Select a disease-resistant apple variety that thrives in your hardiness zone and micro-climate. Choose a small, one-year-old sapling with a good root system. Pick a tree that is no more than 3 feet tall, recommends the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, and avoid trees that are wilted and shriveled.
Choose a deep, well-drained planting location for your apple tree. Pick a warm, sunny location that receives at least 8 to 10 hours of direct sunlight each day. Ensure that the location has good air circulation.
Test the soils to ensure that the location has the appropriate pH level near 6.5. Purchase a soil test. Take the soil sample from 6 to 8 feet below the planting surface to ensure accurate readings. Follow the directions closely, and wear gloves to avoid contaminating the test. Adjust the soils according to the test readings, or select another planting location.
Plant your apple tree in the early spring, just after the final frost. Soak the roots of the tree for about an hour prior to planting to revitalize the system. Dig a hole that is as deep as and slightly wider than the spread of the root system. Fill the hole with approximately 2 gallons of water, recommends the Ohio State University Extension, and allow the water to rest.
Position the apple tree in the center of the hole, and fill the hole with soil. Make sure that the graft union line rests about 2 to 3 inches above the planting surface, explains the Ohio State University Extension.
Begin training your apple tree immediately after planting. Prune back the tree to about 28 inches in height using sharp, sterile pruning shears. Remove any damaged or dying branches and stems.
Promote strong crotch angles so that the tree can support the weight of its developing apples by applying clothes pins to the lower branches. Attach the pins between the trunk and branch so that the branch grows outward and upward, as explained by Texas A&M AgriLife Extension.
Irrigate your apple tree thoroughly immediately after planting and throughout the growing season. Irrigate the apple tree approximately every two to three weeks with 1 to 2 gallons of water. Adjust the irrigation levels according to the rainfall and drought conditions.
Apply a 2-to-3-inch layer of mulch around the diameter of your apple tree to protect it from weeds and maintain consistent moisture levels. Keep the mulch about a foot away from the tree’s trunk to prevent root rot. Pull any weeds by hand as they appear. Make sure to remove the roots of the weeds to prevent regrowth.
Keep the planting area free of debris and defoliation to reduce the potential of disease and pest infestations. Treat the apple tree at least once each year with a fungicidal and insecticidal treatment to fight against disease and protect apple production.
Feed your apple tree once each year in the early spring. Use a well-balanced, slow-release fertilizer such as a 12-12-12 or 10-10-10 combination. Distribute the fertilizer evenly under the canopy of the tree, but keep the feed at least a foot away from the trunk of the tree to prevent root burn. Irrigate the feed thoroughly into the soil.