Growing your own little personal orchard can be a very rewarding experience. Learn more about the necessary steps that a beginner needs to take to grow their own apples.
You might be asking yourself why grow apples when I can just pick them up at the local grocery store. Then, think about all the other things you grow, and how much better they taste coming from your backyard. Plus, that added thought of how much you appreciate the things that you grow yourself has only been sprayed with what you have sprayed them with during their growing season. Yes, it does take time before your trees may bear fruit, but think of it as a smart investment in knowing where the yummy apples you feed your children, family and friends are coming from. It starts to become pretty readily apparent as to why you should grow some apple trees in your own backyard.
There are actually over 7,000 varieties of apples! Picking an apple tree variety will depend on a few personal factors, such as the amount of area you have to plant, your climate zone, and your personal taste in apples. Generally, a tree variety that is considered hardy will grow in Zones 3 to 5, and a long-season variety will do well in Zones 5 to 8. Keep in mind that you will probably want to plant at least two varieties for pollination purposes.
Here are a few varieties that can be perfect for a beginner to start their personal apple orchard:
• Red Delicious
• Golden Delicious
• Honey Crisp
• Grimes Golden
Dwarf, semi-dwarf, or size-controlling varieties are a good route to take if you do not have a large amount of space. They still will provide about 1 to 2 bushels of apples in a year in comparison to the 4 to 5 bushels that a full-sized tree will provide. Also, they start growing fruit in about 3 to 4 years compared to the 5 to 8 years it takes a full-sized tree.
A Note on Pollination
When picking your varieties, it is essential to remember to plant trees that will cross-pollinate with each other. There are a few varieties of apples that are self-pollinating, but an apple harvest will be larger if these self-pollinators can cross-pollinate with another variety of apple. Some well-known pollinators are Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, and Grimes Golden.
The time to plant your apple trees will depend on where you are located. Fall planting is best in areas where the fall and winter weather is mild and moist. Spring is better for planting in northern and central areas where fall and winter weather is a bit too rough for the newly planted trees. Pick an area that has well-drained soil that is not too wet and has full sunlight. Do not pick an area that is located by other trees as this can impact your personal orchard.
Soak the roots for about 24 hours before planting if they have dried out. Remove all grass and weeds in a diameter of 4 feet around the area where you are planting your apple tree. Dig a hole in this cleared area that is about 2 feet deep and twice the diameter of the roots of the tree you are planting. Loosen the soil to allow the roots to penetrate the area. Do not crowd or twist the roots when spreading the root ball in the soil. Start replacing soil around the roots. Be sure to pack the soil in to ensure that the roots are completely surrounded and to get rid of any air pockets that might have formed. If planting a grafted tree, be sure that the graft union is 2 inches or more above the soil line. There should be a swelling at the junction between the rootstock and the scion.
Picking disease-resistant trees to plant can come in handy as there are a wide variety of diseases and pests that can attack your trees. For instance, Honey Crisp is one variety that is resistant to apple scab, Gala is resistant to powdery mildew, and Empire is resistant to fireblight.
Of course, you may still find your trees are falling victim to pests and diseases. It can be helpful to keep your orchard area clean, such as picking up dropped apples to prevent apple maggot larvae from having a place to grow into moths and having traps in the trees to catch any adult moths that could harm your crop. Spraying may be necessary depending on the types of disease or pest you are finding on your trees to ensure that you get a crop.
It is important to prune your tree yearly when it is dormant. This usually happens in late winter or early spring. When pruning it is important to remove any branches that are dead, shoots that come up from the roots of the tree, and water sprouts that are growing vertically out of the branches of the tree. Pruning can wait until your tree is starting to fruit as it can negatively impact growth and increase the amount of time it takes for fruiting. A young tree can have dead and broken branches removed.
Apples are a great type of tree to plant in your backyard. It will provide plenty of apples for fun recipes like apple crisps, apple chips and apple pie! Think of how envious others will be of your efforts once you start bringing in bushel after bushel of homegrown apples.