Gala Apple Tree: Overview + Full Planting & Care Guide

One of the most pleasurable moments a gardener can experience is harvesting produce and picking fruit from their own garden. The taste is incomparable to anything at a supermarket, and it is always a great source of pride to see an abundance of fruit, and to share these with family, friends, and neighbors.

Gala apples are super easy to grow, and are ideal for beginners, right through to experienced gardeners. They are suited to almost every climate in the US, and have culinary applications which will continue to surprise and delight gardners.

This article will give you a full run-down on tree overview, as well as a guide to planting and aftercare so that you too can enjoy this immensely popular and delicious apple variety.

Gala Apple Tree at a Glance

Gala Apple TreeFacts
Mature Tree Size20 – 25 foot
Best for Grow ZonesZones from 5 – 9
Growth Rate10 – 25 inches per year
Light RequirementsFull sun (min. 6 hours)
Watering NeedsMoist but well-drained soil
FertilizationUsually not needed, otherwise a balanced organic fertilizer with potassium and calcium
PollinationPartially self-pollinating
Bloom TimeSpring
Fruit Size3-inch diameter
Fruit TasteCrisp with a floral, creamy, and sweet taste
Harvest TimeLate summer to autumn 
Years To Produce2 – 5 years
Common PestsCodling moth, mites & aphids
Possible DiseasesFire blight and mildew
Average Life Span35 – 100 years

Gala Apple Tree Size

Generally, Gala apples will grow between 20 and 25 feet in height and width. These trees are highly suited to shaping and can be pruned and trained into the most fantastic shapes.

Gala Apple Tree Appearance

Exhibiting the classing arching, cascading look, Galas fit the bill of a great apple tree. Left to grow wild, they will also hang low with heavy fruit, and resemble the gentle folding over like willow trees. Leaves are small, glossy and attractive.

Gala Apple Tree Bloom Time & Appearance

Bloom time for Gala apples is earlier than many other apple varieties and begins in mid-spring, with wonderful red buds which unfold to soft pink to white flowers.

Gala Apple Tree Growth Rate

Although highly dependent on factors such as sunlight, health of rootstock, pests, disease, and nutrition, most Gala apples will grow at a rate of 15 – 20 inches per year, with the growth rate decreasing once trees reach maturity.

Dwarf Gala Apple Tree

This variety does exceptionally well in gardens with limited space. Dwarf varieties also mature faster and produce fruit sooner, and many will bear fruit in as little as 3 years.

Gala Apple Tree Varieties

The calla has been called a royal variety, not just because Queen Elizabeth II made it one of her favorites! There have been many cultivars produced from the original Gala over the years, and some of the most well-loved include;

  • Royal Gala
  • Sansa
  • Kanzi
  • Reubens

Gala Apple Tree Pollination

While described as a partially self-pollinating apple, for maximum and reliable fruit production, the Gala should be accompanied by another early flowering apple tree like Granny Smith, Fuji or crap apple.

Brief intro

Developed in New Zealand, a country that is renowned for producing some of the world’s best quality apples, pears, and stone fruit, the Gala is the result of breeding between some of the most historically important varieties such as Cox’s Orange Pippin, Golden Delicious and Kidd’s Orange Red.

Are Gala Apple Trees Self-Pollinating?

Yes, Gala trees do self-pollinate – however – self-pollination varies greatly, and there is no guarantee you will receive a good crop. To ensure consistent quality and quantity of fruits, planting in an area where other apple trees are present or planting another variety of apple nearby will ensure that you have covered all the bases.

What Trees Pollinate a Gala Apple Tree?

Technically, any apple tree is compatible to pollinate another, provided they are not the same cultivar. Galas should not pollinate another Gala, Fuji apples should not pollinate another Fuji, and so on. What’s important to keep in mind is that you will want to select trees that bloom at the same time, to ensure cross-pollination is effective. 

Trees which bloom early, just as the Gala, include Granny Smith, Honeycrisp, Jonathan, Fuji, Lady, as well as Red & Golden Delicious varieties.

Can a Gala Apple Tree Pollinate Another Gala Apple Tree?

Yes, Gala apple trees can pollinate other Gala apple trees, but this is not advised. What apple trees need is genetic variety, and this can only be achieved by cross-pollination from varieties that are, yep, genetically different. Think about the old saying ‘variety is the spice of life’; indeed, variety in fruit trees, like elsewhere in nature, creates a healthy and delicious bounty.

How Long Does It Take for a Gala Apple Tree To Produce Fruit?

Usually, Gala apple trees will start to produce fruit around 2 to 5 years after planting, although this is very dependent on a number of factors. If trees are healthy, meaning they have received lots of direct sun, have been watered correctly, and have all the nutrients they need, they will begin to produce at the start of this time spectrum.

Alternatively, if trees have experienced stress through pests, disease, lack of nutrients, drought, or excessive watering, it will take longer to reach maturity. 

