Apple Tree Care

  1. Summer Pruning Tips for 3 Fruit Trees Planted in 1 Hole, or High Density Planting

    Watch as Ed Laivo, one of America's top fruit tree experts, checks the growth on his latest high density planting of Burgundy Plum, Santa Rosa Plum and Emerald Butte Plum. During this video, you'll learn how how he makes summer pruning decisions to keep his fruit trees around 6 feet tall.

    Growing 3 Trees in 1 Hole Delivers Great Fruit Set in a Small Space

    Successfully planting 3 partner fruit trees together in 1 hole has a lot of benefits for your backyard orchard, including cross-pollination and enjoying an extended season of fruit. Keeping your high density plantings at a small size makes for easy homegrown fruit picking.

    Summer is the best time to prune your high density planting. Ed says "The goal is to get good sunlight in the center of the three tree canopy. Pruning the aggressive spring flush of growth keeps your fruit trees to a manageable size."

    Call us to talk about which partner fruit trees are right for your garden: 888-864-7663

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  2. How to Thin Fruit - Video Tutorial

    Watch the video below to learn the art of fruit thinning by one of America's premier fruit experts, Ed Laivo.

    Benefits of Thinning Fruit

    • Avoid diseases by thinning
    • Increase fruit size
    • Improve color in your fruit
    • Increase sugar content in your fruit

    Here's what you'll learn:

    1. How to space the fruit on the limb
    2. How to properly pull immature fruit during thinning

    Thinning is an art form that helps your apple, peaches and nectarine crops. Homesteaders, urban agriculturalists, and homeowners - enjoy the fruits of your labor!

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  3. Arkansas Black Apple: The Cabernet of the Apples

    Apples are the most popular fruit tree planted in the world with 7,500+ varieties to choose from. This can make selecting just one a challenge. Based on the adaptability alone, the Arkansas Black apple should be on the top of your list.

    Thought to have been discovered in the mid-1800's in Bentonville, Arkansas, it is said to be a seedling of the Winesap apple, which it shares many characteristics. It quickly grew to become a popular regional selection and was a commercial success into the 1930’s. The Arkansas Black has distinguished itself as a true Gem of home garden apple selections since that time.

    Very able to adapt to many climates, the Arkansas Black can tolerate the hot summer inland valley temperatures of California - sometimes more than 110 degrees - or the cold winter climates that are found in USDA Zone 5a - minus 15 to 20 degrees. Then everything in between including coastal planting zones like 8a and b and zone 10 are all good for the Arkansas Black Apple.

    The fruit has a deep rich red to black color that distinguishes it from all other apples. The flavor is a wonderfully unique and sweet taste to which there are few comparisons, often defined as if it were a fine wine.

    Arkansas Black has become best known for its ability to be stored for 3 to 4 months and - like a fine wine - it just continues to improve in quality. In fact, the Arkansas Black apple is a difficult apple to eat directly off the tree; it is hard as a rock, almost impossible to bite into and really lacks any flavor to speak of.

    When picked and stored in temperatures of 50 degrees or less (such as the refrigerator), the Arkansas Black Apple begins to mellow into one the finest dessert apples known. The hard texture softens to a pleasant crispness, and the flesh comes alive with a unique musky, sweet flavor not found in any other apple. This process of refinement just continues with storage, with each Arkansas Black Apple tasting just a hint better than the last.

    Arkansas Black is a highly desirable cider apple, as well as a great cooking and applesauce selection. Of course, it is second to none when fully ripe for fresh eating.

    Arkansas Black is an apple that requires a pollinator and is a perfect addition to ones already-established apple collection. If you are just getting started and your desire is to enjoy an Arkansas Black, be sure to include a self-fruitful selection like Golden Delicious or Empire apple as a pollinator. Not only will this ensure a great crop, but it will also extend your apple enjoying season with early selections and the Arkansas Black, which ripens later in the season.

    Plant Arkansas Black where it gets a full day of sunlight and always mulch well. Mulching well is particularly important in the hotter, drier climates where Arkansas Black will be protected from getting a sun spot on the sun side of the fruit. Mulching keeps the root cool and helps to avoid premature fruit drop, which is common in hot/dry climates. Mulching is a benefit in all climates as it improves the soil beneath the tree and cuts the amount of water needed throughout the season.

