Apple trees in Alabama are mainly spur-type trees. These trees reach a height of only 15 to 20 feet and begin producing apples as early as two to three years after planting. The Cumberland Spur, a variety of the Red Delicious apple, was discovered as a mutation of an Oregon Red Delicious Spur on an orchard in Jackson County, Alabama in 1990. Today, Alabama continues to make great strides in apple production, including producing Red Delicious varieties that were previously thought of as inferior to Washington State apples.
Choose an apple variety that will grow well in your part of the state. Choose Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Granny Smith or Law Rome in the northern part of the state. Select Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Arkansas Black and Ozark Gold in the central part of the state. Choose Spur Grass, Brogden and Wiregrass in the southern part of the state.
Choose an area to plant your trees in. This location should ideally receive 10 to 12 hours of sunlight per day during the summer months. Make sure the area has good drainage. Keep the apple tree at least 10 feet from the side of any buildings.
Run a soil test via your local extension office to determine the pH balance of your soil. Increase the pH of your soil to 7.0 if necessary by adding four ounces of lime to the soil in the area in which you would like to plant your trees. Decrease the pH of your soil if it is over 7.0 by mixing 1.2 ounces of ground rock sulfur into each square yard of planting space, mixing well into the ground with a garden rake.
Plant the trees in late April to early May. Dig a hole that is 18 inches deep and six inches wide with a garden shovel. Place the apple seedling into the hole. Cover the roots with soil. Add compost two to three inches thick around the base of the tree. Mulch between rows of trees by adding a layer of mulch that is an inch thick between each row.
Plant a second apple tree of a different variety eight to 12 feet from the first tree for pollination. Make sure the type of trees you are planting are recommended for cross-pollination. Alternate varieties when planting in rows, taking care not to plant more than four varieties of apple trees in an area the size of 1/2 acre.
Water your apple trees when you are done planting all of them. Keep them well-watered during the first summer. Water more often during periods of drought, but do not water during the hottest part of the afternoon so you will not burn up the roots of the seedlings.
Prune apple trees in the fall with pruning shears. Remove any inward-growing branches or limbs that are diseased or damaged by cutting an inch past the crotch of these limbs. Prune in the same manner each spring and fall. Remove unruly growth during the second season and every year thereafter.