Apple tree blossoms
image by Tambako/Flickr.com
Apple trees are a beautiful sight in your garden or yard. Watching the leaves slowly begin to appear in spring followed by the breathtaking blooms that soon will become delicious and tasty fruits is a very gratifying and enjoyable experience. However, you must care for your apple tree on a regular basis. Doing a few tasks will help maintain a healthy and productive apple tree for years to come. Reap the rewards of your work each year with a harvest of fresh-picked apples that beat any store-bought ones.
Provide adequate water to your newly planted apple tree. Supply 5 gallons of water per week during the first few years to aid in developing a good root system. Continue watering in subsequent growing seasons only if rainfall is less than 1 inch per week.
Add 3-4 inches of mulch using a shovel. Do this in a circle surrounding the apple tree trunk extending out 3 feet from the center. Leave a minimum of 2 inches between the apple tree trunk and the mulch.
Rake the mulch yearly and replace with new mulch as needed. Mulching your apple tree helps maintain moisture in the soil and prevents weeds from growing.
Yearly pruning should be done in March. Young apple trees must be trained to have a strong framework of scaffold branches to permit the tree years of bearing heavy fruits. Learn more about precise pruning techniques for young and mature apple trees from any of the references or resources listed.
Apply yearly fertilizer to the apple tree. This amount varies depending on the condition, yearly growth and age of the apple tree. A basic rule is to supply 1 pound of 10-10-10 fertilizer for the first year, 2 pounds the second year, 3 pounds the third year and up to 5 or 6 pounds for a mature apple tree. Another way to figure this amount is to apply ½ pound for each inch of the apple tree trunk's diameter.
Add the fertilizer after the last snow, but prior to the growth period. Place the fertilizer around the tree in the drip line area (this is the area below the outer branches that creates a circle around the apple tree). Do not apply any within 6 inches of the trunk.
Insert a mousetrap prior to winter to protect the trunk from mice, if this is a problem in your area. Remove this during the summer months. Another option is to paint the trunk of the apple tree with white interior paint and enclose the trunk with an 18-inch band of galvanized hardware cloth.
Contact your local horticultural department or county extension office for detailed information on identifying and controlling insect or fungus problems, which typically do not occur until trees are bearing fruits. Effective measures will vary depending on the specific type of problem encountered.
Thin the crop of apples to prevent damage to the branches and to produce a heavier crop. Wait until apples are dime-size. Use a sharp knife to remove all apples in clusters except one. Remove enough to leave a spacing of 4--6 inches in between apples.