apples in a tree

Apple Tree Care 101: How to Plant and Maintain Apple Trees

If you’re a person who doesn’t want to grow only flowers and vegetables in their backyard, then you might want to consider planting some trees that will also provide you with delicious fruits. One great example of such a tree is the apple tree. While planting a tree and maintaining it is not as easy as tending to flowers, the process doesn’t have to scare you either. Especially because today, we’re going to provide you with a full guide to apple tree care, from how to plant it, to what you have to do to make sure it stays healthy.

Apple Tree Care 101

1. Things to Consider

First of all, you should know that if you’re going to be growing apple trees from seeds, you can buy the seeds online. However, you can also just as well use some seeds from an apple you just ate. If you’re interested in growing your tree for fruits, then you’re going to have to plant two trees. That’s because the apple tree doesn’t self-pollinate. Another characteristic of apple trees grown from seeds is the fact that they won’t be dwarfs, instead growing to their full capacity. This means they can even reach 30 feet. So make sure your garden or backyard is spacious enough before attempting to plant an apple tree. Finally, don’t expect your tree to bear fruits immediately. Some apple trees take up to 10 years to do that.

2. Care for the Seeds

After you selected the seeds that you want to use, you’re going to have to dry them first. If you took the seeds of an apple you had at home, make sure that there are no fruit pieces attached to the seeds. Then, lay them on a towel and keep them there until their exterior is completely dry. The next step involves taking a damp paper towel, covering the seeds with it, and then placing them in a sealed container. The container can be anything from a jar, to a sealable plastic bag.

Store the container in the fridge in order to simulate winter. Apple tree seeds need exposure to cold to develop properly. You’re also going to have to check if the towel is still damp every now and then. After 70 to 80 days of keeping them there, you’re free to take them out. Ideally, we recommend you to start your seeds in winter, so that when they’re ready to be taken out of the fridge, the weather outside will allow you to plant them. The best time to do that is in early spring.

3. Pot the Seeds

While you might be tempted to simply plant the seeds in the garden, this won’t be a successful endeavor. First, you have to allow the seeds to turn into seedlings in a pot. For this, use a high-quality potting mix that has a neutral pH level. After you’ve filled the pot with soil, create a small hole that is twice as large as the seed you want to plant. Fertilizing the soil is not mandatory. You can simply add some compost to give your seed a head start.

After placing the seed in the hole you’ve just created, cover it with soil and add water to keep the soil moist. What you should know is that you have to keep the pot at room temperature for the seed to turn into a seedling. Moreover, one of the best places for you to keep the pot in is a windowsill. That’s because apart from a constant temperature, the seed also needs plenty of sunlight. You will start seeing leaves a couple of weeks after planting the seeds. When you’re sure that the seedling is strong enough and well-developed, you can transplant it outside.

4. Transplant the Seedling

Before you actually move the seedling from the pot, there are a couple of things that you should be aware of. The first one relates to the amount of sunlight your future apple tree is going to get. You have to choose a place where it will enjoy at least 6 hours of sunlight every day. The second thing that should concern you is the quality of the soil where you’re going to plant the seedling. The soil has to be able to retain moisture, but also have good drainage. If the soil around the tree is too soggy, it will interfere with its development. The soil should also have a neutral pH level and be rich in nutrients.

apple tree seedling in a pot

Finally, given the size of an apple tree, you have to make sure it has enough room to spread its roots. This means planting it at least 30 feet away from any other tree. On to actually transplanting the seedling, make sure that the soil around the planting site doesn’t have any weeds. Then, dig a hole twice the diameter of the seedling’s roots and 2 feet deep. When placing the seedling into the hole, carefully untangle its roots and spread them out, then cover them with soil and pat it down to make sure there are no air pockets left. The rest of the hole should be filled with loose soil. The two final steps are to water the seedling and then cover the area surrounding it with mulch in order to retain moisture.

5. Water the Tree

The first thing that should concern you when it comes to apple tree care is how often you have to water your tree and in what quantities. The answer depends on more than one factor. For instance, when the tree is between 6 and 8 inches tall, you have to water it every 10 to 12 days. When the tree starts growing taller, you can water it less frequently. Even so, always make sure that the soil is still moist. The frequency with which you have to water it also depends on the season. As such, summer weather requires you to water it more often, like every 1 to 2 weeks. The rest of the year, people who live in places where the weather isn’t extremely dry can simply rely on nature to help them with this step in their apple tree care routine.

6. Fertilize the Tree

Apple tree care fertilization is necessary, but only when the tree is mature enough. The best time to fertilize is in early spring, before the tree starts growing buds. We recommend using a fertilizer that has a 10-10-10 NPKcontent. You’re going to need half a pound of fertilizer for every inch in the diameter of your tree’s trunk. The type of fertilizer you have to use also depends on the state of your soil. Which is why we advise you to test the soil before adding fertilizer. Moreover, try to stay away from weed-and-feed fertilizers, since they can damage your tree.

7. Keep Away Pests

Depending on the area where you live, you might have to deal with different kind of pests threatening the health of your apple tree and delaying your apple tree care process. Rabbits and mice are the most common pests that people encounter when growing apple trees. If you want to avoid these tiny animals hurting your tree, you can devise a wire mesh and place it around the tree’s base.

Insects are another common pest. If you notice them damaging your apple tree, you can purchase a spray that can help you get rid of them. Maggots can also bring apple tree diseases. The way to eliminate them is to hang a Tangle Trap covered red ball in your tree in June.

8. Prune the Tree

No apple tree care guide would be complete without some information related to pruning. First of all, remember that you shouldn’t prune your apple trees when they’re young. Doing this will increase the amount of time you have to wait before they actually bear fruits. Of course, that doesn’t mean that if you see any diseased or dead branches you can’t cut them off. Moreover, if you notice any misplaced branches attempting to grow, you should remove them while they’re still young, so as to avoid having to prune them later on. If your tree has two central branches growing vertically, you’re going to have to only keep one of them. This way, the tree can focus on growing the largest one exclusively.

man pruning an apple tree

Once the tree has started bearing fruits, you’re free – and even encouraged – to prune it annually. The best time to do that is when it’s dormant. Any upright stems have to be removed, and any diseased, dead, or broken branches have to go as well. Also, make sure to check for branches that are growing towards the center of the tree or into each other and control their growth.

Summing It All Up

We hope today’s apple tree care guide has provided you with all the necessary information to grow your own apple trees and take advantage of their delicious yield. While you have to be patient when embarking upon such a journey, we believe the end result is definitely worth the effort. Once your apple tree starts bearing fruits, enjoy them straight from the tree or include them in delicious recipes. Here are 3 examples to get you started!

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Bonnie Enos

I spend my time in my garden trying to create the greatest outdoor space possible. My garden is my happy place and where you will always find me on a nice day. I take my experience and share it here for you to read!

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