The first thing you need to grow apples is a long-term commitment. Growing apples takes considerable time and quite a bit of work. Still, if one of your fondest childhood memories is the apple tree in your backyard, producing your own apples is a satisfying part of gardening.
Before you begin growing apples, make sure you have room for at least two trees. Typically, two apple trees bear enough fruit to keep a family of four in good supply. Apple trees need to grow in full sun, which means they need at least six hours of sunlight each day. Even dwarf varieties need to be spaced at least 8-feet apart. It is also essential to provide your trees with good drainage. Although apple trees tolerate a variety of soil types, they prefer sandy loam to sandy clay loam with a pH of about 6.5.
You probably wonder why you need two trees to grow apples. Apple trees
are self-incompatible. Simply put, this means that even the most industrious
bee (bees are the chief pollinators of apple trees) can’t persuade two trees
of the same variety to bear fruit. So, to grow apples you usually need two
trees of different varieties. Some nurseries offer apple trees that have two
or more compatible cultivars grafted on the same tree; but to be on the safe
side (and to get enough apples for a family of four) you still need two
trees. A flowering crab will also pollinate your fruit-bearing apple tree
and is useful in pest deterrence, as you’ll see later in this article.
Although apples trees grow from seed, it takes several years and a significant amount of nurturing to produce an apple harvest from seed. The easiest way to begin growing apples is to purchase either bare root or container grown trees from your favorite garden nursery. In addition to fruit size, taste, and color, your nursery professional can recommend trees that are cold hardy for your area, bloom at approximately the same time, are pollination compatible, and are disease resistant. You’ll find that purchasing disease resistant cultivars makes a generous cut in your apple tree maintenance time!
When selecting trees from a catalog or Internet site, you need to make these comparisons between cultivars. Look for catalogs and sites that list compatible cultivars for you.
How high your tree grows also depends on the type of tree you plant. Dwarf varieties reach 8 to 10-feet in height, semi-dwarf trees grow 10 to 15-feet tall, and standard trees may reach heights of 20-feet or more. Although their yield is less, dwarf and semi-dwarf rootstock typically bears the same size fruit as standard size trees and is overall easier to manage
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