The deciduous apple tree is a hardy fruit tree that can withstand drastic temperature fluctuations, severe cold up to -30 degrees F, and severe winds. It prefers direct sunlight and warm climates during its growing season, thrives on well-drained and irrigated lands, and cold temperatures during its dormant period. These preferences make the apple tree an ideal selection for the Ohio owner.
Select an area for planting. The area should provide at least eight hours of direct sunlight each day. It should be a well-drained area with a pH soil level between 5.5 and 6.5. Elevated hilltops are ideal for apple trees. However, if a hilltop is unavailable, ensure that the soil meets the minimum drainage and pH requirements.
Plant your apple trees in the early spring just after the last thaw occurs. This is generally during the months of March and April. Dig a hole for the apple tree that spans as least twice the size of the root system. The apple tree should fit comfortably in the hole without touching the sides of the diameter. Promote a good drainage system by including organic matter in the hole. Use about one-third organic matter or compost to two-thirds soil. Fill the hole and ensure that the bud union rests at least 2 inches above soil level.
Water your apple tree regularly, especially during the dry summer months. The young apple tree will require at least two gallons of water each week. Mature apple trees will require 3 to 5 gallons of water each week. Adjust the watering schedule for rainfall and dry periods.
Apply a thick layer of mulch around the tree, at least 12 inches out. The mulch will protect the tree’s soil moisture and reduce the presence of weeds and unwanted insects. Avoid placing the mulch directly onto the base of the trunk. Place the mulch at least three inches from the base.
Fertilize your apple tree monthly during the early spring months and through mid summer. The fertilizer should consist of nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium. Select a fertilizer that compliments the pH levels of the tree’s soil. Broadcast the fertilizer evenly around the tree. Avoid placing the fertilizer directly onto the roots of the tree as this can cause root burn.
Prune your apple tree to develop a strong framework. A strong framework and dominant central leader will help increase its fruit production and successfully support the weight of the developing fruit. Train young apple tree to develop wide, strong crotch angles. Remove any branches that have crotch angles that are less than 45 degrees. Complete all this within the first 3 years of the tree’s life. Prune away broken, diseased, and weak branches and stems regularly to prevent disease.
Harvest your tree as needed. There is no exact harvesting time for the apple tree. Inspect the tree regularly as the growing season comes to an end. The apples will begin to develop into their full size and intended color. As the fruit appears ripened, pick an apple and complete a taste test. If the apple has reached its full growing capacity, is sweet and good tasting, it is time to harvest. Not all apples will harvest at the same time. You may need to harvest a few apples each day until complete. Young trees will generally not produce fruit for the first 4-5 years.