Gala Apple Tree Yields

Backyard growers should expect around 80 – 250 fruit per season, keeping in mind the above concerns regarding a tree’s health, and considering an unhealthy tree as a low-yielding tree.

Yields can also vary significantly on either side of these figures, and just as some years are dry and others are wet, the same fruit tree may produce abundantly for some years, while others may hardly be any apples at all.

What Are Gala Apples Good For?

Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty, once you have your first, very own apples, what will you do with them? Galas are highly versatile, and are well suited to both sweet and savory dishes.

While the obvious answer might be pastries such as a traditional German strudel, why not get creative and try recipes like this sausage and apple casserole, apple guacamole, your very own applesauce, or simply just good old-fashioned air-dried apple rings.

Gala vs. Fuji

The two biggest differences between these two varieties is taste, and growing season. While Galas are purely sweet, Fuji apples are crisper, more sugary, and have a slightly tart endnote to them. Galas are harvested at the beginning of September, while Fuji apples are harvested at the end of October, also making these the prime times to purchase seasonal and delicious fruit.

Really, these two can be used interchangeably; however, it is important to note that Fuji apples will not break down as much as Galas, and so are less suited to applesauce, or recipes that call for smooth, creamy textures.

Can You Plant Gala Apple Seeds?

Absolutely! Growing Gala apple seeds from scratch can be a rewarding experience both for gardeners and whole families. It is important to remember that growing an apple tree from seed is a long journey, and it may take a decade to see the fruits of your labor (literally). Also, because of cross-pollination and the lack of grafting, there is also no guarantee that the Galas you end up with will look or taste like Galas at all!  

Gala Apple Tree Growing Zone

The ‘optimal’ growing zones for Galas are roughly zones 5 – 9, since they do exceptionally well in those areas which are neither too hot nor too cold. However, there are reports that Galas are successfully grown in zones 4 – 10.

Gala Apple Tree Spacing

Most fruit trees can be successfully pruned and shaped to fit even the tightest spaces, and there are some stunning examples of even living fences, created from espaliered apple trees, planted only about two feet apart.

If you are not planning on doing too much pruning, and letting your tree reach its potential, be prepared to space trees around 15 feet apart.

How To Plant a Gala Apple Tree

Firstly, you will want to make sure that your soil has the right pH level for Galas, around 6.0. Most garden soils will already be well-suited, but it’s always a good idea to double check and buy an inexpensive soil testing kit. If soil is too acidic (below 6.0), add wood ash, dolomite or calcium carbonate into the designated dug hole before planting. If the soil is too alkaline, add sulfur during planting.

Be sure to select the highest site you can find, as low-lying frost may damage apple blossoms, and greatly decrease yields. Sites with full sunshine for at least 6 hours or more whenever possible are also key for growing healthy Gala apple trees.

When digging the selected spot, be sure to dig twice the size of the root ball, and around 13 inches deeper, this ensures soil is not too compacted, and roots have space to expand easily. Keeping tree roots submerged in water for two hours before planting is a good way to avoid roots drying out.

Dug-out soil can be mixed with organic compost and slowly added back into the hole, layering slowly and compacting slightly, making sure that all roots are covered, leaving no air pockets.

Gala Apple Tree Care

Brief intro

Caring for your Gala apple tree is very straightforward, and in most cases, nothing else except for some watering and pruning once to twice a year is required.

Light Requirements

A minimum of 6 hours of light is recommended for all apple trees, and more if possible.

Watering Needs

Galas enjoy moist, well-drained soil – too much watering can promote the growth of fungus, which can be fatal for trees. A good rule of thumb is to water only when the top 2 ½ inches of soil are dry, or roughly once to twice a week. 

Fertilization

If the pH levels of soil around the tree continue at around 6.0, then no fertilizer is necessary; however organic, homemade compost once a month is beneficial to all garden plants and trees.

Pest & Disease Control

Healthy trees are rarely attacked by pests or infected with disease, although sometimes these things are unavoidable. Most importantly, never apply pesticides or fungicides during blooming, as this has incredibly destructive effects on those pollinators which give you all that wonderful fruit. Wait until blossoms are finished, to apply organic pesticides or fungicides if necessary

Pruning

Although it can be a painful thing to trim away the living branches from a beloved tree, the truth is, pruning makes trees healthier, grow more vigorously, and produce more fruit. Pruning should ideally be completed in fall when the tree has lost all of its leaves, and has entered dormancy. Alternatively, before blossoms appear, pruning can also be carried out during early spring.

Where To Buy a Gala Apple Tree

Thankfully, the popularity of Gala trees in the US means that rootstock is available in most places, and when it is not, there are companies that ship all over America from late fall to early spring, when saplings are dormant.

Conclusion

Growing your own Gala apple tree can be an incredibly satisfying experience. With very little effort and starting costs, you need a little patience, and before you know it, you are picking that first, sweet apple off your very own tree.

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