Growing Apple Trees

There is nothing more rewarding than eating an apple grown in your own backyard. Growing fruit trees may seem challenging at first but is truly worth it in the end! Research is key when growing any sort of plant whether it be a small house plant or large fruit tree. Knowing what your tree needs is vital to its growth and development. Well, you are in luck! This week's blog contains beneficial information to help you start your own apple orchard at home. Provided below are items to consider before getting to pick an apple straight from your yard. 

Growing apple trees or any fruit trees can be difficult but as mentioned above research is key. Don't get ahead of yourself without proper preparation. Research what apples grow best in your area and climate. Make sure you have the proper amount of space, and your soil is the correct type for apples. Apples prefer sandy to loamy (a mixture of sand, silt, and clay) soils that are well drained. Apples are also prone to diseases, and larger growers spray chemicals to prevent such diseases. This isn't feasible for a few apple trees at home, and most home growers don't want to deal with spraying chemicals. Therefore, select disease resistant cultivars. These cultivars are less known and aren't the major types you see on grocery store shelves, but they are still delicious. Some disease resistant cultivars include Liberty, Freedom, Sweet Sixteen, and Pristine. Contact your local nursery to learn about other types that will grow well in your area while still resisting diseases!

Another important consideration is whether the fruit tree you are selecting is self-pollinating. This means that it would not need another tree to produce fruit. Most apple trees are not self-pollinated and need more than one tree to produce a successful crop. Even if the tree is self-pollinating, with another tree nearby, these trees tend to produce more fruit that is often larger as well. The two apple cultivars you select to grow, must be compatible with each other and bloom at the same time to pollinate one another. 

Many plants are grown from seed; however, trees are not normally one of them. Grafted trees are the route to go. A grafted tree contains a rootstock and a scion. The rootstock is the bottom portion of the tree, primarily the roots and enough stem/trunk to attach it to the scion. The scion is the top portion of the tree, primarily the stem/trunk and the actual foliage of the tree where the apples will be produced. Grafting allows favorable characteristics from two trees to become one. For example, if a select apple tree's roots are disease resistant, but don't produce very flavorful apples, that tree could be grafted to a tree with flavorful apples. Grafting is a very difficult process, and grafted trees can be found at a nursery near you. 

Finally, another important consideration is pruning. Pruning is essential to the success of your tree. Within the first year of your apple tree, a central leader or a central branch needs to be selected through pruning. This stimulates fruit production while keeping the tree open and balanced. After the first year, regular pruning still needs to occur. If you don't prune, the apple tree can produce too many fruiting branches. While it may appear good to have a lot of fruiting branches, too many can weaken the tree resulting in fewer apples that are low quality over time. Eventually, the tree will stop producing fruit. 

In summary, here are some questions to ask yourself, research, or contact your nursery when deciding to grow apple trees.  

  1. Will the tree fit in my yard? How far apart do all the trees need to be spaced?
  2. What climate does the tree grow best in?
  3. Will my soil allow the growth of the tree? Is the pH correct? Is there enough drainage?
  4. What are the tree's needs? How much water and fertilizer does it require?
  5. Are the trees disease resistant, or will they require spraying for a successful apple crop?
  6. Is the tree self-pollinating? If not, what trees bloom at the same time?
  7. Do I have time to dedicate to pruning? 

It may appear like a lot of work at first to raise an apple tree but is very rewarding in the end. Give yourself time to research and prepare before jumping into growing any fruit tree. If growing trees doesn't seem to be for you, don't worry we've got you covered. Stop by the Apple Barn to pick up our apples. Visit our Facebook, Instagram, or website to find out what apples are in season and can be found in our store. 

Alyssa Rosenbaum - Education and Food Safety Intern