Apple Trees

Choosing an Apple Tree

APPLE TREE QUICK GUIDE

Latin Name
Malus pumila

Type
Hardy deciduous tree

Site and Soil
Tolerant of most soil conditions

Plant to Harvest Time
3 to 5 years

How Many Apples?
Smaller trees 15kg (33lbs), larger trees 30kg (65lbs).

Buying an apple tree needs some planning and research. Consider first what rootstock is required, this will define the height and vigour of the tree. Do you want to grow a standard tree or train it as an espalier? Consider also what type of apple you want, eating or cooking?

Then consider pollination. If you live in a town, pollination from neighbour's trees will be almost guaranteed but in countryside areas you need to pick a tree of the correct pollination type. Spend a few minutes reading this article on apple trees, then buy your apple tree.

When and Where To Plant Apple Trees

October to December is the best time to plant your apple trees. Apple trees prefer full sun, although they will tolerate some shade, especially if it is at the hottest part of the day. Pick a position that will not become water-logged, and that is not in a "frost pocket". Apple trees are tolerant of most soil conditions, but extremes of acid or alkaline soil will need to be corrected before planting. Perfect conditions are a crumbly soil with medium fertility and slightly on the acid side.

How To Plant Apple Trees

First, prepare the soil a month or more before planting so that it has time to settle. Dig a 60cm (2ft) deep by 1.2m (4ft) square hole, incorporating as much organic material as possible, aim to get the soil crumbly.

If the tree is being planted in soil which has previously been fertilised for other crops, do not add more fertiliser. Too fertile a soil will result in too much tree growth at the expense of too little fruit growth. If the tree is being planted in a lawn, prepare as above, working in three handfuls of bonemeal or other long-lasting fertiliser.

Dig a hole large enough to easily take the roots, place the tree in the hole and cover the roots with soil up to the surrounding ground level. Simple enough, but bear in mind a few points. Don't add any fertiliser to the soil at this time - it may burn the roots and it will only encourage tree growth at the expense of fruit growth.

The tree should be planted to the same depth as it was in the pot (or the soil mark on the trunk in the case of bare-rooted trees). If in doubt, make sure that the joining point between the rootstock and scion is at least 5cms (2in) above ground level. Having planted the tree, firm down the soil using your boots to ensure the soil is in good contact with the roots then water well if the conditions are dry.

All apple trees will need to be supported by a stake at planting. Apple trees on rootstocks M9, M26 and M27 will need staking throughout their lives, other rootstocks can have their stakes removed after two years.

Pruning Bush Apple Trees

PRUNE A ONE YEAR OLD TREE

A one year old tree should be pruned immediately after planting - cut off the top half of the trunk. Before cutting, make sure that the bottom half contains at least four buds - if not, cut above the fourth bud.

PRUNE A TWO YEAR OLD TREE

Prune during December. The pink coloured parts of the tree on the left hand show growth in the previous year, this should not be pruned. The black coloured side shoots should all be pruned by a third - see the thick black lines.

When pruning, cut just above an outward facing bud. The bud will produce a side shoot in the spring which will grow away from the centre of the tree.  

PRUNE A THREE YEAR OLD TREE

Prune during December to January. Pruning is similar to the two-year old tree. The pink coloured parts of the tree show growth in the previous year, this should not be pruned. The black coloured side shoots should all be pruned by a third.

Always prune to just above an outward facing bud. Prune four year apple tree.

PRUNE A FOUR YEAR OLD TREE

Prune during December to January. Pruning is similar to the three-year old tree - the pink coloured parts of the tree show growth in the previous year, this should not be pruned unless it is diseased. The black coloured side shoots should all be pruned by a third.

Always prune to just above an outward facing bud.

To prune older trees, keep the centre of the tree relatively clear of growth, removing all weak or diseased growth and keep the tree within the space available. Remember, apples grow on the previous year's wood, so always leave a good proportion (say 50%) of the previous year's growth.

Pests and Diseases

Apple trees are relatively free from pest and disease, especially the more recent varieties. The more common problems include aphids, coddling moth, apple sawfly and bitter pit.

Material courtesy of www.gardenaction.co.uk
(your fruit, herb and vegetable garden website).

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