    Finally, the Arkansas Black is very disease resistant, which just adds to the value to the home gardener, as most of the common apple diseases will not interfere with successfully growing and cropping this jewel. With the enormous selection of apples one has to choose from, the Arkansas Black is one that should rise to the top of the list of considerations.

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  4. The Empire Apple: The Most Adaptable of all Apple Varieties

    The planting season is fast upon us and all looking to grow fruit are busy researching what to plant. For my money, one of the first choices for Apples should be the Empire Apple.

    Starting with the McIntosh Apple and Red Delicious Apple first crossed by Lester C. Anderson at Cornell University in the early 1940’s which resulted in thousands of seedlings that were planted in 1945 to be grown and tested by the New York Agricultural Experiment Station of Cornell University in Geneva NY. Over the next 20 years, the Cornell team tested and eliminated thousands of seedlings - finally resulting in the introduction of one: the Empire Apple in 1966.  

    Today, as reported by the US Apple Association, the Empire is one of the top 15 most popular apple varieties planted in the United States.

    But unless you happen to visit Orchards that grow it or Farmers Markets where it is available, many home gardeners may not be familiar with this tremendous home garden selection, due in part to the popularity of other apples such as Fuji, Gala and Honeycrisp that so often consume the limited space on the Supermarket shelves and make up for 90% of all apples sold.

    The strong appeal of this fruit is the wonderful McIntosh Flavor in a variety that can be grown almost anywhere.

    The flesh of the Empire apple is firmer than the Mac in warmer climates such as California, where it dependability produces year after year in zones 8-10. Though the versatility of the Empire makes it a first choice for the colder zones 4-7. 

    In the Central Valley of California, I have enjoyed The Empire in Zone 9b for many years and on a recent trip to Vermont, I enjoyed the Empire in Zone 4b. 

    For first-time fruit growers or people looking for a variety that is easy to grow, Empire is again the top choice. Mostly disease free in all climates or at the very least much less susceptible to common Apple problems like Mildew, Fireblight, Cedar Apple Rust, and Scab. This keeps the need for excessive use of chemicals to a minimum.

    The Empire is partially self-fruitful so in most cases will not require a pollinator, although the addition of another mid-season blooming variety or adding the Empire to an already existing group of Apples will only improve the set. It is a surprisingly early ripening variety in the warmer climates, whereas in the cold regions it is a late ripening variety.

    With all the attributes of the McIntosh, bright white flesh, snap to the skin and dessert quality flavor, it is a wonderful variety for fresh eating, cooking and baking. Also great for Cider, and for a real treat try dehydrating or drying the Empire - wow, good!

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  5. Fruit Tree Fertilization

    fertile_soil
    Fertile soil

    You want the best fruit your fruit tree can give, right? Good fruit comes from fertile soil, so the key is to  maintain soil health.  Sometimes, this means adding fertilizer, but know how to prevent over-fertilizing. Fertilizer in excess can be more damaging than no fertilizer at all. The most practical way of checking soil fertility is by investigating the annual growth of the tree.  If you inspect the branches and follow the branch from the tip to the previous year's growth, you can measure how much the fruiting tree grew in a season. New growth is flexible and green, while last year's growth is darker (often brown) and more rigid.  A mature, fruit-producing tree should have 6-8 inches of vegetative growth each year.  Immature fruit trees grow more quickly, but don't produce fruit.  

