Apple trees not only provide a home gardener with delicious, nutritious fruit, but they are also an attractive addition to the home landscape, according to Gary Gao, a horticulturist with Ohio State University. Apple trees cannot be planted and ignored, Mr. Gao warns. Instead, pay careful attention to selecting the right cultivars for your climate as well as how to grow them. Proper care of your apple tree is crucial to the production of healthy, ripe apples.
Choose the Right Cultivar
Choose the right type of tree for your location and for how you are going to use the apples. It won't be too difficult to find a tree that works for your climate--most local garden centers will only carry apple trees that will grow in the local growing zone--but also consider the type of apples you wish to grow. Some trees produce sweet fruit perfect for eating right off the tree, such as Fuji apples, while others produce fruit that is best used in baking, like the popular Granny Smith variety. Finally, choose a cultivar that is known to be pest and disease resistant for best results, such as Goldrush or Redfree.
Choose the Right Location
All apple trees grow best in full sunlight. Plant your apple tree in a location where it will receive morning sun, which will dry the dew quickly off the leaves and prevent fungal diseases such as leaf spot from developing. The planting location should also be roomy and fairly protected from hard spring freezes.
Apple trees thrive in sandy loam soil, but will grow in sandy clay and other types of soil as well. The soil must have good drainage, however, or the fruit will not develop properly. Finally, test the pH level of your soil before planting the tree. It should be right around 6.5.
Plant It Properly
Plant apple trees in early spring. Keep the roots of the tree wet until you can plant it by wrapping them in a wet towel or covering them with a moist layer of loose soil. In addition, soak the tree's roots in a bucket of water for at least a half hour before planting.
Plant the tree in a hole wide enough to accommodate the root ball and at a depth where the bud union sits about 3 inches above the ground. Back fill the hole halfway with soil, then add 2 gallons of water. Let the water soak into the ground, which will settle the soil around the roots of the plant and get rid of any air holes.
Maintain the Tree
Water apple trees generously, especially newly planted trees, which need 2 to 3 gallons of water every 2 weeks. Add a 3-inch layer of mulch around the tree (but not touching the trunk) to stifle weed growth and maintain the moisture in the soil. Prune established trees so that there are no branches with angles less than 45 degrees. Prune and fertilize apple trees in early spring each year. Use a 10-6-4 fertilizer and follow the application instructions on the label as per the size and age of your tree. Thin the fruit when the apples are about an inch big so that there are 3-4 inches of space between each apple.