Most people love apples. Something about biting into its juicy red skin makes everyone relish them. However, while many people know its tastiness, there’s still a lot to learn about growing apples, such as the planting season and how to grow them successfully.
Generally, the best time to start an apple tree is during spring and fall. It’s easy to grow apples from seeds or samplings during these periods. Apple trees need support and management until established and producing, but can be a great addition to your property.
There are about seven thousand varieties of apples in North America, meaning there is no shortage of options to grow. So let us learn about the best time to plant and grow apples.
What is the Best Month to Plant Apple Trees?
The best season for planting apples is during spring. The soil is softer compared to winter, allowing you to till the ground easier. It also gives the apple seedlings chance to take root before the onset of summer.
The exact month for planting apples depends on the location. If you are in the southern states, early March is the best time to begin growing. In some of the states in the north, you can plant your apples by the end of April. You can also produce at the start of May.
In southern California, Georgia, Alabama, and Texas, it’s possible to plant in the fall. In fact, due to the climatic conditions of these states, planting apples in the fall is the best time to grow.
You should only consider planting apples in the fall if you are sure the coldest winter temperatures won’t fall below freezing temperature (0⁰C). On the other hand, plant in spring if you are unsure of the expected winter temperatures.
Can You Just Plant Apple Trees?
Apples aren’t the type of fruit trees you plant without prior knowledge. Therefore, you cannot order any tree from the fruit varieties, plant them, and hope for the best with apples. Following this pattern would only spell disaster with all the time, money, and effort invested going down the drain.
Hence, the first step before you begin planting is to research the apple tree variety you want to buy. Then, after studying the array’s quality, pros, and cons, read up on how to care for that specific variety of apple trees.
Recognizing common problems apple trees and fruits encounter and how to treat them helps guard against them before they start. When you know all these things, you can achieve your goal of having a healthy apple tree in your garden.
How Do You Plant an Apple Tree?
Now that we know when to plant the apple trees, the next step is understanding how to grow them. First, there are several ways to produce apples. One of such ways is to raise the apple seeds, though we wouldn’t advise that.
We don’t believe in planting apple seeds because the seeds are usually genetically engineered to differ from the parent apple trees. So, if you plant an apple seed you love, the one you ate or saw, you might be disappointed.
There’s a high chance the tree that emerges from the seed differs from the desired one. For example, the fruit won’t be of the same quality, and the tree’s bark will be less hardy than its parent fruit. Another reason is that it takes a while for the tree to mature, usually about eight to ten years, to bear fruit.
How to Start from Seeds
If you still think starting from seeds is worthwhile, here is how to do it.
- Expose the seeds to the coolness and dampness of fall. Leaving them out for a day or two should be enough.
- The next step is to place the exposed seeds half an inch into the soil and cover it. The seeds should be fine as long as the winter frost isn’t too severe.
- If the frost is too severe, planting is not feasible. However, you can get some soil and a container, then place the apple seeds in it.
- Next, keep the container in a refrigerator for three to four months. From there, you can control the temperature and ensure the seeds are ready.
- When the ground frost has disappeared, you can transfer the seeds from the fridge to your garden.
If you are thinking of planting apple trees, it’s better to consult an extension officer before planting. The consultation is required due to the numerous varieties of apples in North America.
Planting an Apple Tree
Each cultivar or a variety of apples has its distinct quality. Some trees can withstand the coldest winter temperatures, while some fruit only in fall. Having adequate knowledge of the cultivar you wish to plant makes the journey easier. Now, let’s plant an apple tree!
- The first thing you must do is clear the weed area. Apple trees don’t want competition if you want them to thrive. Clear the ground in a circle of about four feet in diameter.
- Next, examine the tree or seedling at the point of purchase to confirm there are no injuries. Injuries to trees are a sure route for pests and diseases to affect the apple tree.
- Also, check the roots to confirm they aren’t dehydrated. If the roots feel brittle to touch, they are dry. If you discover the roots are dry, soak them in water for twenty-four hours before planting.
Before deciding on adequate spacing for your apple tree, consider several things. Consider the size of your land before planting. You think about how many trees you are growing, the fertility of the soil, and the rootstock,
If the seedling grows to a full-sized tree, the recommended spacing is between fifteen and eighteen feet. The same thing applies if you are planting an entire tree.
For dwarf apple trees, the ideal spacing is between four to eight feet. For apples requiring cross-pollination, another apple cultivar must be planted less than two thousand feet away.
The Planting Area for Your Apple Tree
Now, let’s talk about the hole you need to dig for the tree. The hole must be at least twice as wide as the entire root system. The depth of the hole should be two feet deep.
