How to Grow Apple Trees in South Louisiana
Do not push down so much on the soil around the tree that you leave a depression in the ground. This will cause water to pool, leading to root rot.
Avoid spreading fertilizer in the planting hole.
Do not fertilize apple trees right after planting.
Apple trees are not commonly grown in the Deep South, including south Louisiana, but it is possible to get productive trees. Usually, apple trees are grown in the northern part of the country because the climates are colder. South Louisiana encompasses the cities south of Glemora, Rosepine and Moreauville and falls in USDA Hardiness zones 8 and 9. If you choose to grow apple trees in south Louisiana, you have to choose a variety that is adapted to growing in the mild winter. Apple trees need a certain amount of chilling hours, which is the number of hours under 45 degrees. Plant apple trees in Louisiana between December and February.
Plant Dorset Gold, Molly Delicious and Anna apples in the southern part of Louisiana. According to the LSU Ag Center, they are the three species that grow well in that part of the state. Red Delicious, Granny Smith and Golden Delicious are reserved for the northern regions.
Plant apple trees in a location that gets sun most of the day. Otherwise, the trees will produce less yield. Early morning sun is ideal because it dries dew, reducing the likelihood of disease.
Pick up the soil and squeeze. Apple trees grow best in well-drained soil. That's a more important factor than fertility. Do not plant the trees in locations with poor drainage, because the roots will suffocate. If you have no other choice, plant the trees on a raised terrace. Louisiana typically has soil ranging from very deep and well-drained to poorly drained and clay-like.
Open the apple trees as soon as they arrive from the nursery. Look over the roots for damage and prune those that are broken or mutilated. Soak them in water for 30 minutes to one hour before planting. Put trees in the ground in the early spring, as long as the soil is not too wet.
Till the land to prepare it. Pull out weeds, grass and other debris. Dig holes large enough for the roots to spread out. Place the trees in the hole so the graft or bud union is less than 1 inch above the ground level.
Fill the hole halfway with soil. Tamp it down lightly with your foot to remove air pockets. Fill the rest of the hole and pack firmly. Space Dorset Gold, Anna and Molly Delicious trees 20 to 25 feet apart. Anna needs to be pollinated. Dorset Gold will pollinate Anna apple trees, according to the LSU Ag Center.
Water the tree long and deeply, giving it enough to soak the soil. Touch the soil to a depth of 4 inches to determine if you have watered it enough.
Water young apple trees weekly. Give them more in the hottest times of the year in south Louisiana. Fruit trees generally need an inch of water weekly. Louisiana receives close to 60 inches per year, so you may not have to supply supplemental irrigation. But, if it's a dry year, keep an eye on the amount of water the apple trees receive.
Prune young apple trees to develop a balanced shape and form. Remove or cut back branches that cross or rub each other, as well as those that look weak or damaged.
Develop a strong, central leader during the first year of growth. Choose the main trunk and cut back those branches that compete with it. Choose a grouping of three to four branches that grow across from each other, like the spokes in a wheel. This is called a scaffold whorl. Trim off all other branches except these select few.
Cut the central leader by a quarter- to half-length each year. This will encourage it to grow new, stronger branches that can sustain the weight of the apples. Develop a second set of scaffold branches in the second year. They should be 24 to 36 inches above the first whorl.
Fertilize apple trees with nitrogen. One month after planting, spread 1 cup of 21-0-0 food in a 2-foot circle around the apple tree. Make sure the fertilizer is 6 inches away from the tree trunk.
Based in New York State, Kelly Shetsky started writing in 1999. She is a broadcast journalist-turned Director of Marketing and Public Relations and has experience researching, writing, producing and reporting. She writes for several websites, specializing in gardening, medical, health and fitness, entertainment and travel. Shetsky has a Bachelor of Arts in communications from Marist College.