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How To Plant The seedlings.
Pick a location for your tree(s). There are several factors that should determine the spot you plant your tree. These include sunlight, soil, and space.
- Sunlight: Apple trees need full sun. This means that they should get six or more hours of direct sunlight every day. Where you plant your tree will depend on your location. An eastern-facing slope is usually a good choice, but north facing slope may also work.Evaluate your options for possible locations before north-facing oil: Apple trees don’t like soggy feet. That means they need to be planted in soil that will retain moisture but does drain well. The soil should be moderately rich and have a relatively neutral pH level.
- Space: Because you are growing your tree from seed, it will grow to full size (meaning it can reach 20-30 feet/6-9 meters in height). You will need to make sure that it has enough space for its root system to grow. Plan to plant your tree at least 30 feet (9.1 m) from another tree, particularly if you are planting two apple trees in a row.
Know when the conditions are right for transplanting. Once your little sapling has gotten big enough that no one will step on it or think it is a weed, carefully transplant it without cutting off any roots. The best time of year to plant depends on your location–in Zone 8 and warmer, fall planting can work well. If you live anywhere other than Zone 8, plant in spring. Once the threat of hard frost has passed.
Remove any weeds in a four-foot diameter of the planting site. Dig a hole that is twice the diameter or your sapling’s root system. Make sure that the hole is roughly two feet (.6 meters) deep. Once you have made the hole, try to loosen the soil of the walls of the hole–this will help your tree’s roots to penetrate the soil.
Transplant your sapling. Gently spread out your tree’s roots so they are not tangled or get bunched up in the hole you have dug. Start to replace soil all around the roots. Once you have covered the roots, pat the soil down firmly to get rid of any air pockets that might be hanging out around the roots. Fill the rest of the hole with loose soil.
- Again do not add any fertilizer or un-aged compost to the soil around your tree. The fertilizer could actually ‘burn’ your young tree’s roots.
Water the tree in a well to eliminate air pockets. After you have watered your tree, spread mulch to help your sapling retain moisture. Hay, straw, or organic hardwood chips work well as apple tree mulch. The mulch should be spread in a three-foot circle around the tree. Doing this will help retain moisture and keep grass from growing and competing with your young tree’s roots for water and nutrients.
Caring For Your Tree
Water your tree. While the tree is still short (roughly 6-8 in/15-20 cm tall) the tree should be watered every 10 to 12 days. As the tree grows, however, you can cut back on the watering, so long as the soil continues to stay moist (but not soggy). As they grow, you will need to water them less frequently. However, in the summer, water your tree every one to two weeks.
- During other times of the year, you can let nature do the rest, unless you live in an extremely dry area. If this is the case, keep in mind that the equivalent of an inch or two (2.5-5 cm) of water a week is ideal for the first year. Make sure you give it a good soaking, not just a sprinkle.
Ward off pests. If you live in an area with deer, you’ll need to protect your young tree. Deer absolutely love to browse the buds on apple trees, in some cases they’ll even damage the trunk itself. To protect your trees as they grow, cut a length of chicken wire that is tall enough to cover your tree, and long enough to form a loop around the tree. Secure the wire to a post and close the loop. Watch the tree as it grows so that limbs do not become entangled in the wire.
- In low-pressure areas, spraying the tree with a purchased or home-brew spray may also be effective.
- If deer are not a problem in your area, keep away rabbits and mice by placing short wire mesh around the base of the tree.
- Spray away insects. You might find yourself at battle with insects that are causing your fruit to become diseased. You can buy a spray at your local nursery or garden supply store to ward them off.
- Fight the apple maggot. These are one of the most common plagues to the apple tree. Hang a baseball-sized red ball or two in your trees branches in June. Coat the balls with sticky goo like Tangle Trap, which can be purchased at garden supply stores.
Fertilize your tree when it has gotten older. Your apple trees should be fertilized each spring. Fertilize the tree after the last snow has melted away (if you get snow) but before the tree begins to produce buds. You should use a fertilizer with a nitrogen and oxide content (NPK) of 10-10-10. You should lay the fertilizer down under the canopy of the tree and should put down half a pound (.23 kg) of it for every inch (2.5 cm) of the tree’s trunk diameter.
- Always perform a soil test before adding fertilizer. You may need to use a slow-release organic fertilizer based on your soil test results. Too much nitrogen will cause excess vegetative growth and limit fruit production.
- Do not use a weed-and-feed fertilizer–these sort of combination fertilizers can hurt apple trees.