Advice on Growing Apple Trees

Overview

The most important advice for those wanting to grow apple trees is to get information. First learn about apple tree pollination, since growing edible fruit requires at least two different kinds of apple trees--apple tree types aren't compatible within their own variety. You need to know which varieties bloom together for successful cross-pollination. Learning about pruning, disease and pests is also important to getting a good apple crop. Investigating these apple growing issues, especially in advance, greatly increases your chances of success.

Step 1

Visit or call your local county extension office. Find out what apple tree pests and diseases are common in your area. Also find out what cultivars are successful in the area.

Step 2

Choose an appropriate planting site, one that is not situated in a valley, sits in full sun, possesses good soil drainage and is well away from cedar trees. There should be space enough that your trees won't be crowded. Plan on spacing trees a distance equal to their mature height.

Step 3

Test the soil, submitting a sample to your extension office or recommended lab. The test will guide fertilizer choice. Test soil annually.

Step 4

Choose at least two apple tree cultivars you'd like to grow, considering disease resistance, soil and locale. Find out how long it will take the supplier to get them to you. It might take longer than you think.

Step 5

Learn about central leader training and pruning so you will know how to properly shape your tree. The process starts at planting. Done correctly, the tree ends up shaped like a pyramid with even lower branches receiving sunlight.

Step 6

Obtain the apple tree whips for early spring planting. Keep the roots moist.

Step 7

Soak the roots for half an hour prior to planting.

Step 8

Dig a hole that will accommodate the roots, which you will be spreading. Keep topsoil in one pile and subsoil in another as you dig.

Step 9

Situate the whip within the hole, spreading out its roots.

Step 10

Refill the hole with topsoil first, holding the whip so its graft point is 2 inches higher than the ground once the hole is filled in.

Step 11

Continue filling the hole, now using the subsoil, stopping short of completely filling the hole.

Step 12

Pour two gallons of water into the hole.

Step 13

Fill the rest of the hole.

Step 14

Mulch 2 to 3 inches deep over the root zone. Don't let the mulch touch the trunk.

Step 15

Cut the top off the whip so it's about 2 feet tall.

Step 16

Water each tree with two to three gallons of water every two to three weeks.

Step 17

Keep at least 12 inches of area surrounding the trunk free of weeds.

Step 18

Remove branches that are lower than 18 inches off the ground as the growing season progresses.

Step 19

Train 4- to 6-inch branches to have a crotch angle of at least 45 degrees from the central leader (the trunk) by attaching the clothes pins. Remove these after the growing season is finished.

Step 20

Fertilize in spring. If using 10-10-10 fertilizer, start with 1 lb. per tree per year, increasing fertilizer 1 lb. annually to a maximum of 6 lbs.

Step 21

Prune and train according to the central leader. This allows for the most fruit and also helps your tree resist disease.

Step 22

Thin fruit when apples are marble sized, leaving 4 to 6 inches between fruit. This will prevent branches from breaking.

Step 23

Keep an eye out for disease and pests, applying the necessary treatments as per directions.

Things You'll Need

  • Apple whips (1-year-old trees with bare roots)
  • Shovel
  • 2 gallons of water
  • Pruning shears
  • Mulch
  • Spring-close laundry pins
  • Fertilizer suggested by a soil test or 10-10-10
  • Pesticides and/or disease treatments

References

  • "A Garden of Your Own"; Michael O'Brian; 1993
  • Ohio Extension: Growing Apples in the Home Orchard
  • NCSU, North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service: Growing Apple Trees in the Home Garden

Who Can Help

  • NCSU Cooperative Extension: Training & Pruning Fruit Trees
Keywords: growing apple trees, apple tree growing, how to grow apple trees, advice on growing 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.