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How to Plant Bare-Root Apple Trees

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Apple trees grown in the home garden can be challenging yet lots of fun. Few things can be as rewarding as picking homegrown apples that are wholesome, fresh, crisp and delicious. Before you decide on what apples you are going to plant, consult with your local agriculture extension office on what varieties will grow best in your area. Plant newly purchased bare-root apple trees as soon as possible after purchasing.

Purchase bare-root apple trees in the winter, during their dormant season. According to the North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension, you should purchase trees that are between 4 and 6 feet tall and have a well-developed system of roots.

Set the bare-root apple trees into a bucket or tub that contains 6 to 8 inches of water for half an hour before planting. This will plump up the roots of the apple trees.

Locate a suitable planting site to plant the bare-root apple trees. Full sun with at least six hours of sunshine every day is best for optimum growth.

Cultivate the soil in the area you've selected for planting the bare-root apple trees to a depth of approximately 18 to 20 inches using a shovel or a rototiller. Remove any weeds and their roots from the soil as you are cultivating it.

Lay a 3- to 4-inch layer of dehydrated compost over the planting site to help improve the fertility and drainage of the soil.

Dig a planting hole for each bare-root apple tree that is two to three times as wide as the roots of each tree and approximately 2 feet deep. If you are planting semi-dwarf varieties measure out each planting hole so they are about 15 to 20 feet apart. For dwarf varieties, make each hole about 10 to 12 feet apart.

Create a conical mound of soil in the middle of each planting hole that is 10 to 14 inches high. Cut off any broken or damaged roots from the trees.

Spread out the roots onto the mound of soil. Scoop a few shovelfuls of soil over the roots to secure the apple tree in the planting hole. Make sure the bud union, or graft union, usually indicate by a slight bulge at the base of the trunk, is 2 inches above the level of the surrounding topsoil.

Backfill the planting hole with soil, firming it down as you go. Pour water into the hole until it is full then finish filling the planting hole with soil once all the water has drained away.


Plan on watering newly planted apple trees regularly. Provide water the soil feels dry to the touch at a depth of 2 inches feel.

If you can&#039;t plant your bare-root apple tree immediately, wrap the roots in plastic sheeting or a plastic bag with either wet newspaper or wet sawdust to prevent them drying out.

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