Apple trees offer tasty produce for use in many products, such as juices, sauces, wines and desserts. Although commercial farms and large orchards supply manufacturers and grocery stores with inventory to sell to consumers, home gardeners and small orchardists can produce adequate amounts of apples for eating, sharing and selling. A successful, small orchard depends on proper planting techniques, adequate growing conditions and ongoing care. Plant your apple orchard correctly to encourage healthy growth.
Choose the best site for your apple orchard. Look for a level area or an area near the top of a slope. Avoid low areas that can flood and trap in pockets of cold air. Select a location that receives full sunlight, especially during the morning hours.
Test the soil in your orchard site. Obtain a test kit from your local gardening center, hardware store or university extension office. Follow the instructions on the test kit for obtaining and mailing your samples. Incorporate any necessary amendments, according to your test results. Apple trees prefer a soil pH level near 6.5. Your test results may instruct you to add organic matter to lower your soil’s pH or add limestone to raise the pH level of your existing soil.
Select suitable apple trees for your orchard. Apple cultivars vary in their ability to withstand freezing temperatures and hot, humid climates. Look for disease-resistant trees, such as Pristine, Liberty, Goldrush and Jonafree. Ohio State University recommends home orchardists grow dwarf or semi-dwarf trees, rather than the standard varieties.
Plant your orchard in the early spring, after the final frost of the season. Soak your bare-root trees in a bucket of cool water for about half an hour. Space your young, dwarf trees about 8 feet apart in rows. Allow 14 feet between each row. Place semi-dwarf trees 10 feet from each other in rows 16 feet apart.
Dig your holes as wide, or slightly wider, than their root systems to avoid crowding. Make your holes deep enough to place the bud union about 2 to 3 inches above the surface of the soil. Your apple tree’s bud union resembles a large bump near the base of the trunk. Gently spread the roots of your small trees and place in the holes. Fill your holes halfway with soil. Apply about 2 gallons of water to each tree. Replace the remaining backfill over the roots and press firmly to remove air pockets.