Growing an apple tree in a garden or on a plot of land is a rewarding experience for the gardener, whether confirmed or amateur. Because the tree does not have strong requirements, it is perfectly possible to engage in the planting and maintenance of the apple tree while only having limited knowledge on the matter. In so doing, one can hope for a first harvest after 2 – 4 years. 

The apple tree is a fruit tree native to Asia that was acclimated to Europe. It is a deciduous tree that can reach 10 to 40 ft tall. The apple tree starts flowering in spring, giving rise to pink or white flowers. The fruits are ripe from July to October and vary in shape, size and colour depending on variety. To produce good fruit, the apple tree requires regular maintenance.

Growing technique and periodic maintenance 

We can plan for the apple tree to be planted during dormancy, that is during the period that occurs between the falling of the leaves and the plant’s awakening. This period lasts from fall to winter, the best months being November and December. It is important to thoroughly work the land and dig a large hole 30 to 40 inches wide and 20 to 24 inches deep in which some compost and manure will be incorporated. The apple tree is undemanding in regard to soil type. Nonetheless, it still prefers rich and well-drained soil. Loamy or clay-bonded soil is the ideal choice. Concerning the plant, it is necessary to trim the roots’ tips prior to planting. To facilitate recovery, roots can also be coated with praline, a slurry containing clay and cow dung.

During planting, make sure that the roots have enough space and are not compressed or bent. The first fruits appear 2-4 years after planting. To maintain good ground fertility, proceed with the amendment of the soil by adding organic fertilizer twice a year, once in the fall and once in the spring. The apple tree can be subjected to pesticide treatment before flowering and after harvest. For this purpose, it is customary to use Bordeaux mixture, a commercially available product manufactured by neutralizing a solution of copper sulphate with lime, in order to prevent against scab, canker and powdery mildew. It is also recommended to carry out insecticide treatments in spring and summer against apple worms, mites and aphids.

Pruning, disbudding and thinning 

To balance the tree’s growth and fruit formation, the apple tree needs to be pruned. The tree is usually pruned in winter, when it is dormant, except during periods of frost. The operation involves trimming, up to one foot in length, the shoots stemming from the main branches to produce lateral shoots that will bear fruit. And, if you assume that there will always be insufficient lateral branches, cut the shoots down to a third of an inch in length. In order to get quality apples, use disbudding, thinning and bagging of apples. Disbudding goes along with pruning, by removing all the buds that will not be used to bear fruit or that do not fit the tree’s desired shape. Overly vigorous branches must also be cut down to 5 or 6 leaves, in order to properly distribute the sap to other branches.

After the natural fall of apples that have not reached their maximum size in May-June, proceed to a thinning of the remaining fruit. On main branches, the best is to leave 6 to 10 apples per meter. The fruits can grow together normally. For top quality apples, it is possible to pack them in brown paper bags when they still have the size of hazelnuts. The process allows for larger fruit and a much thinner skin. Likewise, it protects the fruit against insects, diseases and climatic hazards.

Related posts:

  1. Planting and maintaining an apple tree
  2. The different apple varieties
  3. Growing a lemon tree
  4. Planting and maintaining a fig tree
  5. Growing a plum tree

Published in Orchard by Alexander on 04 Jul 2011