If you love picking your own fruit, maybe it’s time to plant some apple trees! Whether you’re looking for fresh eating, sauce, or pie, we have an apple for you. Here’s our quick guide to growing apple trees right in your own backyard.
Where to Plant Apple Trees
Choose a spot in full sun with good, evenly moist, well-drained soil. If you’re concerned about space, most of the varieties we carry are semi-dwarf and get to about 12-15 feet tall and wide, so it is easy to find a spot for them. When choosing your site, it’s a good idea to make sure there aren’t any black walnut trees nearby. Apple trees can be sensitive to the juglone produced by black walnuts, and they need to be planted well away from the root zone and leaf litter of these trees. It’s also smart to avoid planting apples where you know cedar-apple rust is an issue.
Plant Two Compatible Varieties
Choose two different apples that have compatible bloom times to ensure proper pollination. We have several varieties to choose from and a helpful chart noting compatibility and incompatibility. Make sure to plant them within 50-100 feet of each other (closer is fine). If you’d like to try one apple to start, look around your neighborhood- your neighbors might have an apple already that could work but be ready to plant another apple variety if you don’t get fruit after several years.
Care and Maintenance
Care for your apples involves keeping them hydrated and happy to start. Throughout the season, scout for disease. Apples can be prone to scab and fire blight, so keep an eye out for spotty leaves and blackened, burned looking shoots. Remove diseased branches immediately and treat accordingly. Several varieties show resistance to one or both diseases; feel free to ask us or refer to the U of M’s recommendations for disease resistant varieties.
Netting trees after they bloom is an easy way to protect a small apple from insects and critters as it establishes. Cleaning up fallen fruit and leaves helps manage pests that may hide in debris and there are also a variety of treatment options available if the damage is significant. In fall and winter, it is critical to protect your apple trees from deer and rabbit damage- rabbits will quickly and efficiently girdle and kill a young apple tree.
Plan to get your first good harvest in 3-5 years. If you can stand it, we recommend you pick off any apples produced in the first year or two to allow the trees to focus on rooting and establishing rather than fruit production.
For more information, the U of M has an excellent month-by-month guide on caring for apples, thinning fruit, detailed tips on pruning, and pest and disease management tips here. We’re also happy to help you with questions!