PRODUCING YOUR OWN APPLE TREES CAN BE REWARDING
Local Grower Has Some Tips
by Terence F. Moore
Planting an apple tree is a long-term investment and care must be given if it is to be productive.
To maximize your chances of success, consider the following: the type of root stock is almost as important as the type of apple variety that is selected. There are essentially three broad categories of root stocks that will determine the height of your trees: dwarf, semi dwarf, and standard.
There are numerous types of dwarf and semi dwarf root stock, and if you are going to obtain your trees from a mail order nursery, you should review the characteristics of each type at the time you order them. Most of the apple trees planted before the 1950s are on standard root stock, which means they grow to be very large. I do not recommend standard root stock for either backyard or commercial growers.
If you have a problem with deer, select semi dwarf root stocks, otherwise, select a dwarf root stock. Trees on semi dwarf root stock will reach a height that is about 60 to 75 percent the height of a standard size tree. However, they must be protected by a four-foot wire mesh during the first three to four years of growth until they reach a height that deer cannot damage.
Apple trees on dwarf root stock have the advantages that they bear earlier, can be planted closer together and are easier to spray and harvest.
The variety of apple selected should meet the taste and purpose of the grower. Some apples are good for eating (Red Delicious, Gala); some are good for baking (Northern Spys, 20 Ounce, Wolf River), and some area all purpose (Jonathan, Golden Delicious and McIntosh). If possible, attempt to see and taste the varieties you are planting in advance. Do not simply rely on pictures and descriptions in catalogues - they are often more glowing than the apple itself.
The third factor to be considered in selecting your variety is the date of ripening. Is it an early apple (July to mid-September); mid-season apple (mid-September to October), or late apple (October)? Late season apples are usually the very best, but some of the earlier varieties are worth growing. A variety of early, mid-season and late apples will provide the grower with apples from late July through October and even until April of the following year if properly stored.
Plant the trees in a hole at least six inches greater than the width and depth of the roots. Water immediately after planting and water each week it does not rain during the first summer. After the three has been watered several times, spread a handful of fertilizer a few inches from the base of the tree in early June to help speed the growth when the tree is the most fragile.
It is far more economical to buy apples in a store or commercial orchard than it is to grow them yourself, but it is not as rewarding. Some of the joy of growing your own produce is raising varieties that are not readily available in stores. Few things are better than eating your favorite apple freshly picked from your won tree and polished on your shirt. And, few things are more beautiful than an apple tree in full blossom in the Spring.
However, a friend sometimes reminds me that:
* It is easier to order apple trees than it is to plant them.
* It is easier to plant them than it is to take care of them.
* It is easier to take care of the trees than it is to sell the apples.
* It is easier to sell the apples than it is to make a profit from them.
* It is easier to make a profit from them than it is to convince your spouse that you should order more trees.
Since it takes four to five years for the average apple tree to begin bearing, you need to get started soon.