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The Tompkins King Apple Tree

A pretty yellow/green apple striped with a bright rosy red blush, the Tompkins King apple tree has an excellent flavor profile and works well as a fresh eating apple and a baking apple. The yellow tinged flesh is crisp and tender, aromatic and slightly acidic. The apples themselves are large and firm, making them a perfect, handheld snack.

Red, yellow, and green apples, like the Tompkins King apple.

Growing a Tompkins King apple tree in your home orchard or garden plot will definitely increase your love of freshly picked apples. Not to mention, they will be a healthy addition to your daily diet.

History of the Tompkins King Apple Tree

The Tompkins King Apple, also known as the King Apple or the King of Tompkins County Apple, is believed to have originated in Jacksonville, NY. There is a disputing theory that the apple was brought to Jacksonville in Tompkins County from Warren County, NJ, in 1804.

While the parentage of the Tompkins King apple tree is not settled, everyone is in agreement that it’s a wonderful apple — the King of the apple orchard.

Characteristics of the Tompkins King Apple Tree

With pretty April blooms and an early harvest, the Tompkins King apple tree will add variety to your apple harvest. The King Apple is a spur-bearing fruit. It produces a heavy crop consistently every year. 

The King’s one drawback is that it puts out relatively poor root growth. Grafting a scion to more vigorous rootstock is the best way to keep this tree healthy, productive, and long-lived. 

A beneficial characteristic of the Tompkins King Apple is the fruit keeps in the refrigerator for several months. When stored properly you can have a harvest that lasts through most of the winter. 

Planting Zones

The Tompkins King apple tree is best grown in USDA Hardiness Zones ranging from zones 4 through 9. Versatile in growing regions, this apple is a vigorous producer and yields large tasty fruit.

Size and Spacing

Regularly grafted onto dwarf root stock, the King of Tompkins County will grow to a mature height between 8 and 16 feet depending on which rootstock is used.

If it is grafted onto M-7 rootstock it will most likely be on the larger size and grow between 12 and 16 feet.

If you desire something smaller, look for a tree grafted on M-26 rootstock. Those apple trees will grow between 8 and 12 feet, perfect for a patio, a small landscape plant, or an edible container garden.

Be sure to plant your King apple trees with enough room to grow, set roots, and soak up sunshine. Ample spacing is helpful at harvest time; it will also afford you room for ladders and other harvesting items.

Apple tree with red, yellow, and green colored apples.

Our beginner primer, How To Plant Apple Trees, is a great resource for getting your apple trees planted correctly and to encourage a bountiful harvest.

Pollination Partners

The Tompkins King apple tree is pollen sterile. It will not aid in the pollination of other apple trees in your orchard. 

Pollinators for the King apple tree should be from Pollination Group 3 and include: Northern Spy, Sweet 16, Gold Rush, and Prairie Fire.  

To increase your orchard’s ability to pollinate effectively, beekeeping has become a necessary hobby for home farmers. Bees are amazing pollinators and will increase your orchard’s yield exponentially.

Keeping bees not only provides excellent on-site pollination, they also reward you with beautiful golden honey at the end of the season that would pair perfectly with your freshly picked apples.

Tompkins King Apple Tree Care

Pruning Apple Trees
Man pruning apple tree in December.

Sunlight

  • Like all apple trees, the King Apple requires full sun, a minimum of 6 hours each day.
  • It is hardy to minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit.

Soil

  • Loves a loamy, well drained soil.
  • The best soil pH level is between 6.0-7.0.

Watering

  • Moist, well-drained soil is critical for a new tree to grow healthy and strong. 
  • When the tree is well established, water during times of prolonged drought.

Pruning

  • The King’s limbs tend to grow horizontally, creating many cross branches.
  • Pruning these cross branches to allow air circulation and sunlight into the center of your apple tree.
  • Keeping your tree well pruned will add longevity to the plant and improve the yield.
  • Prune away dead and diseased branches in the winter when the tree is dormant.
  • For the most complete pruning advice, visit our post on Pruning Apple Trees: The Home Grower’s Complete Guide.

Diseases & Care

  • The Tompkins King apple tree is susceptible to fireblight.
  • Knowing about Apple Tree Diseases and Care is critical to keeping your trees healthy and productive.

Pests

  • Pests are always an issue for fruit trees. Stay vigilant and watch for common pests like apple maggot and codling moths which can destroy your crop.
  • The best time to treat these pests is early summer when the insects are laying their eggs. Select from a variety of organic crop control pesticides; choosing one that works best for you and your garden.

