Planting Apple Trees
by National Gardening Association Editors
Choose a site with full sun, moderate fertility, and good air circulation and water drainage. Apple trees will tolerate a wide range of soil conditions. While you can improve your soil with fertilizer and mulch, other factors -- full sun, good water drainage, the right varieties, and loving care -- will go a long way toward overcoming less-than-perfect soil.
In the North, plant as early in the spring as possible. In the South where fall and winter weather is moist and mild, fall planting works well; it gives the roots a good headstart on spring.
Dig a hole a foot wider and a foot deeper than the root ball, then partially fill it with topsoil or compost. Space standard trees 30 to 35 feet apart, semidwarfs 20 to 25 feet apart, and dwarfs 15 to 20 feet apart. Pound in a stake on the downwind side for support. Support is not essential for semidwarfs, but it is still a good idea for the first few years.
Place your tree in the hole and spread the roots carefully. With dwarf or semi-dwarf trees that have only one graft, make sure that the graft union (a small swelling near the base of the trunk) remains at least 1 inch above ground, or the upper variety will take root and override the desired influence of the rootstock.
Deep planting of both rootstock-dwarfed and interstem-dwarfed trees results in better tree anchorage and fewer suckers growing up from the roots. However, planting trees much deeper than they grew in the nursery can increase problems with crown rot. With interstem varieties, the interstem section should be half above and half below the ground.
Before you fill the hole, place a mouse guard around the trunk to extend about 10 inches or so above the ground. Water your fledglings thoroughly. Then mulch with clean straw or some other weed-free organic material to keep the moist and to control weeds.
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