Planting & Caring for Apple Trees

 Planting Apple Trees

All apple trees need a rest period.  They must have many hours of cool winter weather with below 48°F during which they are dormant.  However, there is an enormous range in this requirement, so there are varieties suitable for any climate except subtropical and low desert regions.  


Apples prefer full sun but can still produce fruit with only five to six hours of sun a day.  They will grow in most types of soil that is slightly acidic (pH 6.0 to 6.5).  In central and northern areas of the U.S., plant dormant apple trees in the spring.  Where winters are mild, it is advisable to plant them in the fall, but the tree must be dormant. 


Plant dwarf apples 8 to 10 feet apart and keep grass away from the trunk as far as the dripline.  These trees will bear fruit their first year and the average yield from an established dwarf tree is 60 to 120 apples or 24 to 48 pounds of fruit. 


Semi-dwarfs will bear fruit in three to six years.  The average yield in a year is about 350 apples or 144 pounds of fruit.  Make sure to plant semi-dwarfs 18 to 20 feet apart. 


Standard trees are the most vigorous, yet are slowest to bear fruit.  They eventually yield heavy crops.  Average yield is 1,200 to 1,800 apples or 480 to 720 pounds.  Plant standards 30 to 35 feet apart. 



Additives When Planting Apple Tree

There are three products we strongly recommend you include in the hole before planting.  They are Actinovate which is a new biological fungicide.  By including it in the hole the tree is already protected from attack by root disease.

Thrive is a new soil and plant additive that contains all kinds of beneficial microbes including those very valuable root fungi.  This gives the tree a really good start.

Seaweed extract will help reduce the stress of planting and get the tree to growing sooner. 

 Caring For Apple Trees

Late Winter

Spray program – January or February is the time to spray all fruit trees with dormant oil or all season horticultural oil (2.5 ounces per gallon of water) to smother eggs of pest insects over-wintering on the bark of the tree.  Spray the entire tree, but make sure not to spray when the temperature is below 40F.  You want to finish this job at least three weeks before the leaf buds begin to show.


Fertilizing  After young apple trees have been in place in the yard for a year, they can be fertilized annually.  In the spring before the leaves pop, sprinkle a slow-acting, general purpose granular fertilizer on the soil under the tree out as far as the branches reach (the drip-line).  If a standard tree grows 8 to 15 inches at the branch tips over the season, it is receiving adequate fertilizer.  Branch growth on a dwarf or semi-dwarf of 6 to 10 inches indicates a healthy growth rate and proper fertilization.  



Watering  Young trees grow well in the first few years if they get approximately 1 inch of water every week from rain or by watering.  Mature trees need watering only during times of drought.  
Thinning – Many varieties tend to set more apples than they can handle.  Several weeks after the trees bloom, thin young apples to about 6 to 8 inches apart on the branches.  This often leads to having bigger apples. 
Apple trees should not be fertilized in the fall.
Harvesting Apples  Except for winter storage varieties, apples should be picked when fully ripe.  Winter storage types should be picked while they are slightly under-ripe.  One indication of an apple nearing ripeness is the darkening of its seeds.  To avoid pulling out the stem when you harvest, cup the apple in your hand, tilt it upward, and twist to separate it from the spur at the point of attachment.  It is important to not damage the spur.  
Storing Apples – Store apples in a cool place where the humidity is high enough to prevent shriveling.  Storage time will vary greatly by variety.  You can improve winter storage duration by dipping harvested apples in a warm solution of calcium chloride. This technique is most effective for improving apple keeping if the apples and solution are warm (around 65°F) rather than cold (around 35°F).  Be sure that there is some air circulation in the area where apples are stored.  


Winter Protection – Only minimal winter protection is necessary for hardy apple trees.  Wrap young tree trunks to discourage mice and rabbits from nibbling on the bark.  Keep deep snow shoveled, or at least trampled down around trees to put off these pests.  
Pruning   Beginners should prune apple tree limbs only when the tree is dormant, which is usually in late winter.  General pruning is needed only to remove the vertical branches, called water sprouts (no fruit is formed on these vertical branches), any injured or diseased branches, and any branches that are rubbing together as they cross each other (which may cause disease problems).  More extensive pruning should be done only after consulting information on the advanced pruning of apple trees.  


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