Apple: Bare Root Fruit Plant
How to Plant
Planting Bare Root Plants:
- Choose a site in full sun in an area with well-drained soil with a pH of 6.0-7.0. Make sure there is some protection from the prevailing winds. Northern exposures are less prone to late spring frosts, and are more likely to have more snow cover. This protects the plants from soil heaving in winter. Do not plant in the root zone of black walnut trees. Avoid heavy clay soil as well as sandy soil. Amend as needed with organic matter.
- Apple trees need to be cross pollinated with another variety. Be sure to plant trees within 50 feet of each other.
- Space trees 12-18 feet apart.
- Plant dormant bare root plants in spring as soon as the soil may be worked.
- Soak the roots in water 1-2 hours before planting.
- Cut the tree back to approximately 30 inches tall at planting. Cut side branches back to 3-4 buds.
- The planting hole should be large enough to hold all the roots without bending or bunching up. Dig holes at least 18 inches deep and wide. Break up hard pan soil layers if present. Do not add raw fertilizers or manure to the soil mixture. Over feeding can kill young trees.
- Set the budded or grafted tree in the planting hole so that roots lie naturally, with the bud union 2 inches above the soil level after planting. Fill in the soil in layers and tamp down around the roots to make sure there is good soil to root contact and to remove air pockets.
- Water immediately to saturate all soil and roots in the hole. After the soil around the plant has settled, make sure the bud union is at the proper height above the soil level. Adjust as needed. Leaves should emerge 6-8 weeks after planting once the weather has warmed.
How to Grow
- When rainfall is not adequate, water newly transplanted trees deeply at least once a week during the first growing season. Apply 3-4 gallons of water per tree. Hoe a small ridge of soil around each tree to keep water from running off.
- A nitrogen fertilizer should be applied to newly transplanted fruit trees 3-4 weeks after planting. Be sure to keep granular fertilizers from direct contact with the tree trunk.
- Do not cultivate the soil surface within the area of the planting hole.
- Mulch 2-3 inches deep, extending 3-4 feet around the base of the tree, using shredded leaves or other organic matter.
- Use tree guards, cages, fencing or deer bags to prevent damage from mice, rabbits, deer and other wildlife.
- Monitor for pests and diseases. Check with your local Cooperative Extension Service for pest controls recommended for your area.
- Pruning is done early to control the shape and health of the tree, by developing a strong, well-balanced framework of scaffold branches. Do not cut back by more than 1/3 of the size of the plant. Prune regularly to avoid making large cuts later. Do not leave stubs, which can die off later and harbor diseases. Cut off all diseased, weak and dead wood. Prune young apple trees at least a month before buds break in late February or March. It is important to know where flowers and fruits develop on different fruit trees, as this will determine how the plants are pruned and trained. Apple and pear trees make flowers and fruits on terminal buds at the shoot tips. Remove any scaffold branching below 18 inches and cut back the uppermost scaffold branch. Remove limbs with narrow crotch angles that grow parallel to the central leader and shorten scaffold branches to 12 inches long.
Harvest and Preserving Tips
- A full harvest can range from 5-10 years after planting, 7 years after planting being the average.
- Harvest time starts in late summer and continues through fall.
- Pick when firm, crisp, and juicy, and when good color has developed.
- To store apples for up to six months, store 30-32 degrees F. For short term storage, store at 50 degrees F.
Common Disease Problems
Anthracnose: This is a fungus disease that attacks the fruit as it is ripening. The first visible sign is a circular spot on the skin that is slightly sunken. The spots enlarge and turn black; the fruit rots. Extended periods of heat and humidity facilitate anthracnose growth. The fungus overwinters in diseased plant debris. Burpee Recommends: Plant resistant varieties, provide sufficient space between plants for good air circulation, avoid overhead watering which can spread the fungus spores, keep a clean garden, remove and discard all diseased plant material and rotate crops. Use a mulch to prevent spores from splashing from the soil onto plants.
Apple Scab: This is a fungus that attacks both the foliage and the fruit. Leaf spots appear and are circular or irregular in shape, brown to olive green in color. Leaves may fall prematurely. Fruit lesions are circular and brown to black in color. The skin will rupture around where the lesions form revealing the layer of spores. Burpee Recommends: Check with your Cooperative Extension Service for recommendations.
Botrytis: This fungus causes a grey mold on flowers, leaves, stems and buds. It thrives in cool wet weather conditions. Burpee Recommends: Remove affected plant parts, avoid watering at night and getting water on the plant when watering. Make sure plants have good air circulation. Contact your Cooperative Extension Service for fungicide recommendations.
Brown Rot: A fungal disease causing a brown, spreading rot in fruit. It is caused by the same fungi that cause blossom wilt of the flowers and fruit spurs. Burpee Recommends: Check with your Cooperative Extension Service for recommendations.
Powdery Mildew: This fungus disease occurs on the top of the leaves in humid weather conditions. The leaves appear to have a whitish or greyish surface and may curl. Powdery mildew of fruit will have the same symptoms until later in the spring when the fungus dries, falls off, and a russet tone appears. Burpee Recommends: Avoid powdery mildew by providing good air circulation for the plants by good spacing and pruning. Contact your Cooperative Extension Service for fungicide recommendations.
Common Pest and Cultural Problems
Aphids: Greenish, red, black or peach colored sucking insects can spread disease as they feed on the undersides of leaves. They leave a sticky residue on foliage that attracts ants. Burpee Recommends: Introduce or attract natural predators into your garden such as lady beetles and wasps which feed on aphids. You can also wash them off with a strong spray, or use an insecticidal soap.
Leafhoppers: Leafhoppers cause injury to leaves and stunt growth. They also spread disease. Burpee Recommends: Remove plant debris. Use insecticidal soaps. Consult your Cooperative Extension Service for other insecticide recommendations.
Leafminers: These insects bore just under the leaf surface causing irregular serpentine lines. The larvae are yellow cylindrical maggots and the adults are small black and yellow flies. They do not usually kill plants, but disfigure the foliage. Burpee Recommends: Remove affected foliage. Sanitation is important so be sure to remove all debris at the end of the season.
Spider Mites: These tiny spider-like pests are about the size of a grain of pepper. They may be red, black, brown or yellow. They suck on the plant juices removing chlorophyll and injecting toxins which cause white dots on the foliage. There is often webbing visible on the plant. They cause the foliage to turn yellow and become dry and stippled. They multiply quickly and thrive in dry conditions. Burpee Recommends: Spider mites may be controlled with a forceful spray every other day. Try hot pepper wax or insecticidal soap. Check with your Cooperative Extension Service for miticide recommendations.
Tarnished Plant Bug: These insects cause distorted leaves and flower buds. The adults are about ¼ inch long, oval shaped and flat. They are greenish brown with reddish brown markings on their wings. There is a small but distinct yellow tipped triangle in the center of the back behind the head. Burpee Recommends: Introduce beneficial insects to your garden. Traps are available. Try insecticidal soap.
Do I need two different apple varieties for cross pollination? Yes, apples need two varieties for cross pollination for good fruit production.
When will my tree bear fruit? Trees should bear fruit in 3-4 years, with full fruiting in 5-7 years.
Can I grow apple trees in my zone 9/10 garden? No, unfortunately apples require cold winter temperatures and are not recommended in warmer zones than zone 8.