Apples have been a part of history and culture for thousands of years, from the Greeks' Zeus receiving golden apples to Homer mentioning the popular fruit in his epic "The Odyssey." With a home orchard, you can step out on a crisp fall morning and pluck a fresh apple right from the tree. Apples are fairly easy to grow, but choosing the right variety and giving it proper attention will make your harvest more bountiful.
Choosing Your Tree
All commercially sold apple trees consist of two parts grafted together. The top portion, which bears fruit, is grafted onto a rootstock, which determines the tree's size. You can choose a dwarf, semi-dwarf or standard-sized tree. Also select a cultivar resistant to typical diseases that affect apple trees, like fire blight, apple scab and cedar apple rust. According to the Ohio State University Extension, some common disease-resistant cultivars include Jonafree, Williams' Pride, Enterprise, Goldrush, Liberty, Redfree and Pristine.
Apple trees cannot self-pollinate or pollinate flowers of the same variety. You'll need at least two varieties of apple trees planted together in order to harvest fruit. The key is to choose varieties with bloom dates that overlap. According to North Carolina State University Extension, never use Stayman, Winesap, Jonagold or Mutsu as pollinators, because they produce sterile pollen. But you can use other varieties to pollinate them. Do not spray insecticides near your trees when they are blooming; you may kill the bees that are vital to pollination.
Soil and Location
Apple trees are tolerant of many soils, as long as the pH is about 6.5. Do not plant your trees in heavy clay or poorly drained soils, and avoid low spots because of possible standing water. Never plant in a "frost pocket," an area where cold air settles. The low temperatures will kill the apple blossoms or young fruit. Select a high site with a slope to direct cold air away from your trees.
Removing weeds and grass from around young apple trees will reduce competition for soil nutrients and moisture, encourage vigorous tree growth, and increase fruit size, according to the NCSU Extension, as well as minimize damage from pine and meadow voles, and other rodents.
Using good sanitation practices will help control pests and diseases. According to NCSU Extension, cut out all dead or diseased wood, remove fallen apples and clear leaves and debris away from your trees. When pruning, disinfect tools with a solution of 10 percent bleach or Lysol and 90 percent water.