How to Plant an Apple Tree – Your Complete 2020 Guide

Everything You Need to Know About Planting Apple Trees

If you are an apple addict like I am, a great project to ensure that you always have fresh, delicious apples on hand is growing your own apple tree in your backyard.

Yes, growing apples takes a lot of time, but it doesn’t have to take a lot of work.

Just follow these simple steps!

This guide is all about apples. It will teach you how to plant an apple tree, how to help it grow, how to harvest the apples, and all the other facts you need to know along the way.

What You Will Need to Plant an Apple Tree

  • Apple tree seedlings
  • Paper towels
  • Water
  • A sealed bag or container
  • Soil
  • Small pots (4 inches deep)
  • Fertilizer
  • Pesticide
  • Gardening tools

Apple Tree Seedlings

There are numerous online vendors and gardening stores that you can buy apple tree seedlings from. When picking out your seedlings, be sure to consult this Plant Hardiness Zone Map to make sure that the apple tree you want will prosper in your specific climate. Test your soil to make sure it has the proper pH for the kind of apples you want to grow.

 

apple tree seedling in glass jar flat lay

Pick out two kinds of seeds. Apple trees grow better near another apple tree because they benefit from cross-pollination. It is best that the second tree is a different kind of apple, and that it will grow at the same rate as the first tree. I have listed below some apple trees that need cross-pollination, and some that can self-pollinate.

Apple Tree Seedlings from Store-Bought Apples

An alternative to buying apple seeds is using some from the core of a store-bought apple. To do this, choose out a couple of apples that you want to grow, enjoy their flesh for snack time, and then remove their seeds. Make sure that you clean the seeds, getting all of the apple’s juices and bits off of them.

Be warned though, the apple trees that grow from these seeds may produce apples different than the ones that the seeds came from.

Easiest Apple Trees to Grow in Your Backyard

Lodi Apples

These apple trees produce fruit earlier in the season. They grow to be anywhere from 10-25 feet tall. Lodi Apple Trees are more durable than other apple trees and can handle numerous kinds of soils.

Gravenstein

Gravenstein apples can prosper in numerous zones across the country. This tree is notable for being one of the earliest apple trees to bloom, taking less time to produce fruit. The apples this tree produces are great for cooking. The tree can grow to be 15- 20 feet tall.

Honeycrisp

These delicious apples can grow in numerous climates. This tree is fairly manageable for a backyard, only growing to be about 15 feet tall. Honeycrisps are regularly recognized for being one of the best apples you can buy. The US Apple Association declared them one of the top five most grown apples in America.

Northern Spy

This hardy apple can withstand the cold more than most others. It even keeps its leaves far into the winter, past the first frost. It does, however, require frequent work and pruning which can be challenging since it grows to be about 25 feet tall.

sprouting apple seed in soil

Red Rome

This is one of the fastest-growing apple trees. It can be droopy, and its fruit can be hard, so it is better to eat Red Rome apples cooked instead of raw. This tree is a semi-dwarf apple tree, only growing to be about 10-14 feet tall.

Gala Dwarf

This dwarf tree grows to only be about 8-12 feet tall. You probably have tried Gala apples, they are extremely common in grocery stores, but fresh-grown ones are much sweeter in flavor. These trees are conveniently self-pollinating, so they do not need a companion tree, although a companion tree will help with their fruit quality. This is important because they have poor disease and pest resistance abilities.

Granny Smith Dwarf

Everyone knows about granny smiths! These dwarf trees grow to be a very manageable 8-12 feet tall. These apples are perfect for eating raw or cooked. Granny Smith trees do not need a companion tree because they self-pollinate, although, again,  fruit quality improves with one.

If you don’t want to take care of a full-fledged apple tree, consider growing a Bonsai Apple Tree.

Apple Tree Fertilizers

Potassium

Potassium is a great fertilizer for apple trees because to produce their fruit trees need a lot of potassium. By fertilizing with potassium you will ensure that your tree’s fruit is healthy, beautiful, and produced in abundance. Potassium has the additional benefit of protecting buds from frost in the winter.

