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How to Grow Apples

From planting to pruning to controlling pests to harvesting, you can learn how to grow apples in most areas of North America.

| January/February 1973

  • Apple bunch - Fotolia_25495562
    This may become a common sight once you learn how to grow apples.
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    Method for removing a large branch in sections from an apple tree.

  • Apple bunch - Fotolia_25495562
  • 019-023-01

There are over a thousand apple varieties, which gives you plenty to choose from. A few well-tested varieties, such as Gravenstein, Golden Delicious, Grimes, Rome Beauty, and Yellow Transparent, should be the basic stock of your orchard, but try some of the lesser-known ones as well. Apple trees tend to bring surprises, and a well-cared-for minor variety may give you the most wonderful fruit.

 Apples will grow almost anywhere in the United States except in the hottest regions. They need the cool-to-cold winters during dormancy. Your local nursery will no doubt give you an indication of not only the feasibility of growing apples, but the best varieties for that area as well.

Apple Tree Stock

Apple trees, except for the dwarfs, which bear small crops in their second or third year, usually won't give you any apples until their fifth to sixth year. But by the tenth year they're at peak production, yielding five to ten bushels per tree per year. And they will keep bearing for thirty years or more. So order two varieties at the very least. Not just because thirty or forty bushels of one kind might become a bit boring, but because some are eating apples and some for cooking. Also cross-fertilization will increase your crop. Stock usually comes in one-, two-, or three-year-olds. You'll find the older ones more expensive, of course. On the other hand, being transplants, they are usually sturdier trees. Bought from a good nursery, two- to three-year-olds are your best bet.

Pruning Apple Trees

If you buy two- or three-year-old transplants, they should need no pruning the first two years besides the initial one on planting to eliminate injured roots and take the wood down a bit proportionately.

After the first two years, your primary pruning job will be to make the tree easy to pick from and somewhat squat in shape. The center of the tree must be kept open . . . don't let the growth get too dense. Cut off branches that cross and rub against each other in the wind. Any branch so large it can't be pruned off with shears should be cut in three stages with a saw.

As the tree grows older, you will notice small, short cluster branches of buds developing along the real branches. These must not be cut off . . . they're the bearing spurs that will give you your fruit.

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