Common Uses For The Tompkins King Apple

The King Apple is a great all round apple. It is a long keeper, will last for 2 to 3 months when stored properly. The fruits are large and heavy. The tree is a later ripener, so it will extend your harvest season. 

The tart and tangy flavor makes this yellow jewel versatile. It is delicious fresh from the tree. Perfect in salads and arranged on a cheese plate.  Select fruit that is firm and solid. 

The Tompkins Apple works well in all kinds of classic apple recipes. 

One of our new favorite recipes for fall is Delicious Caramel Apple Crumble. Apple Crumble is a simple go-to recipe to use up all those extra apples. It works particularly well with apples that are on the edge and not as appealing for eating raw.

We are confident you will love the oatmeal cookie crumble and sweet caramel topping. You can go all out and make every ingredient from scratch, or you can employ a few shortcuts to get your dessert on the table quick and easy. Either way, you are going to love this crumble.

A great snacking idea is our Healthy Apple Muffin Recipe. It’s healthy because it is made with whole wheat flour and maple syrup instead of all bleached white flour and processed sugar.

You need to give this apple muffin a try. It makes the perfect on-the-go breakfast fresh from the oven. It is also a great lunchbox treat as an alternative to a whole apple. You can freeze these tasty little apple gems and take one or two out as needed.

Healthy apple snacks are a staple in the home gardener’s kitchen. Our Deliciously Healthy Oven Baked Apple Chips are a quick and easy way to make the perfect apple snack.

They are crunchy and sweet, a great snack time combination. With apple chips in your cabinet, you will be able to have the same crunchy bite like potato chips without all the salt and fat.

Apple Pancakes
“Healthyish” Apple Pancakes (click for the recipe).

Health Benefits of Eating Apples

We have always known apples are a great alternative to snacks laden with sugar, fat, and white flour. High in vitamin C and fiber, apples are a perfect addition to any healthy eating regimen. By substituting one unhealthy snack each day with an apple, your body will function better and feel lighter.

To learn why apples are the best snack for your heart and your waistline, visit our post on the 10 Amazing Health Benefits of Apples.

Buying The Tompkins King Apple Tree

We prefer to use trusted nurseries when recommending fruit tree purchases. Nature Hills Nursery is our recommended purveyor of apple trees. They currently do not carry this particular tree, but check back often to see when they have one in stock. As an alternative, you may find one at your local nursery or farm stand. If they are a trusted vendor, you should take one of their King apple trees home to give this beauty a sunny spot in your garden or patio.

Where To Buy Tompkins King Apples

The Tompkins King Apples will mostly be found at your local U-pick farms, farm stands, and farmers markets. While this apple is delicious and desirable, it is not widely grown commercially.  

When you find a farmer that grows these apples, you will find an orchard friend. Be sure to buy several bushels since they will keep well and you can enjoy them long past the harvest season.

Fruit Facts / FAQs 

When is the best time of year to plant fruit trees?

Fall is the perfect time to plant new fruit trees. Planting in the fall allows your tree to put energy into growing its root system while the tree is dormant. When spring arrives, your tree will be well established and ready to put out leaves and grow stronger.

How many apple trees should I plant?

Apple trees, in general, require another apple tree to set a good fruit yield. While some are advertised as self-fertile, they tend to put out a meager crop of apples. For the best results, plant two or three pollination friendly apple trees within 50 feet of one another to encourage cross pollination. Keep in mind, the bloom time needs to overlap, since the flowers need to be open for the bees to carry the pollen from tree to tree.

How soon will my apple tree produce fruit?

Apple trees typically begin fruit production in their second or third year. The timing is determined by the soil conditions, hardiness zone, apple variety, and rootstock. If your tree does set fruit the first year, most growers will remove the budding apples to allow the tree to put its energy into growing the tree structure that first year. 

The Tompkins King Apple Tree

The Tompkins King apple tree is a time-tested variety that is easy to grow, relatively disease resistant, and produces a large, tasty apple that is great for eating fresh off the branch and holds up well when baking.

Our staff at Minnetonka Orchards, are committed to providing you with the best advice about purchasing, growing, and cooking beautiful fruit. Join our active group of orchard enthusiasts by signing up for our newsletter. You won’t want to miss any of the new varieties and recipes we uncover.

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