    young_growth_wikipedia_davidals2009
    Green, flexible new growth stems

    Soil is "fertile" if it has the right balance of nutrients to support healthy growth.  These nutrients include nitrogen, potassium, and phosphates.  You can find pre-mixed fertilizers at your garden store that include all of these.  For fruit trees, you want a fertilizer packed with phosphates to promote healthy fruit and flower development. A common mistake with home gardeners is to use too much nitrogen, or the wrong type of nitrogen compound.  Nitrogen additives affect the pH of the soil.   If your soil pH is above 7.0, that means it's "basic," and you should use an ammonium-based fertilizer for nitrogen.  If you find that your soil pH is below 7.0, that means it's "acidic" and you should use a nitrate solution for nitrogen.  To learn more about pH and how to test your soil, ask a local horticulturist or agriculture extension agency. A suggested rate of fertilizer to use for each fruit tree is one pound of fertilizer for every inch in trunk diameter. BUT be sure to read the directions on the fertilizer packaging.  Some fertilizers are packaged more concentrated than others.  Fertilization should be done directly before bloom. For most trees, this is around March.  Be sure to know the flowering time of each specific tree, though.  If you purchase your tree from Nature Hills, you can figure this out with a quick look at the product page.

    fruit_on_tree
    Healthy fruit on an apple tree

    Don't let all this talk of numbers and pH and nutrients scare you out of buying a fruit tree. Fertilization is much simpler than it sounds.  

    The keys:
    1. Don't over do it!
    2. Phosphates are your friends!
    3. Pay attention to pH!
    4. Read the directions!

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  6. How to Grow an Apple Tree

    Apples_on_tree

    Growing apple trees can be a fun and rewarding experience for the home gardener. Growing apple trees is a relatively easy process, and yields delicious fruit that can be enjoyed by everybody. There are, however, many factors to consider before attempting to grow apple trees in the garden. The first consideration when growing apple trees is what size tree is desired. Apple trees come mainly as a scion, or top portion, grafted ontoapple tree a rootstock. The type of rootstock used will help determine the eventual size the tree will grow to. Some rootstocks will produce a full sized tree, while others will dwarf the tree and make it grow smaller. Growing apple trees that are dwarfed is more common in the home garden.

    A second consideration before growing apple trees is that nearly all apple trees do not self-pollinate. This means that to grow apple trees that bear fruit, more than one tree needs to be planted. The two or more trees used should also be of different species with similar bloom times. This will provide healthier and more abundant fruit. Some varieties of apple tree will pollinate better than others, and selection should take this into consideration.

    Apple trees will tolerate a wide range of soils, so long as water and nutrients are not limited and the pH level is adequate. The soil used for growing apple trees should be well draining, as standing water in the roots can kill the trees.The location should also be in a higher level, as cold air in the spring will settle in lower areas and possibly damage the tree.

    Apple trees will usually begin to bear fruit in the forth or fifth year. Most varieties of apple trees require a good wind block, as the fruit will get blown off before maturity. Many varieties of apple tree will require 130 to 150 frost free days per year in order to grow properly and bear fruit. The fruit of an apple tree will reach maturity at differing times, depending on variety and climate. There is no specific date at which to expect to harvest ripe apples. Observation alone is generally the key to discerning a ripe apple tree. The apples should come off easily with no tearing, and the flesh should be yellow or white. The skin will change from its original color to one that is generally darker. Once the apples look mature, the only way to find out is to take a bite. Mature fruit from an apple tree will be crisp, juicy, and delicious.

    Apple Trees for Sale

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  7. Planting Apple Trees

    Planting a new apple tree

    Planting apple trees in a home garden will allow for delicious fruit that everybody can enjoy. Planting apple trees does not differ much from planting other types of trees, but there are some special things to consider when planting these fruit trees. The location should have soil that is well drained, since standing water will easily kill the trees. The location should also have good air drainage, keeping low-lying cold air in the spring away from the tree. Apple trees should be planted in November, if possible. They can also be planted up to the end of march. The location used for planting apple trees should also provide for full sun access. If planting apple trees in a lawn, the grass should be removed from the planting area in a four-foot diameter circle, to prevent the grass from competing with the young tree for nutrients and water.

    Once the site is selected, the first step in planting apple trees is to dig the hole. The hole should be approximately twice the diameter of the root system, and two feet deep. The soil should also be loosened up around the border to allow the roots to break through more easily. The roots should be spread out on the loose soil, ensuring that they are not twisted or crowded. Soil should be placed around the roots and pressed down firmly, to remove any air pockets.

