Apple tree cultivation

How to grow an apple tree

Apple characteristics

The European cultivated apple is the species Malus domestica var. sylvestris. The apple tree is an deciduous tree up to 15 m. Gray pubescent young stems and branches. Elliptic- ovate leaves with hairy undersides till 15 cm. long. White or pink flowers up to 5 cm. The fruit (apple) is a pome more than 5 cm wide, of very variable color depending on the variety.

The apples are picked in late summer or autumn. An easy way to tell when they are ready to be harvested is to pick an apple between your fingers and give it a not very sharp turn. If is easily separated from the tree, it is ready to be picked.


Apple trees: Irrigation and moisture

Apple trees should have a regular watering before they have rooted. In places where it rains regularly, you do not have to water them because the rainwater is enough. Between 600 and 750 liters of rain per year would be ideal, but they can withstand much drier climates.

However, if you want to encourage fruit production, in dry areas or in times of drought, watering can ensure a richest production and it will also be very helpful to prevent leaves to fall down early.

For non-rooted samples, during the first year and from the spring on, the soil should be kept with a constant moisture so they can easily take root.

There are many techniques to water apple trees, although trickle irrigation is the most commonly method used in recent years because it optimizes water consumption. The amount of water to be used depends on both, the type of climate and soil type where the tree is planted. Clay soils require much less water than sandy ones. We also have to take into account the type of tree we want to irrigate, whether it is a large tree or a small one.

Some experts recommend that during the vegetative period, they should be watered well throughout the area under the crown until the water penetrates into the ground a couple of feet. Depending on the type of soil and the type of tree, this will suppose between 100 and 300 liters per tree. In very dry areas, they may need to be watered every two days.

Apple trees: Varieties and species

Apple trees are fruit trees. They are used for fruit production. However, according to what they are intended for, we can classify domestic apple tree varieties in the following three types:

Apple trees to eat fresh fruit: Those producing fresh apples for eating without any cooking. These in turn are divided int:

  • Early apple trees: To be harvested in late summer or early fall. Among them we could mention varieties like George cave, the Irish peach, Charles Ross, Discovery or Lord Lambourne.
  • Media season apple trees: They are harvested in mid Octobers. Some varieties are Greenleeves, Golden Delicious, Jester, American mother, Sunset or Fiesta.
  • Late season apple trees: Those that are collected in late autumn, such as Jupiter, Laxton` s superb, Jonagold, or Rosemary Russet.

Kitchen apple trees: Those that produce apples that are destined to eat cooked, baked in cakes or pies. These may also be:

  • Early apple trees: For example: George Neal, Golden Noble, or Early Victoria
  • Media season apple trees as Lord Derby, Cox Pomona or Bleinheim Noble.
  • Late season apple trees: as Monarch, Bountiful or Bramley’s Seeling

Cider apple trees: They are those varieties used for the production of wine. Most of them are acidic varieties (Blanquina, Fuentes, San Roque…) and semi-acid (Perico, Lazy, Solarina…), although other non-acid varieties can also be used (meana)

Apple trees: Temperature and exposure

The apple production is a type of crop that works best in cool climates than in warm climates. In fact, its cultivation reaches up to 65 ° N latitude and does not support the tropical or subtropical climates. Especially, apple trees need between 900 and 1000 hours per year when temperatures are below 7 ° C and can withstand up to -10 º C in winter rest period without affecting them.

Apple buds need cold periods to open. The flowers, however, do not tolerate frost. Frost during bloom may damage the crop. The ideal temperature would fall between 5.7 and 24.2 ° C.

The best place to plant this tree is a somewhat elevated position allowing good aeration. Within a field, we have too seek the highest place so that it favours the cold air not to get stuck in this area.

Nor should they be exposed to very strong winds that can easily break the branches. They need light and sun to produce fruit, although the direct sun in the afternoon in warmer areas can spoil the fruit quality and harm the tree. In cooler areas, a sunny sheltered position is necessary. We must protect the branches in areas with strong snow so that they not break easily.

Those trees are planted along walls and are pruned to have a growing as vines should be placed in a wall that is not shaded.

Apple trees: Reproduction. Planting and pruning.

Although apple trees could be planted from seeds or cuttings, the best way to plant apple trees is bare root by planting a grafted rootstock.

Rootstocks have previously been controlled in the nursery to provide better results, greater disease resistance or other characteristics that make them more valid. Plantation is usually done in autumn when the rootstock is in its vegetative stage although this can be done throughout the winter, provided that the soil it not iced.

