Apple trees are a popular choice for any home garden. This popular fruit is grown in all 50 states, according to the University of Illinois, and for good reason. Apples are tasty, nutritious, and relatively easy to grow. Apple trees are also attractive, with masses of white blooms that appear in the spring. Most home gardeners choose to grow a dwarf cultivar due to space limitations.
Apple trees range widely in species and cultivar. It is important for the home gardener to choose the type of apple that is best for that particular environment. Some apples are much cold-hardier than others (Liberty, for example), and will grow in the colder U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) growing zones. Others, such as the popular Enterprise, are disease-resistant, making them an excellent choice for beginning home gardener.
Apple trees thrive in rich, well-draining soil and a location that is exposed to full sunlight. Care should be taken to avoid planting an apple tree near a fence, building or other structure that may cast shade on the tree, or in a depression where freezing air might become trapped. Proper air circulation is critical to apple trees, according to North Carolina State University. Trees should be spaced at least 6 feet apart from each other, and sometimes more, depending on the variety. A hill or slope is ideal as it will allow cold air to drain away from the tree.
Apple trees do not produce fruit right away. It takes up to five years for a tree to start producing apples, so the home gardener must be patient. It is also important to note that apple trees are not self-pollinating. Apple trees should be planted in pairs, according to North Carolina State University, and the home gardener should be sure to choose two different varieties that are compatible as cross-pollinators.
Apple trees often suffer from fungal diseases such as powdery mildew or apple scab, and insect pests such as aphids. A program of systematic fungicide applications can reduce the incidences of fungal diseases. In addition, home gardeners should not let plant debris sit on the ground, as many of the fungi can overwinter in the soil. Insecticides can be used to control insect infestations, but do not use them near bees in the spring. Bees are the pollinators of apple trees.
Many home gardeners choose to plant companion plants around their apple trees. These plants are beneficial in some way to the tree. Chives, for example, help prevent apple scab. Planting clover around an apple tree will attract the predators that eat the woolly aphid. Garlic is another good choice to plant near apple trees as it repels deer, aphids and borer insects.