With the availability of dwarf trees, nearly any backyard can accommodate some of these fruit trees. Standard-sized Apple trees reach 30 feet or more tall with an equal width. Semi-dwarfs reach 15 to 20 feet and dwarfs grow to 7 to 10 feet. The mini-dwarfs can be kept to about 5 feet.
• Much more information can be found in The Georgia Fruit & Vegetable Book by Walter Reeves and Felder Rushing
• See also Home Garden Apples
Apples are one of the first fruit trees most gardeners consider planting but remember that you will harvest cosmetically blemished fruit without intensive pest control. Spraying can be kept to a minimum by following good cultural practices and by keeping the area under your trees clean. Some folks prefer Apples to be tart and crisp, other prefer them sweet as honey. The chart at the end of this entry gives you many Apple varieties from which to choose.
WHEN TO PLANT
Plant Apple trees in fall after the first frost or in early spring as soon as the soil can be worked.
WHERE TO PLANT
Select a full sun spot (8 to 10 hours is sufficient) with well-drained soil. An Apple tree will not tolerate wet feet. Leave sufficient room, depending on the type you are planting, so that you can walk around the mature tree to spray or harvest.
HOW TO PLANT
Spacing is determined by the kind of trees you plant. Space standard trees thirty five feet apart, semi-dwarfs at twenty feet and fully dwarf trees at seven to ten feet. Plant mini-dwarf Apples in beds, spaced about six feet apart in each direction. Fully dwarf or mini-dwarf trees are the best size for backyard orchards. It is a good idea to decide on the kind you want to plant before you go to a nursery to make your purchase. Do some calculations so that you buy the appropriate number of plants for the Apple area in your yard. (Apples usually need a pollinator, so at least 2 are necessary. See the varieties listed at the end.)
Apples are generally available growing in pots at local nurseries or as bare-root, 2-year-old unbranched whips via mail-order. As soon as you receive bare-root trees, plunge the roots in a bucket of water for a couple of hours to re-wet them and keep them from drying out. If planting is to be delayed, heel-in the trees until you can plant them. To plant a tree, dig a hole twice as wide as the spread of the roots and deep enough that the plant will be at the same depth it grew in the nursery. Trim off excessively long and damaged roots (roots should not be long enough to wrap around the hole) and spread the roots out in the bottom of the hole. Supporting the tree with one hand, backfill with the soil you removed and firm it with your boot. Water thoroughly after planting to settle the soil. Add more soil if needed. Dwarf trees need staking and must remain staked throughout their lives. Set a 4-foot-tall post on the southwest side of the tree, 1 foot from the trunk and loosely fasten the tree to it with a one inch wide rubber strap to protect the trunk.
CARE AND MAINTENANCE
Annual pruning is necessary to train Apple trees. The ideal time is mid- to late winter. Thinning the fruit is also necessary to produce a good crop each year.
Each winter after the Apple reaches its mature size, prune to remove dead or damaged branches, water sprouts (vigorous vertical sprouts growing from the base of the tree or from scaffold branches), vertical suckers and branches touching the ground. Also remove branches growing into the center of the tree and those rubbing on others. Clip out weak, nonproductive branches. Some gardeners mark non-bearing branches with ribbon during harvest to remind them of the ones that need pruning. Do not treat cut branches with tar or a sealant.
Some Apple varieties try to grow ascending scaffold branches with narrow crotches. Tie them down or spread and brace them apart so they are about 90 degrees from the trunk. Several kinds of ties or spreaders can be made to do this: for example, a tiedown can be made of wire run through a piece of hose to protect the branches with the end of the wire staked to the ground. Spreaders can be made from narrow sticks braced between trunk and branches to bend them outward. Set sharpened nails in the ends of the sticks to keep them from slipping out of place.
Apple trees require water in dry weather, especially when they are growing in light, sandy soils that dry out quickly. Control weeds beneath the trees by hoeing or using herbicides. Apply 2 or 3 inches of mulch under the entire branch system and a few feet beyond.
Young dwarf Apple trees should grow 1 1/2 to 2 feet each year. If they do not seem to be growing, fertilize with 10-10-10 in spring, at a rate of 1 1/2 pounds per 100 square feet of ground beneath the tree. If they are growing too vigorously do not fertilize, since excessively vigorous trees do not set fruit.
Apples can be attacked by insects such as codling moth, San Jose scale, Japanese beetles and aphids. Diseases such as scab, bitter rot, flyspeck and white rot can disfigure or ruin fruit. Your local Extension office can provide you with a spray schedule for specific pests and diseases.
When the Apples have developed their characteristic coloring, taste a few; the taste test is the only reliable test for ripeness. If they are ripe, harvest them. Guides are available from your local Extension Service to tell you the approximate date that certain varieties are ripe but the dates vary from year to year.
Animals may severely damage Apple trees. Install wire or plastic guards around the trunk to prevent rabbit damage and pull back mulch so that voles (meadow mice) can’t hide next to the trunk.
(Bloom season) Characteristics
A Excellent shaped fruit with blush of red. Very early crisp yellow apple.
A Yellow apple of good quality; ripens mid-June to early July
B Good for fresh eating, sauce and pies. Excellent-quality apple.
B Good for fresh eating or salads.
B A versatile apple. Good for fresh eating, pies and sauce.
B Yellow, russet-free apple of excellent quality
B Large, firm, crisp, sweet. Good for fresh eating or salads.
C Very large, yellow apple with red blush.
C Ripens one or two weeks after Red Delicious. Good producer.
B Does not color well, but quality is superb. Good for cooking, eating.
B Yellow apple of exceptional quality. Crisp and juicy. Slightly tart.
C Ripens early October. Red apple that is primarily grown for baking.
C Rusty red finish. Superb-quality all-purpose apple that is tart
B Small, dark red. Juicy, mellow, sub-acid. Best keeper.
B Yellow-green apple of excellent quality. Good all-purpose variety.
Listed in order of ripening. Comments that are preceded by a common letter ( A, B, C ) bloom at approximately the same time. Since most Apple varieties are self-unfruitful (require pollen from another variety to set fruit), plant two or more varieties that have the same letter so fruit set will result. Stayman, Mutzu, and Jonagold have sterile pollen and should not be used as a pollen source for other varieties; therefore, plant at least two other varieties with any of these three varieties.