Growing Crops: Apples

Apple trees are tricky things. They often fall victim to diseases such as apple scab, powdery mildew, and fireblight. Apple tree propagation is done by grafting particular varieties onto specific rootstocks that determine the disease resistance, growth rate and eventual size of the adult trees. We do not recommend that you plant from seed – you may put in a lot of effort for nothing. Instead, buy live trees that are at least 2 years old, the more disease-resistant the variety the better.

Nature Hills Nursery has a good selection of live apple tree varieties; click on the banner below to see your choices:

Be sure to read Growing Fruit 101 in conjunction with this post.

Best Climate to Grow: That depends on the variety. Be certain, when you are making your live tree purchase (particularly online), that the variety grows well in your climate zone.

Light Requirements: Lots of sun with mild breezes (avoid planting in areas that frequently have high winds).

Soil Requirements: Rich loam that retains moisture yet drains well. Neutral to slightly alkaline pH; amend before planting if necessary.

Feeding and Water Requirements: Fertilize with rotted manure and blood or bonemeal at planting and thereafter with manure each Spring. Mulch to retain soil moisture, replacing the mulch periodically as it breaks down into the soil. If you live in a dry climate, you will need to water more frequently and make sure your trees are very well-mulched.


Treegator-« Drip Irrigation – $ 25.99
The Treegator® Drip Irrigation System offers approximately 10 hours worth of drip time. It has a 20 gallon capacity and 2 or 3 can be zipped together to fit larger trees. It is 3 feet tall when empty. The fill opening will fit a 1.5 inch diameter hose. Treegator® Drip Irrigation System must be used on a level surface or properly built mulch pile.



Treegator-« Jr. – $ 23.99
The Treegator® Jr. offers approximately 6 hours worth of drip time. It is 33 inches round and 7 inches high when filled. The fill opening will fit a 1.5 inch diameter hose. Treegator® Jr. must be used on a level surface or properly built mulch pile.

When to Plant: Plant during the winter. Soak the roots for about an hour before planting.

Planting Depth and Spacing: A large hole that covers the roots but is not so deep that the graft gets buried – it must be above ground. Your spacing will depend on the variety of tree you are growing. Dwarf varieties and trees you intend to grow cordoned against a structure can be planted closer together than standard sized trees.

Container Requirements: Dwarf varieties on rootstocks designated M9 or M27 do very well in containers. If you intend to espalier or cordon your trees in a container against a wall, purchase varieties grafted to rootstocks M7, M26, and M106 for best results. You will need a large, deep container (think wine barrel-sized); make sure that you purchase a self-pollinating variety if you intend to grow only one tree. Annual application of fertilizer and mulch, combined with regular watering should keep your container trees very happy.

Pruning: Pruning trains trees to grow the way you want them to (particularly in the case of espaliered and cordoned designs), removes deadwood and overcrowding that can cause disease, and fosters new growth. Too much pruning will cause lots of greenery but few fruits, whereas not enough pruning will result in lots of small fruit. The first year after you plant your trees, prune all blossoms and fruit rather than harvesting. Your trees will benefit later from all that energy going into the root system.

Harvesting and Storage: Harvest when ripe. Apples do not store well whole, but are ideal for drying, or canning as apple butter, applesauce or preserves for pie filling.

Pests to Monitor: Aphids, Codling Moths, and Greenflies. Visit our pest control beneficials, barriers, scare tactics, homemade organic pesticide, and commercial organic pesticide pages to see your options and choose your weapons.

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