    When planting apple trees, it is important to ensure that the location of the graft is at least two inches above the soil. This will ensure that no roots will grow out of the scion. When finished planting apple trees in the garden, watering will remove any extra air pockets in the soil. A newly planted apple tree may need to be supported with a stake until the roots can take hold. Mulch should also be applied around the base of the apple tree to help retain moisture during the first growing period.

    Apple Trees for Sale

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  8. Apple Varieties

    Apple_pie

    Apple varieties are sometimes divided into three categories.

    The first,  and largest category, are those apples bred for fresh eating.

    The next category is the cooking apple, and finally the cider apples. Cider apples are typically too tart for fresh eating but they give cider a rich taste that dessert apples, such as a Golden Delicious apple, cannot.

    Apples are mostly bred for skin color, long storage capacity, high yields, disease resistance, and taste. Examples of red skinned apples are Red Delicious, Akane, Cortland, Mollies, and the Spartan. Golden or yellow skinned examples are Golden Delicious, Yellow Newton Pippen, Yellow Transparent, Mutsu, Calville Blanc, and Granny Smith. Striped or multi-colored apple examples are Braeburn, Cox Orange Pippin, Gravenstein, and Honeycrisp.

    The color of the apple's skin does not determine whether it is sweet, tart, crisp or soft. Apples vary in tastes, textures, and some have very subtle variances.

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  9. Dwarf Apple Trees

    Assorted_Red_and_Green_Apples_2120px

    Dwarf apple trees have many advantages to standard sized apple trees.

    First of all, dwarf apple trees are smaller. This means that they take up less room in a garden. The reduced size of a dwarf apple tree makes it easier to prune, spray and harvest fruit.

    Additionally, dwarf apple trees will produce fruit earlier than standard apple trees, often only three years after being planted, as opposed to as many as ten years. There are generally two ways to create a dwarf apple tree. One way is to specially breed them smaller. This is very hard to do and may take hundreds of years. A faster, and much more common way is to graft the tree onto a rootstock that has been selected for its dwarfing characteristics.There are several different types of rootstock, and each works best with specific trees.

    Dwarf apple trees often require much less care than full sized apple trees. The rootstock chosen for the dwarf apple tree will often be much hardier than the original root system of the tree. Also, the smaller stature of a dwarf apple tree will mean that less pruning needs to be done, and the tree will require less spraying.

    Less tree to care for means less work to do. Just about every breed of apple tree can be dwarfed. The type of the dwarf apple tree depends on the variety grafted, while the size depends on the rootstock used. Some rootstock will dwarf apple trees more than others. It is important to select not only the breed of tree desired, but also the size. A dwarf apple tree will grow better in a home garden than will a full sized apple tree.

    Dwarf Apple Trees for Sale

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  10. Pruning & Trimming Apple Trees

    Central Leader Pruning

    One of the primary problems faced by gardeners when growing apple trees is that they do not understand how to prune an apple tree properly. Pruning apple trees plays an important role in ensuring proper growth and fruit production. Pruning apple trees begin from the first season after planting, and contiue yearly until the tree dies. Before growing one, any gardener must fully understand how to prune an apple tree properly. Before understanding how to prune an apple tree, it is important to know how apple trees grow. Apple trees are central leader trees, this means that there is one main upright trunk, called the leader. All branches will sprout and grow out of this. A properly pruned apple tree should have a scaffold shape. This means that there are branches circling the tree, perpendicular to the leader, and there should be an area of about two feet between the levels to allow for light to reach the lower leaves and fruit.

    Pruning apple trees should be done in the winter, encouraging the plant to grow more during the growing season. The first level of branches should begin between twenty-four to thirty-six inches above the surface of the soil. The branches growing out of the central leader should be either weighted down or tied loosely to string to promote outward growth as opposed to vertical growth. Pruning apple trees during the summer will inhibit growth, and should be done once the desired size has been reached.

    Heavy Apple Tree Branch

    Thinning out the fruit is also important to proper apple tree pruning. The fruit grown by the tree is oftentimes too heavy for the branches. When this happens, the branches may break off. Apples should be removed until they are spaced about four to six inches apart. This will reduce the burden on the branch, as well as increase the chances for a full crop the following year.  

    Apple Trees for Sale

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