How To Choose and Plant Apple Trees

Growing apple trees at home can be a rewarding experience. Not only do they produce delicious fruit that can be eaten fresh off the branches or made into pies or preserves, but their blossoms add a lovely decorative touch to your landscape. Choosing the trees to plant on your property often comes down to personal taste, but there are other factors that should be considered at the same time.

  • Pollination  -  Most apple trees are not self-pollinating. This means that, in order for them to produce fruit, they must be pollinated by a different variety of apple tree. Consider the space that you have to grow your apple trees, and try to plant a couple of different varieties that bloom at the same time to ensure a productive fruit crop.
  • Fruit or Flowers  -  Some varieties of apple trees are strictly ornamental. They flower just like regular trees, but will never produce fruit. These are preferred when you can only plant a single tree, as cross-pollination is not required for a healthy number of blossoms.
  • Blooming Season  -  Different varieties of apple trees produce fruit at different points in the season. Some are early bloomers, some bloom mid-season, and others bloom late in the season. For a continuous crop, plant several trees that bloom at different times.
  • Room to Grow  -  Like other fruit trees, apple trees are available in dwarf varieties. These trees don't grow nearly as high as standard trees, and make a nice addition to a decorative landscape. If height is a factor in your purchase, dwarf trees might be the answer.
  • Climate  -  Choose apple tree varieties that can grow and thrive in your area. Contact your local horticultural society for advice, or ask at the nursery where you'll be purchasing your trees.
  • Taste and Texture  -  Finally, let your taste buds assist you in your apple tree choices. Choose trees that produce your favorite types of apples, or those that will work best in pies, preserves, and sauces.

Once you've chosen which apple trees you want to plant, it's time to get the planting locations ready and pick up your trees from a local nursery, apple farm, or garden center. Select trees that are about one year old, with strong and healthy root systems. To plant your apple trees, use the following steps.

  1. Soil  - Apple trees need rich, well-drained soil. Adding compost to your soil will help promote growth and fruit production. Do not add fertilizer before planting your trees, however, as it can actually harm the tender young roots.
  2. Sun  -  Full sun is preferable, but if you have to choose between morning and afternoon sun exposure, go for the early hours. Morning sun will help to deter mildew disease.
  3. Preparing the Roots  -  Apple trees should have healthy, hydrated root systems. If the roots of your trees look dry, soak them in water for up to 24 hours before planting to give them a better chance for success.
  4. Digging the Hole  -  Dig your planting hole about twice the width of the tree's root system, and about 2' deeper. Add some of your loosened soil back into the hole to ease the spreading of the tree's roots. You want the root system to be in the soil, of course, but don't plant the tree too deeply or too shallow. The bud union should rest just an inch or two above the ground after planting. (The bud union is the point where the root system meets the woody trunk of the tree.) 
  5. Planting  -  Place the tree gently into your planting hole, and spread the roots out gently. Carefully add the soil back into the hole, over the roots, adding water as you work and pressing down gently to remove air pockets.
  6. Water and Mulch  -  Once you have your tree planted, water the area well and add a thick layer of mulch over the soil. The mulch will help keep the soil moist, and also act as a deterrent to weeds and other pests.

With proper care and attention, your newly planted apple trees will thrive and grow, and in years to come you'll be enjoying fresh apples from your own backyard!


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