Grow Your Own Apple Tree
What is the key to successfully growing apples? To produce beautiful, blemish-free apples in a backyard setting may be challenging. The temperature extremes, high humidity, and insects and diseases might make it difficult to have good fruit like that bought in a grocery store. But selecting the right apple cultivar and rootstock, locating and preparing the site for planting, right pruning, watering, fertilizing, and spraying will greatly enhance the appearance and flavor of apples grown at home.
The apples do best in full sun and moist, well-drained soil. They do not grow well where there is standing water for extended periods. That is why it is better to avoid planting them in low or wet spots, although the apple trees thrive in a wide variety of soils.
How Many to Plant
Leave the Distance Between the Trees
The apple trees can be planted any time from spring to fall. There are more than 7,000 varieties of apples, because each is different, it is better to do a research on the best selections for your area. The local garden center should help you choose better ones. In most cases, the fruit from two apple trees will be more than sufficient to supply a family of four. In most cases, two different cultivars are needed to ensure adequate pollination. After harvest, it is not that easy to store a great quantity of fruit in a home refrigerator, unless you have a well prepared fruit storage. Most apple cultivars will quickly deteriorate without adequate cold storage below 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
If you want to continue to produce quality fruit over the course of many years, make sure to treat them with respect. If you see an apple fallen from the tree to the ground, pick it up and dispose of it immediately. Prune damaged limbs and cut away any black spots on the bark that has begun to push back inward into the tree. Pluck an apple off and throw it away, if you see that it has been attacked by insects. The trees will produce better tasting fruit, if they are kept healthy and free from ravages of insects or disease.
Late winter or early spring is the best time to start pruning apples, while the trees are dormant. Remove any branches that have died, as well as shoots that pop up around the tree’s roots and the fast-growing shoots called water sprouts that grow vertically out of the branches. If the tree starts to develop a second, competing central leader, remove the competing branch. This will help keep your tree healthy and stable. Sunlight penetration and air movement are essential for drying the tree off, which will help prevent disease. Remove any diseased or insect-infected fruit or branches.
Planting an Apple Tree
Planting is Fun!
- Once you brought an apple tree home, keep it in a cool, shaded area. Before planting, soak the tree’s root ball in water for 30 minutes to help soften up the roots and soil.
- While the tree is soaking, begin digging a hole approximately twice the diameter of the root system, and about a foot deeper.
- When the hole you have is approximately right, spread out the roots in the hole and check the level of the “bud union.” The goal will be to have the bud union raised about 2” above ground level. The bud union is where the scion meets the rootstock as a result of drafting.
- Apply water as you fill the hole back with soil, to remove air pockets, and add soil at the same time.
It is hard to be patient when you have only one chance a year to set fruit on your trees. But once you get them going, you’ll have many, many years of reaping the rewards.