How to Grow Apple Trees

Overview

You need a bit of education before growing apple trees. First, to get fruit, you'll need more than one apple tree type because, as far as pollination is concerned, any given apple tree is not compatible with its own kind. Choose varieties that bloom at the same time so cross-pollination occurs. Besides needing more than one tree variety, apple-tree growing means attending to diseases and pests.

Step 1

Visit your nursery or local extension office to find out what diseases and pests afflict apple trees in your area. Learn the symptoms and treatments.

Step 2

Choose an appropriate cultivar, considering disease resistance.

Step 3

Choose the planting site. Apple trees need full sun, good soil drainage and shouldn't be crowded together. Don't plant in valleys. Don't plant near cedars.

Step 4

Submit a soil sample for testing through your local extension office. The test will suggest the appropriate fertilizer. Test annually.

Step 5

Obtain the whips, 1-year-old trees with bare roots. Don't let the roots dry out.

Step 6

Soak the whip's roots for a half hour before planting.

Step 7

Dip a hole large enough for the roots, putting the top soil in one pile, the subsoil in another.

Step 8

Put the whip in the hole, spreading out the roots.

Step 9

Add the top soil to the hole, holding the tree so the graft point is at least 2 inches above the ground.

Step 10

Add subsoil, stopping before the hole is completely filled.

Step 11

Add 2 gallons of water to the hole.

Step 12

Finish filling in the hole with soil.

Step 13

Spread mulch 2 to 3 inches deep over the area where the roots are spread, keeping the mulch from touching the tree trunk.

Step 14

Prune the whip back to about 2 feet tall.

Step 15

Weed 12 inches in all directions from the trunk.

Step 16

Water every two to three weeks, giving each tree about 2 to 3 gallons.

Step 17

As the growing season progresses, remove branches that aren't at least 18 inches from the ground.

Step 18

Attach clothes pins to 4- to 6-inch-long branches to train their crotch angle to be greater than 45 degrees from the trunk.

Step 19

Remove clothes pins after the first season.

Step 20

Fertilize annually in the spring. If using 10-10-10, start with 1 lb. per tree in the first year, increasing 1 lb. each year until you reach 6 lbs., using that much thereafter.

Step 21

Remove branches after the first growing season that appear below the lowest lateral branch.

Step 22

Prune the tree so that lower branches are not shaded by upper branches. Tree growth should taper with height to form a pyramid shape, with one central branch creating the tip.

Step 23

Thin fruit clusters when apples are about the size of a marble so that apples are 4 to 6 inches apart.

Step 24

Check for disease and pests when watering. Apply pesticide or disease treatment according to directions.

Step 25

Pick fruit when it is ripe.

Tips and Warnings

  • If growing the dwarf or semi-dwarf varieties, investigate whether they need to be staked. Some have root systems that don't adequately anchor them.

Things You'll Need

  • Apple whips
  • Shovel
  • 2 gallons of water
  • Pruning shears
  • Mulch
  • Spring-close laundry pins
  • Fertilizer
  • Pesticide

References

  • "A Garden of Your Own"; Michael O'Brian; 1993
  • Ohio Extension: Growing Apples in the Home Orchard
  • North Carolina State University: Growing Apple Trees in the Home Garden
Keywords: growing apple trees, apple tree growing, how to grow apple trees

About this Author

S. Johnson is a freelance writer and editor of both print and film media who specializes in making the complex clear. A freelancer for over 20 years, Johnson has had the opportunity to cover many topics ranging from construction to music to celebrity interviews, learning a lot and talking to many interesting people.