Apple Trees are one of the most well-known fruiting trees, with history in religions, mythologies, and cultures from around the world. Apple Trees are not traditionally a United States tree, though “as American as apple pie” has become a familiar notion. In fact, Apple Trees originate in Central Asia – cultivated throughout Asia and Europe, colonists brought the Apple Tree to the United States in the 1600s.
It grows readily from seed, though common store-bought apples are typically taken from root graft trees instead. Most common varieties of apple today have been carefully cultivated for taste, appearance, and disease resistance. Planting an Apple Tree provides not only peaceful shade, but also edible profits that recognize the hard work of the gardener. Apple Trees not only provide fruit, but they are also ornamental trees, accenting gardens and lawns with ease.
It is important to adequately research any species of plant before purchasing and planting the tree. Apple Trees are no different. Though easy to grow from seed, the Apple Tree fruit is often most enjoyable when grown from a root graft tree. Apple Trees are easy to grow, yet they do have specific requirements with regard to soil, sun, and water.
How to Buy Apple Trees
Apple Trees grow readily from seed; however, seed-grown Apple Trees have a variety of undesirable attributes. They take many years before they will become fruit bearing, and the reproductive process of the apple seed does not ensure parental traits are passed on to the next generation. It is best to buy an Apple Tree from a reputable nursery or arborist, such as The Tree Center. The initial care given by The Tree Center ensures healthy roots and plant prior to the proper planting and care the Apple Tree sapling will earn at home.
How to Plant Apple Trees
Sun: Plant in full sun with minimal shade from buildings or other trees.
Water: Water frequently. In general, trees require one inch of rain per week. Irrigation systems should be used if fruit-bearing is a desired trait.
Soil: Well-draining loamy soil.
Pruning: Heavy pruning is required in order to earn edible fruits.
When to Plant: Plant in late fall or early spring.
Research is the first step in the Apple Tree planting process. Determining a desirable planting location, preparing for watering and pruning needs, and adequately preparing for long-term needs of the Apple Tree should all be taken into account prior to purchasing. Once the Apple Tree has been determined to be well-suited to the planting location, buy an appropriate Apple Tree species from The Tree Center.
When the Apple Tree sapling arrives, examine the root ball carefully. The root ball is the mass of roots at the bottom of the Apple Tree. These determine the size of the hole that will be dug.
Dig a hole that is three times as wide as the Apple Tree’s root ball. The hole should be approximately 2 feet deep. After the hole has been dug, loosen the hole’s walls and backfill enough loosened soil into the hole so that when placed in the hole, the crown of the Apple Tree’s root ball is exposed by one inch. The tree will settle over time. Hold the tree vertically in the hole and backfill with soil and water. Mulch and water immediately.
Soil can be categorized in a variety of ways. Specifically, soil is usually characterized by the size of its particles, its ability to drain water, its pH, and its nutrient qualities. Apple Trees are adaptable with regard to soil. Despite this, they prefer well-draining loamy soil with a relatively neutral to slightly acidic pH. Make sure Apple Trees are not left in heavy or poorly draining soils, as they will not grow well in standing water. If planting Apple Trees with the hopes of bearing adequate amounts of fruit, it is wise to have the soil tested since compensating for strong pH or lacking nutrients is easier prior to planting.
Apple Trees are heavy water consumers. In the summer, a large, healthy Apple Tree can consume as much as 50 gallons of water a day. Irrigation systems are beneficial when planting Apple Trees. Drip or sprinkler irrigation systems can be used to effectively monitor and distribute water to the Apple Tree. Mulch can be used to help conserve water usage. In general, an Apple Tree should receive at least an inch of rainfall a week.
Mulch and Fertilizer
Mulch and fertilizer can both be used effectively in the growth of Apple Trees. Mulch should be used in a three inch layer in a three foot radius around the base of the tree. Mulch will help retain water and nutrients for the Apple Tree, thereby decreasing run-off and standing water. Natural mulches, such as those made of bark or wood chips, will also decompose. This will add nutrient-rich matter to the surrounding soil.
