In the past, there have been only a couple different kinds of apple trees that you could buy. But now, thanks to the wonders of genetic engineering, if you want to buy an apple tree you are able to choose between many different types of apples and flavors. Here I will outline five different popular types of apples that you can consider for your first apple tree.
Fruit trees bear at different times of the year. For example, there are apples for early season, mid-season, and late season (well into fall), so it is wise to select trees for the season you want. Just how long it will be before trees will bear is another consideration; apples and pears bear in 4 to 6 years; plums, cherries, and peaches bear in about 4 years.
Besides considering bearing season and length of bearing, you should also think of size. In addition to standard-sized fruit trees there are dwarf varieties that grow only a few feet. There are also different kinds of apples, peaches, or cherries; your local nursery will tell you about these. Your nursery also stocks the type of trees that do best in your area, so ask for advice. Your trees must be hardy enough to stand the coldest winter and the hottest summer in your vicinity.
Many varieties of fruit trees are self-sterile, which means that they will not set a crop unless other blossoming trees are nearby to furnish pollen. Some fruit trees are self-pollinating or fruiting and need no other tree. When you buy your fruit trees, ask about this. Fruit trees are beautiful just as decoration, but you also want fruits to eat.
Buy from local nurseries if possible, and look for 1- or 2-yearold trees. Stone fruits are usually 1 year old and apples and pears are generally about 2 years old at purchase time. Select stocky and branching trees rather than spindly and compact ones because espaliering requires a well-balanced tree.
Whether you buy from a local nursery or from a mail-order source (and this is fine too), try to get the trees into the ground as quickly as possible. Leaving a young fruit tree lying around in hot sun can kill it. If for some reason you must delay the planting time, heel in the tree. This is temporary planting: dig a shallow trench wide enough to receive the roots, set the plants on their sides, cover the roots with soil, and water them. Try to keep new trees out of blazing sun and high winds.
Prepare the ground for the fruit trees with great care. Do not just dig a hole and put the tree in. Fruit trees do require some extra attention to get them going. Work the soil a few weeks before planting. Turn it over and poke it. You want a friable workable soil with air in it, a porous soil. Dry sandy soil and hard clay soil simply will not do for fruit trees, so add organic matter to existing soil. This organic matter can be compost (bought in tidy sacks) or other humus.
Plant trees about 10 to 15 feet apart in fall or spring when the land is warm. Then hope for good spring showers and sun to get the plants going. Dig deep holes for new fruit trees, deep enough to let you set the plant in place as deep as it stood in the nursery. (Make sure you are planting trees in areas that get sun.) Make the diameter of the hole wide enough to hold the roots without crowding. When you dig the hole, put the surface soil to one side and the subsoil on the other so that the richer top soil can be put back directly on the roots when you fill in the hole. Pack the soil in place firmly but not tightly. Water plants thoroughly but do not feed. Instead, give the tree an application of vitamin B12 (available at nurseries) to help it recover from transplanting.
Place the trunk of the fruit tree about 12 to 18 inches from the base of the trellis; you need some soil space between the tree and the wood. Trellises may be against a fence or dividers or on a wall. Young trees need just a sparse pruning. Tie branches to the trellis with tie-ons or nylon string, not too tightly but firmly enough to keep the branch flat against the wood. As the tree grows, do more trimming and tying to establish the espalier pattern you want.
To attach the trellis to a wall use wire or some of the many gadgets available at nurseries specifically for this purpose. For a masonry wall, rawl plugs may be placed in the mortared joints, and screw eyes inserted. You will need a carbide drill to make holes in masonry.
Caring for fruit trees is not difficult. Like all plants, fruit trees need a good soil (already prepared), water, sun, and some protection against insects. When trees are actively growing, start feeding with fruit tree fertilizer (available at nurseries). Use a weak solution; it is always best to give too little rather than too much because excess fertilizer can harm trees.
Observe trees frequently when they are first in the ground because this is the time when trouble, if it starts, will start. If you see leaves that are yellow or wilted, something is awry. Yellow leaves indicate that the soil may not contain enough nutrients. The soil could lack iron, so add some iron chelate to it. Wilted leaves could mean that water is not reaching the roots or insects are at work.
If you have just recently planted a new fruit tree, I think it is safe to assume you are not yet an expert on the subject. More fruit trees die in their beginning years due to poor care habits than any disease or pestilence. Therefore it is vital that you understand how to care for trees in a way that will ensure their immediate success as well as future good health.
During the first stages of the tree’s life, the roots, trunk, and branches have not yet fully developed to a self supporting strength. Therefore if your tree is growing fruits, occasionally the combined weight is enough to snap off an entire branch. If this is the case, you should provide external support for your branches ñ prop them up with boards, or tie them to something at a higher altitude. As long as you can provide your tree the support it needs in these early years, it should grow to be independent in no time at all.
Proper nutrition is not only necessary for the production of healthy fruits, but is also necessary for the tree to survive longer than one season. The exact specifications vary with the area, climate, and type of tree, but I’ve found that there is no better source than a nursery employee. Maybe they’re just eager to sell you the right type of fertilizer, but in my experience they are almost never wrong. Just inform them about the conditions your tree is living in and how healthy it is looking, and they should be able to help you find something to improve the state of your tree.
Lots of people think that the only way to ensure a tree’s healthiness is to provide it insane amounts of water. This is not the case at all. As a matter of fact, giving too much water to a tree can be more harmful than making it go thirsty. At the best it will have a negative effect on the taste of the fruit. But at worst, your entire tree could die and prevent you from ever growing fruit in the future. So do not ever try to solve your problems by giving it lots of water! Solve your tree’s health problems at the root, so to speak. Go to where the problem originates from, and fix that.
If it is too late and you’re already starting to see unhealthy branches that look either diseased or damaged, you should always remove them. If the tree is wasting nutrients by sending them out to the branch that cannot be saved, it is practically throwing away all the nutrients that it could use on the other, healthier branches. As soon as you start to see a branch that is deteriorating or becoming unhealthy, chop it off right away. At the very least, trim down the unhealthy part but leave all the segments that still look like they could continue growing.
Once your tree has started to enter the picking stage, never leave any of the fruit on the ground that is bound to fall. Also, be careful to get every piece off of the tree. Even if it is an ugly looking fruit that you donít want to keep, you should still pick it and throw it away. Once these fruits begin to rot, they provide a perfect home for unwanted insects or diseases that can transfer to the tree itself. So always remember to rake up these fallen fruits, and prevent yourself a lot of future grief.
Getting a fruit tree and caring for it throughout its life can be a daunting task. It may even seem impossible sometimes to keep track of all the factors that make a tree healthy. But if you just pay attention to the nutrients that your tree needs, you should be on a good path. In addition to nutrients, figure out the precise amount of watering that you should be doing to keep your tree’s thirst quenched without drowning it. Just do all these things, and you will have a great tree that produces delicious fruits.