If you want is to plant an apple tree in a container, you can choose any time of year except when it is hot or if the ground is cold.

Depending on the type of tree you want and the space available, we will choose between a rootstock or another. There are the following main types:

  • Super- dwarf apple trees (they do not reach 2 meters) Rootstock M27.
  • Dwarf apple trees (2.5 to 3 m) Rootstock M9
  • Semi-dwarf apple trees(3 to 4.5 m) Rootstock M26
  • Semi-big apple trees (3 to 5 m) Rootstock MM106
  • Big apple trees (4 to 6 m) Rootstock MM111

Another aspect that must be considered when planting an apple tree is the ability to self-pollinate . For proper pollination, those apple trees with ability to pollinate (diploid species) need another apple with the same capacity for adequate pollination.

The apple trees that are unable to pollinate (triploid species) will need to have about two diploid species to deliver fruits. There are species that are compatible with each other and others are not. It is best to discuss the issue wth a nurseryman for advice what kind of rootstocks we should buy depending on the size of the garden and the pollination compatibility.

For those not so interested in optimal production, but concerned about having a specimen in their garden, it should be clear that there are self-pollinated varieties, so it is not necessary to plant two trees as minimum.

How to plant an apple tree or a fruit tree?

Soil must be prepared a couple of months before, digging it up about 45 cm deep and adding manure and fertilizer. Cover it with soil. Whenever you are going to do the plantation, you will have to reopen the hole that will be wider than the diameter of the roots.

A stake near the center has to be put. The rootstock will be placed inside, so that the part where the stem begins remains at the same level than the soil. The roots have to be covered with soil that has been taken before and has to be tightened with the foot. Finally, you will place a holder to join the stem with the stake loosely. There are buckles in nurseries appropriate for this purpose.

During the first year and in dry seasons, until well rooted, you will have to keep the soil moist. It is convenient to make a circle by means of a groove around the soil in order for the irrigation water does not leak from the root zone. The space within this groove should be raked from time to time to keep it free of weeds.

How to prune apple trees?

Apple trees need winter pruning in which the side branches should be cut so as to increase the production of main branches which are the ones that are bearing more fruits.The main branches must not practically be shortened if they are very productive or shortened one-third when they produce little.

Furthermore, in adult trees, they should be clarified to clear the tree. those who are in poor condition, those that are older or those growing down should be cut.

You can also perform a renewal pruning on older trees to encourage production cutting branches with old wood or in poor condition. This type of pruning should clarify the branches pointing towards the center of the tree, without virtually touching the guide branches.

Summer pruning is done to ensure the tree a certain aspect, so that the trees do not grow too much or to produce more flowers.

Apple trees, maintenance: weeding and thinning fruit

In addition to pruning, you need to perform a few more tasks for trees to be healthy and produce good quality and good size fruit. Weeding consists on cleaning from herbs the surface covered with tree branches. This task prevents weed competition with the tree so that it does not have to spend unnecessary nutrients.

Fruit thinning consists on removing the excess of fruit so that the remaining fruits can attain a larger size and better quality. This task is performed in early summer, once the tree has dropped small or malformed fruits.

Apple trees. Types of soil and fertilizers.

Apple trees tolerate any soil, provided they have good drainage. However, those who are not too sandy or too clayey are best. For optimum growth and production apple trees need should be well fertilized.

Providing manure is appropriate in the first years to booster growth. When the tree is well rooted a 10-10-10 mixed fertilizer may be right from the first year.

In order not to burn plants, it is good to apply it at a minimum distance of 15 cm from the trunk. A practical way is to make a circle around the tree in the area where the longest branches reach. Half a kilo of the previous mixing will be enough the first year, then go on increasing half kilo more each year until reaching 2.5 -3 kilos per tree in adult specimens.

Many trees may need a special ammonium sulfate fertilizer in spring.

Apple trees: Pests and diseases

The main diseases that affect apple trees are:

Apple scab (Venturia inaequalis) is a fungal disease caused by fungi of the genus Venturia (Venturia inaequalis, Venturia Spilocaea) that cause illness in fruits and leaves. It is characterized by brown crusts in apples producing their downfall. Also the fruits develop a brown crust that prevents its normal growth and deforms them. To prevent this disease, aerate trees well, which is achieved with proper pruning. The affected fruits should be discarded, cutting and burning the affected parts and treating them with an appropriate fungicide.

