy apple, edible crabapple or even ornamental crabapple for cross pollination.  Apples are insect pollinated – the bees and flies carry the pollen from one tree to the next.  

Growing fruit trees requires some gardening dedication.  They need full sun (a minimum of 6-8 hours of direct sunlight per day) and spacing so that there is good air circulation which is helpful for disease control.  Mulch around the base of your plant with a natural wood mulch and keep that weed whip away from the trunk!  Use tree wrap in autumn to keep young trees from having their bark split.  And, critter control is essential – some type of wire around the trunk at the base will help keep animals from girdling the trunk.  Deer control is a whole separate article!  There are insects and diseases that affect apples – there are both organic and inorganic controls depending on your preferences.  If you don’t do anything to control insects and diseases, you will have some wormy and possible disformed apples.  The University of Minnesota Extension site has an excellent fact sheet called Growing Apples in the Home Garden.  

You’ll find KinderKrisp sold in garden centers typically growing in seven gallon pots or larger.  Some garden centers even sell bareroot plants directly to homeowners in early spring.