Calcium

Calcium fertilizer ensures that the fruit from apple trees are hard, crisp, and slow to spoil. Trees without enough calcium will have small, soft, depressions on their fruit. You can apply calcium to your tree by using lime. It even has the added bonus of raising soil pH.

fertilizer and soil in hand and pot

Boron

Boron will ensure that your fruit is beautiful. Trees that are deficient of boron have brown, ugly spots inside apples, and dead buds. You only need to apply boron to your tree once every few years.

Nitrogen

Nitrogen is an excellent fertilizer for apple trees! If your apple tree is not producing fruit it is the only fertilizer that you need. Be warned, do not be heavy-handed with the nitrogen if your tree is producing fruit, because it will increase the growth of vegetation, which because of competition, could lead to fewer apples growing.

How to Plant an Apple Tree

Step One: Planning for Your Apple Tree

Decide what kind of apple tree seedlings you want to buy, whether you want to get them dry or from fruit, whether you want two cross-pollinating trees or one self-pollinating tree, what kind of pesticides you want to use, what kind of fertilizer you want to use, where you want to plant the apple trees, and so on.

In other words, put the “plan” in “planting.”

Step Two: Preparing Your Seeds

Make sure your seeds are dry. If they are store-bought, they should be. If not, dry them out on a paper towel. Wrap the seeds in damp paper towels and then put them in a sealed bag or container. You now need to refrigerate your seeds for 75 days, keeping them around 45 degrees Fahrenheit. You will need to re-spray the seeds every now and then to make sure they stay damp.

apple seedlings in temporary plant pot

Pro Tip: Your fridge is simulating the germination that occurs for apple seeds during winter. If it is winter when you undergo this process, you can just leave the seeds outside.

Step Three: Plant Your Seeds in a Pot

By the end of the 75 days, your seeds should be beginning to sprout. In 4-inch deep pots spread a soil mix. Then, make divots in the soil that are 1-2 times the size of the seeds. Add the seeds to the soil and gently cover them. Water until the soil is moist.

Step Four: Wait, Watch, and Water

Place the pots somewhere where they will get sunlight. Water them frequently, keeping the soil moist. When the plants outgrow their pots you can either move them to bigger pots, and wait for them to outgrow those, or plant them in your desired apple tree spots.

Pro Tip: It is imperative you keep the plants away from creatures and pests at this stage in the process. Keep the pots somewhere safe, like on a windowsill.

Step Five: Transplant the Apple Tree Seedlings

Take the seedlings out of their pots and plant them in your desired apple tree locations. The planting spots should have lots of sunlight and be on high ground because low-lying frost can kill apple tree blossoms. If you are planting two trees they should be at least 15 feet apart.

Remove all weeds near the trees’ spots. Loosen the soil when you plant the trees. The soil should be well-drained but moist. If the soil is not well-drained, the trees may suffer from root-rot.

tree seedling planted outdoorsPro Tip: When choosing a spot for your apple tree, make sure it is one you are not using insecticides near because pollination by bees is great for apple trees.

Step Six: Wait, Water, and Watch for Even Longer

Your trees will continue to grow, and in a few years, will even produce fruit!

It is likely that at some point you will need to add pesticides because apple trees are prone to diseases and pests.

After a week or so you can add fertilizer to your apple trees. Do not add it right when you plant the trees because it could burn their roots.

Water your trees on a consistent and regular basis. Replace mulch around the trees regularly as well. Depending on your tree types, you may eventually need to use a support-post system to keep the trees growing straight.

You can prune your trees as they grow to help with their aesthetics and overall growth. For tips, check out the benefits of pruning trees.

Pro Tip: In the fall consider moving mulch away from the trees so pests like mice don’t nest in it and eat the tree roots.

Step Seven: Harvest and Eat Your Apples

Finally, your tree has delicious fruit dangling from its branches!

Harvest your apples when they are peak perfection in the Fall. There are tons of apple recipes to make, including pies, ciders, and salads. Or you can eat them straight from the branches!

You can also easily store apples by wrapping them in newspaper and keeping them in a cold, dark place.

toddler biting apple sitting in bag of apples

Conclusion

This guide taught you everything you needed to know to use seeds to grow apple trees in your backyard. The hardest part now is choosing which kinds of apples you want to grow; from sweet, to sour, to tangy there are so many choices!

Did you enjoy this tutorial? Be sure to let me know in the comments how this guide worked for you, and remember to share this article if you liked it!

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