Our featured tree for July is the apple tree! Having an apple tree in your backyard is a great way to take advantage of lush summer foliage, ample shade, and fresh fruit for canning, baking and snacking. To get the results you want, you must understand how to care for your apple tree.
About Apple Trees
Ironically, despite their association with American patriotism, apple trees didn’t originate in America. They grow wild in Central Asia and China and were first cultivated in Asia and Europe thousands of years ago. Apple trees didn’t grow in North America until European colonists brought them over the Atlantic Ocean. Apples are related to berries, peaches, almonds, roses and other fruiting plants.
Apple Tree Care
With the proper care and attention, a mature apple tree can be striking feature in your back yard.
The first step is to make sure you live in a good climate for growing apple trees. Most varieties fair best in Zones 4 to 7. On your individual property, choose a place for your tree that receives plenty of sunlight with adequately draining soil.
Apply fertilizer in early May after growth begins for the season. Weak trees that see less than 8 inches of new growth in a season benefit from 1 lb of general purpose fertilizer. For trees with more than 8 inches of new growth, apply 1 lb sulfate of potash for every five bushels of apples you harvested last fall.
If your apples develop brown corky areas in the flesh, your tree is boron deficient. To restore good boron levels, water the tree well in dry periods and spread one cup of borax evenly on the ground around the tree in early May every three to four years.
Cutting back overcrowded branches is important for any tree, but especially fruit-bearing varieties so there’s room for the fruit to grow. Prune back cracked or dead branches, messy twigs, and anything growing downward. Make clean cuts with sharp sheers to help the tree heal quickly. Wait until late in the dormant season (February, March or April) to prune for the best results.
Pest and Disease Management
Many pests are attracted to your tree’s sweet, juicy apples, including codling moths, apple maggots and voles. EPA-approved pesticide sprayed at the proper timing is the most effective way to control pests. Alternative methods include wrapping the tree with wire vole guards and setting special traps to catch moths and maggots.
Diseases can also impact apple trees. Mildew can form on the leaves and apple scab can discolor the fruit and leaves. Controlling moisture and keeping up with annual pruning helps prevent these problems.
The best part about growing apples is the chance to harvest the fruit! Different varieties mature at different times, but most apples grown in North America are ready to harvest between September and October. You know your apples are ready to harvest when they have a firm surface, crisp texture, bright coloring and juicy flavor.
Harvest and sort your apples in a short window to benefit from the largest number of fruit possible. Clear away any fallen fruit that becomes rotten or bruised, whether prior to or during harvest, to prevent attracting pests.
If you’re interested in planting an apple tree on your property, or your existing tree is showing signs of pests or disease, please contact The Grounds Guys® to take advantage of our comprehensive tree services. We’re here to help you get the most from your landscaping this year!