Botrytis: This is caused by the fungus Botrytis cinerea. This produces flowers with papery brown spots that sometimes can affect the leaves. It is mainly due to a lack of ventilation and excess moisture from the plants as a result of planting them too close together and spraying the leaves and flowers with water . Treatment should be based on removing the affected material and apply a general fungicide. Avoid spraying the flowers when watering.

Powdery Mildew (Oidium Genres or Uncinula) A kind of powdery mildew on the leaves, which then causes the leaves to turn yellow and fall. Powdery mildew also spoils flowers and fruits. The latter have white spots that become darker when the fruit ripens. This disease is caused by fungi when moisture in the soil and air is very low. The solution lies in finding better sites and treating the plants with a suitable fungicide.

Nectria canker (Nectria galligena) It is a disease caused by fungi that attack wood producing cankers in the bark of the tree which eventually opens. This determines the sap can not access to the external vegetative parts of the tree that eventually dies.

It is caused by infection with the fungus Nectria galligena when the tree is pruned or when fungus reaches the wounds inflicted by frost or woolly aphids. The solution is to cut the wood and cover the cankers with a special paint and treat the affected tree with the appropriate fungicide.

Brown rot: It is a disease caused by fungi of Sclerotina type affecting the fruits. Fruits develop a series of circles of white scabs marring the skin first and then the entire fruit. The effective solution is to remove the affected fruit.

Bitter marrow: A condition produced by a deficiency of calcium in the plant caused by a lack of it on the soil or because trees are unable to absorb it. Apples develop brown pulp and bitter taste. The skin usually is stained. The solution is to increase soil moisture to promote calcium absorption or to spray the leaves with calcium nitrate. One should avoid planting apple trees in very acid soils.

The main pests that affect apple trees are:

Spotted spider mite (Tetranychus urticae) half millimeter insects that degenerate buds producing a kind of cottony cover that may also affect the flowers or leaves when the infection is very important. They develop with very high temperatures. They require a specific insecticide.

– Apple suckers: (Psyla mali) They are insects up to 2 mm attacking green flowers and dry them. Theu must be treated with dimethoate

– Birds: they eat and peck the fruits. Networks should l be used to protect trees or some method to scare them. The main birds are starlings or blackbirds.

– Wasps: the fruits that had previously been attacked by the birds are eaten by wasps. Trees should be covered with a mesh or one should try to find the nests of wasps to destroy them

– Sawflies (Hoplocampa testudinea) this fly larvae are introduced into the pulp producing cavities in small apples that spoil the fruit and fall to the ground before ripening. Those that do not fall have a sort of band -like a scar- along the surface. There is a specific product for these flies.

– Apples moths (Cydia pomonella) Moth caterpillars produce holes in the apples when they move from the inside to the surface. Treat them with an insecticide or install traps to catch the moth males.

punto rojo More recipes and information on apples.

Listed species of the genus Malus (apple species in the world)

We have the following main species:

Malus sublobata

Malus angustifolia

Malus baccata

Malus baccata mandschurica

Malus bracteata

Malus brevipes

Malus calocarpa

Malus coronaria

Malus domestica

Malus Florentine

Malus floribunda

Malus fusca

Malus glabrata

Malus glaucescens

Malus halliana

Malus halliana spontanea

Malus halliana var. parkmanii

Malus hupehensis

Malus hybrids

Malus ioensis

Malus ioensis palmeri

Malus kansuensis

Malus kyrghizorum

Malus lancifolia

Malus praecox

Malus prattii

Malus prunifolia

Malus prunifolia rinki

Malus pumila

Malus pumila nervosa

Malus pumila paradisiaca

Malus pumila x spectabilis

Malus purpurea

Malus radiant

Malus rockii

Malus sargentii

Malus sieboldii

Malus sieversii

Malus sikkimensis

Malus spectabilis
Malus sylvestris

Malus toringo

Malus toringoides

Malus toringoides

Malus transient

Malus trilobata

Malus tschonoskii

Malus turcmenorum

Malus x adstringens

Malus x astracanica

Malus X Dawsoniana

Malus x micromalus

Malus x purpurea

Malus x robusta

Malus x soulardii

Malus yunnanensis

punto rojo More recipes and information on apples.

This article was endorsed by Julián Masats - Technical agricultural engineer specialized in horticulture and gardening.
Written by Editorial Botanical-online team in charge of content writing

17 March, 2021

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