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How-to grow and care for apple trees

Growing fruit trees is not just something that country folks do. Fruit trees are now making their way into cities and neighborhoods everywhere. There are so many dwarf varieties of fruit trees now that room is no longer an issue. Some fruit trees like peaches are self-pollinating and therefore only require one tree. Apple trees however, require two different varieties to pollinate each other.


Because not all apple tree do well in all climates, you will find the best varieties for your climate at your local Home Depot store. Some varieties need longer growing season to produce than others do and varieties grown further north require more chill hours. Early Spring is the ideal time for planting fruit trees in the North and late winter is ideal in the South.

Time to harvest

Some apple trees can start producing after the age of 2 and others can start producing as late as 7 years old. With there being over 7,000 varieties of apples, the average age of an apple tree to start production is 4 to 5 years old.


Pruning fruit trees is necessary in order to keep fruit trees healthy and to promote healthy yields. Pruning opens the tree up to sunlight, which in turn produces larger, sweeter fruit. Thinning out trees also helps with air circulation, which prevents diseases like powdery mildew. Healthy trees are also less prone to insects. Look at our article titled Pruning fruit trees.


Like all crops, fruit bearing trees can deplete a soil of certain nutrients. Specialty fertilizers are great for fruit bearing trees. Not only do they have Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium, they also have essential micronutrients like Iron, Sulfur, Calcium and Magnesium to help alleviate such deficiencies. At Home Depot, you can also find a wide variety of organic fertilizers for your fruit trees.


In the south, you will find varieties like Granny Smith, Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, Fuji, Gala and Dorsett to be the tree of choice. These all make great pollinators for each other. In the more northern states, the trees of choice are Mcintosh, Honeycrisp, Northern Spy, Jonagold and Mutsu. Some varieties like Stayman, Mutsu and Jonagold have sterile pollen and therefore they should never be used as a pollinator but instead, as a third variety.


Planting site and spacing

You will want to find an area drenched with at least 6 hours of sun but full sun is ideal. Apple trees need a nutrient rich well-drained soil. Different soil types need to be amended differently. A soil test is a great idea before planting to determine nutrient deficiencies and what nutrients you will need to add. Mulch around your tree with pinestraw in the fall once all leaves have fallen off and in the late spring before the summer heat arrives.


Dwarf varieties of apple trees can be spaced 8 to 10 foot apart to pollinate and larger varieties should be spaced 20 to 25 foot apart. Spacing needs to be close enough to pollinate optimally but also allow air circulation to prevent disease and insects. Never space trees beyond 100 foot apart for pollinating. You can also pollinate an apple tree with a crabapple.


STEP 1: Digging the hole

  • Find a location that has suitable sun exposure for your particular type of plant.
  • Dig your hole an inch or two shallower than the rootball of the plant.
  • Dig the hole twice the diameter of the rootball.
  • Scuff up the sides of the hole with a shovel to help roots break through the native soil.

STEP 2: Putting plant in hole

  • When removing the plant from the pot, check to see if the roots were circling the pot.
  • If the plant is rootbound, gently break up the roots with your hands until loosened up.
  • Set plant level, in the center of the hole.
  • Make sure the top of the rootball is just above soil level.

STEP 3: Amending the soil and filling in the hole

  • Amend the soil with proper amendments for your soil type. 
  • Incorporate 50% native soil with 50% amendment soils like garden soil, composted manure or soil conditioner.
  • Make sure dirt clods are broken up or removed from hole along with rocks.
  • Fill the hole with soils to the soil level and pack down. Do not cover top of rootball with dirt.
  • Water in thoroughly to remove air pockets.

STEP 4: Mulching and fertilizing

  • Cover the planting site with at least 2 inches of the mulch of your choice (pinestraw, cypress mulch,etc.)
  • High Phosphorus root stimulator fertilizers like Quick Start from Miracle Gro are great to use at time of planting.

Other Related Articles:


Which fruit trees are self pollinating and which require a cross pollinator?

Watering Fruit Trees


Growing Banana Trees

How-to grow and care for pear trees

Growing Peach Trees

How-to grow and care for fruit bearing cherry trees

How-to grow and care for plum trees

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Posted 2018-02-08T20:19:04+0000  by Ingar_HD_ATL Ingar_HD_ATL