Fertilizer can also be used effectively with Apple Trees; however, care and caution should be shown when applying and using fertilizers in any planting process. In general, use a well-balanced slow release fertilizer. Do not apply to a recently planted tree. Avoid using fertilizers if possible.
Information on Apple Trees
Ithunn of Norse mythology is the protector of the Tree of Life, whose apples keep the Norse gods immortal and healthy. Many Christians believe the tree in the Garden of Eden was an Apple Tree, though this is considered only one possible translation of the word malus, which means both ‘apple’ and ‘evil’ with various accents on the ‘a’. From Germanic paganism to Greek mythology, the apple appears as a symbol of youth, immortality, life, sexuality, and health. Apple Trees are widely planted throughout much of the world today, and the different varieties are enjoyed for their tender flavor.
Apple Tree Varieties and Cultivars
There are many types of Apple Tree available throughout the United States. Heirloom Apple Trees, Northern Apple Trees, and Southern Apple Trees are three main categories, while individual species include the Gala Apple Tree, the Fuji Apple Tree, and the McIntosh Apple Tree. Below, read about the main categories.
Heirloom Apple Trees
Heirloom Apple Trees are primarily grown as a nod to the locality of the planting area. With species as diverse as the Newtown Pippin, Spitzenburg, and Grimes Golden, these apple varieties are not generally planted for their high profits. Usually, Heirloom Apple Trees have low yields and high disease and pest infestations; however, gardeners continue to plant them for their unique flavors, those that are unknown in the common supermarket. Heirloom Apple Trees are typically smaller than the more common Apple Tree varieties, and the apples they produce display oblong shapes, russetting, and low yields. May Apple Tree planters are willing to forsake the apple profits, instead opting to keep a dying tree variety alive.
Northern Apple Trees
Not all Apple Trees grow well in all locations. USDA Hardiness Zones 6 and below require Apple trees able to withstand cold winters, heavy snowfall, and significant seasonal changes. Fortunately, there are several varieties of Apple Tree able to withstand the cooler northern climates. The Northern Spy, St. Johnsbury, the Sherry Apple, the Honeycrisp Apple Tree, the September Ruby, the Gala Apple Tree, the Fuji Apple Tree, the Granny Smith Apple Tree, the McIntosh Apple Tree, and the Sunnybrook Apple Trees can also grow easily in northern climates.
Southern Apple Trees
USDA Hardiness Zones 6 and above are warmer, and alternate between drier and wetter climates based on location. Southern Apple Trees can produce just as much fruit as their northern counterparts, although Apple Trees often benefit from some colder temperatures. These Apple Tree varieties are typically slightly sweeter and meatier. Southern Apple Tree species include the Anna Southern Apple Tree, the Gala Apple Tree, the Fuji Apple Tree, the Pink Lady Apple Tree, and the Dorsett Southern Apple Tree.
Benefits of Apple Trees
Many homeowners and landscapers choose the Apple Tree for its fruiting benefits. The Apple Tree doubles as both an ornamental accent tree and profitable tree. Depending on the variety of Apple Tree, many of the apples can be used for baking, ciders, or eating. It is also relatively easy to grow Apple Trees – they require some moderate pruning during later stages of growth to increase apple yields.
Apple Tree Concerns
Despite the many benefits, the Apple Tree is susceptible to a variety of diseases and pests, which frequently afflict new growers. The most common afflictions are cankers, scabs, brown rot, honey fungus, and poor fruiting. Honey fungus and root rot frequently affect root systems, which will impact fruiting and tree growth. Stems and branches can also display cankers, galls, spots, blights, and wilt. Observe limbs for signs of these fungi and diseases, and be sure to apply an appropriate fungicide as needed.
Wooly aphids also impact the appearance of the tree. Typically harmless in small numbers, they can quickly overtake a small Apple Tree. Invest in pesticides, natural or chemical, as needed to deter pests. Finally, not all Apple Trees will produce fruit quickly or with high yields. Continue to monitor weather conditions, pests and diseases, birds, biennial bearing tendencies, and pruning to ensure successful fruiting.