Before placing the tree in the hole, add some loose soil. The reason for spreading the loose soil is to make penetration easy for the tree’s roots. Spread the roots on the soil, and check that none of the roots are tangled or crowded on one side.
When you are sure they are not tangled and spread evenly, put back some of the excavated soil. When the earth covers the roots, ensure the roots are firm to eliminate any air pockets in the ground. Air pockets harbor insects and pests that are harmful to the tree.
Adding fertilizer to the young tree at the plant stage will harm the tree. Wait until the tree is mature enough before adding any form of fertilizer.
If you are planting a grafted tree, ensure the grafting joint is at least four inches above the soil. Check the tree stem for swelling if you don’t know where the joint is. That swelling is the grafting union or joint.
It is common for the dwarf apple tree to topple under the weight of its fruit. If you are planting a dwarf tree, place it close to a fence, so the fence offers the tree some support.
Where’s the Best Place to Plant an Apple Tree?
The location of your tree determines whether you derive a healthy tree that produces a bountiful harvest or otherwise. Like in real estate, your apple tree gives the most returns based on location.
The best place to plant your apple tree is where the tree can receive full sun, with fertile and well-drained soil. When we say full sun, we mean about six to eight hours of sunlight while the tree grows.
If you meet these conditions, you know that delicious apples from your tree are in your future.
Do Apple Trees Need Full Sun?
As we stated earlier, the full sun is about six to eight hours of direct sunlight. While they are growing, an apple tree needs to receive full sun. You can know a tree that grew in the shade from its fruit.
An apple that didn’t receive enough sun is usually not as juicy and tasty as one that comes from a tree that got full sun. The fruit texture is woody, combined with a bland taste. If an apple tree doesn’t get adequate sunlight, it will lead to a barren tree.
Do You Need a Male and Female Apple Tree?
For apple trees to bear fruit, they need pollination. The pollinating agents are insects, usually bees. Some apple trees need cross-pollination for them to bear fruit. Cross-pollination means that pollen from one tree has to be transferred to the stigma of another tree for it to bear fruit.
You might think it is a complicated process, but nature has a way of taking care of things. You have to have two apple trees of different cultivars close to each other, male and female. So that one can fertilize the other, and you can enjoy a bountiful harvest.
If you don’t have enough space for two trees, look for dwarf apple trees. Those trees only grow to be about ten feet tall. They are small enough to take two in your garden. Or check in your neighborhood. If apple trees are within a two thousand feet radius, you can be assured that they will pollinate each other.
How to Grow Apple Trees?
Growing apples isn’t rocket science. All it takes is attention and doing the right thing on time. Here are some tips to help you develop a fruitful tree.
Watering your apple tree consistently helps your tree grow well—Apple trees like moist soils and drain well. Be careful when water, though. Doing it too much leads to root rot which affects the tree.
Mulching is when you use plastic material to cover the soil. Mulching helps in eradicating weeds around the tree. It also aids the soil in retaining moisture and helps it maintain its temperature during winter.
While mulching is good, you must remove it after autumn, especially if you have just finished harvesting apples. This is because the mulch provides cover for mice and other small rodents to live during the winter. These rodents will, in turn, feed on the tree’s bark, causing harm.
Regular pruning allows air to circulate through the tree. When air circulates through the tree, it helps to limit various diseases. It also dries leaves quicker.
While pruning promotes growth, you don’t have to overdo it. But look out for dead branches and cut them off. Annual pruning will do the trick.
Pest and Disease Control
It would be best if you controlled how pests access your tree. Pests not only harm the tree, but they also introduce diseases to the tree. However, technology and innovation have led to some pest-resistant trees.
Still, apple trees are susceptible to many things, including apple maggots, fire, aphids, and mites. In addition, apple tree diseases include apple scabs and fire blights.
The easiest way to control pests and diseases is to spray the tree annually with pesticides. However, if you are concerned about the effects of pesticides, there are other ways to control pests and diseases.
Having another tree with your apple tree (companion planting) can chase insects like mites and aphids away. You can also put sticky traps on your tree to catch apple maggots.
Grow them in Pairs
Most apple cultivars require cross-pollination with other varieties of fruit. Therefore, letting your tree grow in pairs is beneficial for both trees, especially if you get to apple trees with similar cycles.
Both trees will grow well and act as pest control for each other. Companion planting also ensures that your apple tree has abundant fruit.
If you are planting a dwarf tree, you must support them early. Some unsupported apple trees can’t bear the weight of fruits, and they topple over. To prevent this from happening to your tree, you have to support the tree.
One way to do this is by using frames or pillars to support the weight of the branches. Another way to help the tree is by pruning it, so it has only one main branch.
