There’s a certain feeling you get when you go outside in the crisp autumn air and pick a red, juicy apple from a tree in your backyard.
Apples are some of the most popular fruit and if you have them readily available, your life can only benefit.
Find out when the best time is to plant apple trees so your garden, and your family, can revel in its beauty and deliciousness.
When to plant apple trees: Start planting your apple trees in the spring, after the risk of frost is over. However, you can plant them in the fall, preferably early in the season to give the roots a chance to grow before the ground freezes over.
Apple trees are unique in that they require cross-pollination to produce fruit. Therefore, in addition to the variety you have chosen, you also need to select a variety that blooms at the same time.
This way, bees can do their job and spread pollen from tree to tree. Apple trees don’t produce fruit until they are about 8 years old, so be patient and take care of them while you’re waiting.
During these years, keep the trees well-maintained and prevent disease from setting in. Once they are mature, you’ll be rewarded with plenty of delicious fruit, perfect for snacking or baking.
Planting Apple Tress in Different Climates
Apple trees are not able to grow in a tropical climate. They need a specific chill time, or winter period, which a tropical climate does not allow.
Apple trees are not able to grow in a dry climate. They need too much moisture and the soil conditions are usually not ideal.
Sometimes, apple trees can grow in a temperate climate. There are different varieties with different needs, so you may be able to find one that thrives in this climate.
The winter needs to be cold enough and the summer needs to be hot enough for apple trees in this climate.
Apple trees grow best in a continental climate. The winters are cold enough for trees to be dormant and the summers provide long days of sunshine.
Apple trees are not able to grow in a polar climate. There is not enough sunshine for them.
Choosing Apple Seeds
There is a lot of science behind choosing the right type of apple varieties. First, know that you actually need two different varieties of apples.
Apples rely on cross-pollination to grow, meaning the pollen from one variety needs to be mixed with a different variety to produce fruit. Furthermore, to help bees out, both varieties need to flower at the very same time.
Finally, make sure there are plenty of bees. Some farmers plant extra bee-loving flowers nearby, or even rent swarms of bees to help out. Without bees, there will be no apples.
As we will discuss later, apple trees attract a lot of pests. To lessen the chance of having to use pesticides, you can pick disease-resistant trees such as Williams Pride and Jonafree.
Once you have your main tree variety picked, it’s time to select a secondary variety to help with cross-pollination.
It’s best to talk with apple experts as they will walk you through the bloom time and pollination charts. Interestingly, the simple crabapple tree is often used, as long as it blooms at the same time as your selection.
How to Plant Apple Seeds
Apple trees need sun. A lot of it. Choose a place where they get full sun which amounts to at least 6 hours or more a day.
However, if apple trees are exposed to some sunny, winter days, this can trick them into growing, and when it reverts back to freezing temperatures, this can actually kill any growth and possibly the trees. Therefore, pick an area that is not south-facing.
Well-drained soil is a must for apples so make sure you aren’t planting them in soil with heavy clay. If there is not enough drainage, the extra moisture can lead to root rot.
Furthermore, the leaves on apple trees need to have a chance to dry after it rains, so find a place with proper air circulation.
While you can certainly plant apple seeds, this adds to the time before the tree will actually produce fruit, so many people plant young apple trees instead.
Clear the area where you will be planting of any weeds and grass, ideally 4 feet around. Check the root ball of your new apple tree and if it has dried out, soak it in water for 24 hours before planting.
Space your apple tree seedlings about 15 feet apart from each other in a row. The hole should be 2 feet deep and be more than wide enough to accommodate the tree trunk.
Take a bit of time to loosen the soil in the hole you dug so that the roots can spread out as they grow. You can also spread the tree roots themselves so that they have space right away.
While you may be tempted to add fertilizer to the hole, this can actually burn the roots, so instead, simply fill the hole back up with dirt.
Furthermore, add a support system for your tree, such as a trellis, so that when it starts to bear fruit, it won’t buckle under the extra pressure.
How to Water Apple Trees
After you have planted your apple tree, be sure to water it right away. The younger the tree, the more water it needs so that the roots have a chance to establish themselves.
How to Grow Apple Trees
Unlike other plants, fruit trees need quite a bit of upkeep. You can place a ring of mulch around each apple tree, although this shouldn’t be touching the trunk as it can cause too much moisture to form.
Your apple tree should be pruned once a year but be careful when it is young as this can slow its growth. Pay attention to dead branches and misplaced buds.
If you find a misplaced bud, simply rub it off with your hand as this will discourage branches to form where they are unwanted.
After your apple tree is bearing fruit, it needs to be pruned to allow more light and air through the branches, as well as to reduce disease.
The best time to prune apple trees is when they are dormant. Twigs should be removed and if you have droopy stems, they can be shortened.
Another option you have with apple trees is thinning fruit. While some gardeners don’t do this, you can remove fruit buds so that there is just one apple per cluster, or aim to have 4 to 6 inches between apples.
It can be hard to get rid of fruit but thinning apples means less weight on a branch and also ensures more nutrients go to fewer apples, resulting in larger apples.
Another consideration with apple trees is that they attract pests. While you may be opposed to pesticides, the hard truth is that without them, your apples probably won’t be edible.
While you may be able to get away without using pesticides if you grow apples on the West Coast, the East Coast has many fungal diseases that can attack apples.
Another trick you could try is tying paper bags around every single apple on your tree. This is hard work but can help prevent pests from getting into your apples.
How to harvest apples?
Finally, all of your hard work and effort has paid off and it’s time to actually enjoy your apples. But first, you may have to wait just a little bit longer.
Apples need to be picked right when they are ripe. Check the stem; if the apple can be easily turned and pulled off then it is ready. Different varieties are ready at different times, and this can span from August to November.
If you have waited too long and find out that the apples you pick are overripe, don’t worry as you can simply use them in many delicious baking recipes.
For those that want to store their apples, choose mid-season varieties. Wrap individual apples in newspaper and then place them on a tray so there is air circulation between them.
Place the apples in a cool, dark, place, such as a garage or shed. They will last for a few weeks, and sometimes a few months in the right situation.
How long do Apple trees take to grow?
Standard apple trees can take 7 to 8 years before they bear fruit, which is quite a long time to wait. This is why many people consult their local nursery to find trees that are already a few years old.
If you are impatient, you can try dwarf apple trees as they only take 2 to 3 years to bear fruit.
Biting into a crisp, juicy apple is one of life’s pleasures. While apple trees can take a bit of work, including pest control and pruning, and need quite a bit of space, they are an absolute delight to have.