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How to Bring an Apple Tree to Your Edible Garden

Eating an apple a day is easy to do if you grow them in your yard. Apple trees are one of the most easily available fruit trees, with varieties for virtually any area and climate. They are also amazing landscape trees, with fragrant spring blossoms, abundant summer foliage and intriguing winter branches.

Choosing just one kind of apple cider grow can be difficult. You will find early, midseason and late apples; oranges for bakingapples and; that are best for eating directly from the tree. Flavors vary from sour. Some self-fertilize; others require a pollinator. Then there’s size and shape. Standard apples may reach 20 feet high and wide, but you can also find dwarf and semidwarf varieties.

Apples are easy to espalier train over a trellis. You can even find colonnade trees, which grow up to about 8 feet tall but get just about two feet wide — think about them the sentries of the backyard. You are going to need at least two of these, since they don’t generally self-fertilize.

A fantastic choice for a small backyard is a multivariety tree. As its name implies, it’s many types on apples on one rootstock. Not only does this kind of tree give you plenty of choices and a more season for fruit, but any needed pollination is supplied.

Laara Copley-Smith Garden & Landscape Design

Where to grow : Apples generally require a winter chill, so they generally do not succeed in tropical or subtropical low-desert climates, such as Hawaii, the low deserts of the Southwest or along the Gulf Coast. On the flip side, if you stay in an area with very harsh winters, you’re going to require a tree using a rootstock that can withstand the cold. Your best bets are USDA zones 1 through 7 for most apples, and zones 8 and 9 for low-chill apples.

Rhonda Kieson Designs

Favorite early-season apples: Anna, Apple Babe, Beverly Hills, Chehalis, Courtland, Dorsett Golden, Ein Shemer, Gala, Golden Russet, Gravenstein, Haralson, Hudson’s Golden Gem, Lodi, Mollie’s Delicious, Norland, Pink Pearl, Pristine, Summerred, William’s Pride, Zestar

Favorite midseason apples: Cox’s Orange Pippin, Delicious (Red Delicious), Empire, Fiesta, Ginger Gold, Golden Delicious (Yellow Delicious), Golden Sentinel (colonnade), Gordon, Granny Smith, Honeycrisp, Jonagold, Jonathan, Liberty, McIntosh, Pettingill, Rubinette, Scarlet Sentinel (colonnade), Spartan, Wealthy, Winter Banana, Winter Pearmain

Favorite late-season apples: Arkansas Black, Ashmead’s Kernal, Braeburn, Enterprise, Fuji, Gold Rush, Iared, Karmijn de Sonnaville, Matsu (Crispin), Melrose, Northern Spy, Pink Lady, Shikuza, Sierra Beauty, Spitzenberg

Noelle Johnson Landscape Consulting

How to Plant Apple Trees

Most apples are sold as bare-root plants, even though you can find them in containers. Start looking for trees with strong, wide-angled branches that encircle the tree. Colonnade trees should have equally spaced side branches.

When to plant: Plant bare-root trees in full sun with well-drained dirt in late winter or early spring; container trees can be planted from autumn to spring, as long as the soil can be worked and it’s not too cold.

Planting instructions: The planting hole should be twice as broad as but no deeper than the rootball. Fill in with soil and water thoroughly. Add mulch as needed; do not let it touch the back. Remove any weak or crossing branches. If you are likely to espalier, begin now by removing all but the strongest side branches.

If you are planting more than one tree, space standard apple trees 20 to 30 feet apart, semidwarf varieties 12 to 16 feet apart, dwarf ones 5 to 2 feet apart and colonnade ones at least 18 inches apart.


How to Care for an Apple Tree

Watering: Water trees deeply and thoroughly, keeping the ground moist but not too saturated. Deep, thorough waterings, even when done less frequently, are best. Mulch will help conserve water as well as discourage weeds.

Feeding: Fertilize with a balanced chemical when the buds first start. Start with about 1/4 pound, then add another 1/4 pound for the next few years before the trees grow. If the tree is growing about 6 inches a year, however, there’s no need to fertilize. Also, cut back on nitrogen in case the tree is generating plenty of leaves but minimal fruit.

Thinning: Apple trees do shed some fruit in June, but you’ll probably have to narrow branches to about 8 inches or more apart, especially smaller branches. This will lead to larger fruit and less inconsistency between the dimensions of the crop from year to year.

Noelle Johnson Landscape Consulting

Pruning: Prune in the end of the dormant season. Apples are fairly resilient; you do not have to follow an specific principle for fear of losing fruit.

Shape the tree to create a pyramid or to have a central trunk with a vase-shaped group of branches in the top (called a modified boss). Remove any branches which are too narrowly angled, either crossing or weakened, or those that are growing out of bounds.

As the tree matures, remove any branches which are not generating as well as people that are crowding the interior; crowding the interior impedes the fantastic air flow which helps prevent diseases.

If you are training the tree in an espaliered routine or as a low, long-term (perfect for an easy harvest), then eliminate any wayward branches to maintain the pattern. Remove wayward branches out of colonnade trees too, even though they require little pruning otherwise.

Pests and diseases: Apples are yummy, but the trees aren’t free of diseases and pests. These lists may seem long, however, the odds are great you won’t receive all of these in your tree, so don’t despair.

Coddling moths top the list of pests, but you may set out spray or traps. Other problems include apple maggots, leafrollers and aphids. The latter are usually a short-term problem, as beneficial insects find and devour them.

Diseases comprise apple scab, cedar apple rust, powdery mildew and fireblight. If these are common in your town, start looking for disease-resistant types. Sunburn may also be an issue.

In all instances good garden hygiene will help prevent difficulties.

Putney Design

Harvest: Early-season apples should be harvested fairly quickly, since they don’t continue well on the tree. Late-season apples can be made on longer.

Cradle the apple in your hands and gently twist the stem, leaving the branch or spur it’s attached to in place. Wrap the apples in paper and keep them in a cool, dark spot.

Do you grow apples? Please inform us in the Comments section what sort does well in which you live.

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