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Ten essential steps to growing an apple tree at home

Before you get planting, check out these 10 helpful tips from Evergreen Garden Market.

Apples growing on a tree Image: Marina Khrapova
Image: Marina Khrapova

Published on September 13, 2018

Apple trees are a great way to grow fruit at home. An established and well-maintained apple tree will provide home gardeners with bushels of delicious fruit.

Our team of experts at Evergreen Garden Market have collected ten essential steps to consider before planting your native apple tree.

1. Find the right location

Apple trees grow best in a full-sun location protected from cold spring winds that can damage blossoms. Soil can range from neutral to slightly acidic, but it must be moist and well drained.

2. Examine your neighborhood

Apple trees cross pollinate. If there isn’t another apple or crabapple tree within 35 meters (about 100 feet) of your location, you should plant two trees. They don’t need to be the same variety. 

3. Select the right apple variety

There are a plethora of apple variations to choose from when selecting your tree. Some are heritage varieties, some are recent cultivars. Each variety has unique characteristics. 

A great way to select your tree is to visit a farmers market, taste the various fruit and talk to the growers. Most home gardeners find success with Cortland, Empire, Gala and McIntosh apples.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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4. Dig your hole

Make sure that the top of the root ball is level with the top of the hole.  You don’t want to bury the trunk.  Apple trees are typically a graft on to hardy roots stock, keep this graft about 4 inches above the soil level. When putting the soil back in to the hole, mix in a little organic compost for nutrients.

5. Mulch

Mulch is magic! It keeps roots cool, retains moisture, prevents run-off and improves the organic content of the soil. It also keeps weeds under control. Apply ½ a cubic yard (3 full wheelbarrows) of wood mulch to your apple trees between 10-15cm deep to a radius of 1m from the base of new trees.

6. Support your trees

For the first year to 18 months, support the young tree with two wooden stakes on either side. The stakes should be roughly the same height as the tree it is supporting before you hammer them two feet in to the ground. The stakes should be hammered in to the soil surrounding the roots, not the rootball itself.

Use strong twine or other non-abrasive, decomposable material to secure the tree. The tied twine should have enough slack to allow the tree to move in breezes and strong winds. Remove all of this once the tree’s roots are established.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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7. Guard your trees

Install a good tree guard to protect your tree against winter injury or chewing damage from small animals (ie. rabbits, field mice and voles.)

8. Water

New trees need consistent daily water throughout the growing season (May to October). Extra water will be necessary during summer dry spells.

9. Fertilizer

A seasonal application of organic fertilizer is a good idea, but excessive fertilizing is not necessary.

10.  Patience

Apple trees will require 3 to 8 years of growth before apple harvests begin to yield large quantities of fruit.

If you need a little extra convincing to plant your own apple tree, join us at Evergreen Brick Works' first annual Harvest Apple Festival, presented by Brickworks Ciderhouse, on September 22 and 23. Taste local apple varieties, see cider as its made, enjoy fun family activities and taste apple goodies of course!