Other supporting branches sprout from that branch. This pruning makes it easy for the tree to support the weight of the branches and the fruit.
How Fast Do Apple Trees Grow?
The rate of growth of apple trees differs according to their variety. It takes four to eight years for full-sized apple trees to bear fruit from the day you plant them. Dwarf trees, on the other hand, begin to fruit about two years after you plant them.
If you grow your apple from seeds, it takes eight to ten years before they begin to fruit. But, of course, all these growing times depend on all growing conditions being available.
Do Apple Trees Need a Lot of Water?
When apples are growing, they require a lot of water. Therefore, it would be best to water them regularly and ensure you soak the soil. When apple trees grow, you might need to water them many times a week.
Each time you water them, you need about fifteen gallons each time you water the trees. You will need fifteen gallons if you plant the trees in sandy soil that drains water well.
When you water the roots of your young apple tree, let the soil absorb the water before adding more water. If you don’t let the roots dry between watering sessions, it could lead to root rot. Also, when you are watering your tree, don’t rush. Watering should be slow and deep.
As the trees grow older, after about four months, their water requirements reduce. Instead of three times a week, you can reduce the frequency to once a week or twice weekly at the most. The tree’s root system is developed now, and it takes most of its water requirements independently,
When the trees are older, you need to water them only if there’s a drought. This is because their roots can provide everything they need now, and you don’t need to water them anymore.
You should ensure that you don’t water the tree’s trunk, branches, or leaves. The only way the tree absorbs its water needs is through the roots. When you start watering the trunk or other parts of the tree, you will encourage wood rot and some fungal diseases.
Are Apple Trees Hard to Grow?
We are not going to sugarcoat it. Without adequate knowledge, growing apples can be a challenging exercise. Apple trees are susceptible to a lot of pests and diseases. If you don’t grow them properly, the fruits will be bitter, wooden-like, and even infested with worms.
With adequate information, the good news is that growing an apple tree that would produce plenty of delicious fruits becomes a breeze. All you need to do is research the apple variety you intend to plant before buying.
Know everything it needs to thrive, and ensure that you have or can provide it. The next thing is to study the general pests and diseases of apples and trees and that variety in particular. Then, map out ways to prevent and control them.
Finally, know the practices that will aid the growth of your tree—techniques like adequate watering, mulching, creating a support system, or companion planting. You should also know that annual pruning helps your tree grow well.
When you combine all these things, growing apples turn out to be relatively easy. Then, when it’s time to harvest, you will eat delicious apples from your tree.
Common Pests and Diseases on Apple Trees
Let us divide them into pests and diseases instead of lumping them together for a more holistic view.
When you see apples with larvae, you can be sure coddling moths are the cause. The adult moths usually lay their eggs in developing apple fruits around May and June. These eggs grow in larvae and eat the apples from within.
When winter arrives, the larvae turn into pupae and move from the fruit into the tree bark for the winter. Then in spring, they come out as adults, and the cycle continues.
Performing a winter wash on the tree will break the moth’s cycle. You can also set pheromone traps to catch the adult moths in the spring.
Aphids or greenflies can lead to the destruction of your apple tree. Usually, you don’t notice them until it is too late. The best sign to know that aphids infest your tree is when you see yellow growths on them.
A closer inspection will the aphids congregating under leaves and on stems. For trees infested with aphids, prune off the affected parts to stop the spread. You can also use soapy water to douse the tree. Insecticides also work.
Mildew is a fungal disease common during the warmer times of the year. You can identify the onset of mildew when you notice something silvery dust on the new leaves. When you see mildew, prune and burn the affected parts.
You can also apply fungicides ahead to prevent the spread. You should note that they are some apple tree varieties that have furry leaves with a silvery sheen. If that is the tree you have, it’s not mildewed. It’s just the way the leaves are.
Bitter pit in apples is caused by a deficiency of calcium in the soil. A sure sign of a bitter pit is when you cut the apple fruit and notice brown spots accompanied by a bitter taste. However, the apple might be fresh on the outside.
Adding calcium supplements into the soil will help the tree correct this. Another reason for the bitter pit is if there’s a dry spell. With the ground dried, the tree roots won’t get adequate nutrients. In this case, water the soil heavily.
A sense of fulfillment accompanies strolling through your garden and plucking a fresh apple. But, as much as we love fresh apples, we need hard work and patience before reaping the rewards.
Ensure your tree receive full sun, a companion for it, and be on the out for pests and diseases. Also, don’t forget to provide support for your dwarf apple trees so they don’t topple over. Growing an apple tree doesn’t have to be complicated. All you need is the correct information.