How To Grow Apples

Guide for basic apple care, especially the pruning and location of the apple trees, when to pick and store the apples, and how to ensure a full crop.

Growing apples is one of the most rewarding experiences and will not take that much of your time. But usually it will take up an area for a large amount of time. From the time of planting to the time the tree will have its maximum yield is ten years. There are many varieties of apples, but mostly the growing will be similar between the different kind. One of the only negative aspects of apple growing near sub tropical areas is that they require more winter cold then such areas can supply. A good idea is if you get a disease resistance apple tree for your home garden. This will give you less work during the year.

When you plant apple trees, it is best to start off with a young tree from a nursery so you will have a yield of apples sooner. Try to get a variety that has superb eating quality and isn't widely available form your stores. But since commercial apples are usually not allowed to ripen all the way before being picked, even common apples will taste much better since you will let them mature much longer, which will increase their flavor greatly. If you choose to plant the seeds by hand, it will take two to three years just to grow them a few feet tall, so the nursery will save you much time. If you choose to plant the small apple tree into sandy or light soil, it needs to be mulched and watered in the summer since the trees need to be kept healthy with good nutrition. If the apple tree is still small don't forget to water it. Some sources have said that the apple tree needs at least 20 leaves to mature one fruit.

After planting, head the un-branched whip back to about 24 inches from the ground, which will induce budding from more branches. If the small tree you buy has many branches, choose four to five which are spaced about equal angles around the trunk, and don't vary more than 5 inches vertically. Prune these branches by cutting off about one quarter of the branches' length. Pruning should not be done in the winter since the apple tree might develop a serious disease called "silverleaf" unless the cuts are treated with a top quality wound sealing paste, or unless the tree was vaccinated against this disease early in life. Many people prune in the end of January to March. This way none of the growing sap has been wasted in the trees yet, and if you cut off a branch and seal the wound all the sap will be routed into the other branches making them much stronger. Pruning is used to modify the shape of the tree to ensure that the sunlight can get through to the inner branches, and to guarantee the highest possible apple yield. Another reason for pruning is to control the shape of the tree by developing a well-balanced branching network all around the tree. Make sure the wood isn't frozen when you prune since the branch might split when you're cutting it and you can't control the location very well. Pruning should be done early on, so don't wait until the tree is large to start. This would waste many years of precious sap to the wrong branches. Pruning usually consists of cutting off undesirable branches, and the tipping of terminals to encourage branching of the tree. If you want to encourage branching even more the tipping of terminals can also be done in early June and early August which have been proven to be the most beneficial to the trees branching.

After your tree has developed about two or three inches of growth it is time to start shaping the tree branches. Make sure that the main branch points upward by supporting them from below and the new growth will come out vertically and you will be able to shape the tree. It is important that the tree has strong load-bearing capacities, so the upper branches need to point upwards for maximum yield. Another encouragement for the tree to produce larger, healthy fruit is apple thinning. Each bud of the apple tree might have about five flowers on it. But to get the largest, most flavorful yield, only one flower should be left for 3 buds. This should be done while the tree is still in bloom. Some people like to turn the individual apples slightly so they get exposure to the sun on all sides. This isn't necessary, but if you want evenly colored apples this is one way of achieving it.

If you live in a very cold area, help the tree survive the winter by loosely wrapping the tree trunks with insulating agents such as old clothes or sack cloth, and pile mulch and wood chips about 10 inches high around the trunk. In the spring it is necessary to remove the insulation, but the wood chips can remain since they tend to trap moisture close to the trunk and no weeds will grow close to the apple tree roots and therefore it will get more nutrients as well. In the spring the apple tree should also receive some 10-10-10 fertilizer with its first watering, and keep fertilizing about 4 times a year until the tree is six years old. After that it will probably just need some nitrogen so fertilize in small amounts after that.

When the apples are picked, try not to injure the fruit since it will tend to start rotting much earlier if it becomes bruised or the skin breaks. Remove the fruit by holding onto the attachment of the stem and twist until the apple comes off. Always keep the stems in the apples to further make the apple more preservable. After the harvest the apples can be stored in crates in cool rooms of about 3-6 degrees Celsius for the entire winter. Try not to have the apples touching, and have much ventilation in the storage room. Good luck with your apple growing and enjoy the fruit of your labor!

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