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How to Grow Apple Trees in Michigan

Apple-tree image by zalisa from

While the state may be more famous for its cherries, apples are the largest fruit crop in Michigan. These cold-hardy trees can withstand Michigan's climate. Red Delicious and Golden Delicious are the two most common types of apple planted in Michigan, according to the Michigan Apple Committee. Gardeners can plant backyard apple trees in late May to early June when frost danger passes for their community.

Select an apple tree variety that performs well in Michigan from the list at Michigan Apples (see Resources). Ginger Gold and Empire are two recommended eating apples, while Golden Delicious and Cortland make excellent baking apples.

Choose a site that offers full sun, because the tree needs sun to produce fruit. Test the soil pH in your yard. Apple trees prefer a slightly acidic soil with a pH of 6.5.

Amend your soil pH with lime to raise it or sulfur to lower it, using The Garden Helper's recommended amounts based upon your soil type (see Resources).

Dig a hole twice the size of the apple tree's root ball, removing rocks and weeds from the hole.

Pull your apple tree from its container. Loosen the root ball with your hands, untangling tangled roots before planting. Place the tree in the prepared hole so it's vertically straight and sitting at the same depth as it was planted in the container. Holding the trunk straight, backfill the hole with soil to plant the apple tree.

Water the newly planted apple tree until the ground becomes saturated and the soil compresses around the tree trunk.

Remove low-growing branches with anvil pruners once you've planted the tree. Choose three to four upward-growing branches to be fruit-bearing limbs and prune off all other branches. Allow the tree to grow through the season.

Give the apple tree 1 inch of water per week unless you receive adequate rainfall. To determine how much this is, turn your hose on low and time how long it takes the hose to fill a bucket 1 inch. Then, water the apple tree for this amount of time.

Fertilize the tree annually in the spring using 5-10-10 fertilizer. Apply 1 lb. the first year, 2 lb. the second year, 3 lb. the third year and 4 lb. in year four. Increase by 1 lb. per year for a maximum of 14 lb. fertilizer, then apply 14 lb. per year. Scatter the fertilizer on the ground around the apple tree, then water the ground to work the fertilizer into the soil.

Continue to shape your apple tree by removing branches that compete with fruit-bearing limbs. Strip suckers off the trunk and cut off offshoots that grow vertically up. Remove crossed branches and downward-growing branches. Prune in the late spring before the tree leafs out.

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