Make sure you know how to garden apple trees properly to enjoy season after season of healthy and delicious apples. Apples trees aren’t difficult to care for, but it’s important that you follow these key steps.
Location of Apple Trees
Where you plant apple trees is as important as which kind you select. Select a spot that is on a slope if possible in soil that will drain. The slope will help cold spring air and frost to flow downhill away from your apple trees and allow summer air to circulate, and it will carry excess rain to lower ground.
What Size of Apple Tree to Plant
For the typical home, a dwarf or semi-dwarf tree is a good idea. Expect dwarfs to grow around 10 feet tall and be very easy to reach. Semi-dwarf will continue to 15 feet or so. If you want the big boys, the standard apple trees will grow to 20 feet or more, far too high to reach with a simple ladder.
Pollination of Apple Trees
Apple trees need other apple trees to pollinate, and those other trees must be a different variety. Because of this you will need at least two apple trees to insure pollination. Of course, a neighbor’s tree will do the trick as long as it is a different variety than yours. In addition, the bloom time should be the same. You want both trees to be in bloom at the same time so the bees will visit them both and complete the pollination task.
Supporting the Trees
A full-sized apple tree doesn’t require any extra support as it will do just fine. However, dwarf and semi-dwarf trees may, especially the dwarf trees. To support them well, drive a stake a few inches away from the main trunk 2-3 feet into the ground and make sure you have 8-10 feet of stake above ground to support the tree as it reaches maturity.
Fertilizer for Apple Trees
Apple trees, like other fruit trees, need nutrients to grow their best. A 10-10-10 fertilizer will do the trick and should be applied to the area within the drip line in early spring. It is also a good idea to control grass and weeds around the drip line so that there is no competition for the tree in using the nutrients and water in that area.
Spraying for Pests
Some home gardeners choose not to spray and just accept the yield they get with a few pests. If you are adverse to pesticides or herbicides this is an option, and you may just have a bad year now and then. An organic option may be need oil to control pests. If you do spray, don’t spray pesticides during pollination or you will affect the job that the bees should be doing for your apple tree. Spray is normally applied after the bloom and every 2-3 weeks after that to control pests.
Pruning Apple Trees
One of the most important things when learning how to garden apple trees is to prune it properly. An tree that is not pruned will have too many stems that will grow too upright, leading to disease and breakage. Pruning reduces disease, increases yield on all branches, makes trees live longer, and will cause them to fruit sooner. To prune well maintain a central leader and allow branches at different spots along the main stem that have around two feet of space between them and the next branch above them. This will allow the air flow and light needed to produce apples on all branches. Always prune apple trees when dormant.
Thinning the Apples
For the best and biggest apples, thin the fruit when the apples are very small, like marble or grape-sized. You will notice clumps of several apples at a time, but these should be thinned to 1 single apple per 4-6 inches. This improves air flow, reduces disease, and increases size. Always use a disinfected tool to work with your tree. Tools are easily disinfected with a 10% bleach solution soak for 10 minutes or so.
Enjoy Beautiful Apples
If you follow these steps on how to garden apple trees you can look forward to beautiful apples season after season.