Planting apple trees in your backyard and expecting a huge crop of juicy delicious apples may take longer than you expect. If you are a new gardener and have checked your tree year after year only to see no apples – don’t despair! Apple trees can take up to 10 years to bear fruit.
The time for a tree to reach fruit-bearing maturity will also depend on the rootstock you planted and the variety of apples. But when can you expect your apple tree to produce fruit?
Dwarf and semi-dwarf apple trees can take 2 to 3 years to bear fruit. Standard trees can take up to 8 years or more. If you are planting from seeds, your trees can take 5 to 10 years to produce a crop. Once your trees are mature, fruit can be harvested annually through late summer and into fall
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|Type of Rootstock
|Expected age to bear fruit
|2 to 3 years
|2 to 3 years
|5 to 8 years or longer
From the table above, you can see that you will need patience when planting apple trees. Most trees take more than three years to produce their first fruit crop.
If you don’t want to wait long, planting dwarf or semi-dwarf trees will give you the fastest crop by the time your trees are 2 to 3 years old. You can even buy trees from a nursery that are already 2 or 3 years old and will produce fruit soon after you have planted them on your property.
Standard apple trees are the largest rootstock and can be as old as 8 years or more before they offer their first crop. If you are in for the long haul and imagine your children and grandchildren enjoying the fruits of your apple trees, then you can choose to plant standard-size trees.
Planting apple trees from seeds also takes many years to produce fruits. Depending on the variety, you may have to wait for your trees to reach an age of anything from 5 to 10 years.
What can you do to speed this up?
The conditions that your trees grow in will have a huge impact on how soon they produce fruit and how large, healthy, and tasty the fruits will be.
Here are some things to look at, to ensure that your trees bear apples as soon as possible.
The ideal location of an apple tree is where it gets a lot of sunlight, it has enough space and other trees in the vicinity. Just picking one location instead of another one in your garden can make a difference. Here is an article I wrote about how to pick the right location for your apple tree.
Apple trees need at least 1 inch of water every 7 to 10 days. If your rainfall is inadequate, you can consider installing irrigation systems to provide water on demand.
Pruning is very beneficial to apple trees and stimulates the growth of branches and fruit. By pruning branches, you allow the remaining branches to get more sunlight. 6 to 8 hours of sun per day is a must for healthy apple trees. Pruning also encourages airflow, which removes damp and prevents disease and fungi from attacking your trees. Prune any branches that are broken, damaged, or diseased. Prune branches strategically to allow sunlight to penetrate the entire canopy.
Early spring is the best time to fertilize your apple trees. This will encourage growth as the tree moves into the summer season. Do not fertilize in winter as the tree needs to rest during the cold months. Apple trees respond well to organic, high-nitrogen fertilizers. You can use soybean meal, composted chicken manure, cottonseed meal, or feather meal.
Thinning fruit off the trees
If you have large quantities of fruit, this may look good but can be detrimental to the tree. Branches become heavy and may crack and break. Fruit will compete for sun, air, and nutrients. By thinning off some of the smaller green fruits, you give the remaining crop a better chance to grow to their fullest potential. Thin off your small apples when they are the size of marbles, and leave one to two fruits in each cluster.
What season of the year do apple trees produce fruit?
For those asking the question – When do apple trees produce fruit – and are not referring to the age of the tree, there is a different answer!
The season of the year will depend on the variety of the apple. Some varieties ripen earlier or later in the year than others.
Apples are usually ready for harvesting from late summer into early fall, late July through to November. Some varieties can even be harvested in winter, early December, when it is cold. By planting different varieties, you can ensure a fresh crop of apples for many months during the year.
Take care of your apple trees throughout the year to ensure a crop during the harvest season.
Here is a month-by-month guide that applies to most apple trees (not to Summer apples).
April and May – Fertilize and place compost around the base of the tree
May and June – Flower buds appear and start to turn pink. Watch out for insects and disease
May to October – Water your trees adequately
June and July – Thin out clusters that are too heavy or have more than 3 fruits, remove the smallest apples
August to October – Harvest fruits that are large and full of color
October and November – Rake up fallen fruit and leaves
November onwards – Take measures to protect trees against very cold weather
Here are some examples of common apple varieties and their harvest months. By planting different types, you can have apples from July to December.
Summer apples (Early Season)
July – Anna Apple, Gravenstein, Lodi
July and August – Dorsett Golden, Vista Bella
August – Early Blaze, Paula Red
August and September – Ginger Gold, Ozark Gold
Fall apples (Mid Season)
September – McIntosh, Honeycrisp, Golden Delicious, Jonathan September and October – Jonagold, Gala, Red Delicious
Winter apples (Late Season)
November – Fuji, Braeburn, GoldRush
November and December – Wolf River, Enterprise, Pink Lady
Apple trees can take many years to produce a crop. If you have limited time, choose dwarf or semi-dwarf trees that will produce fruit when they reach an age of 2 to 3 years. If you are not in a hurry and have time, plant standard trees and expect a crop when your tree reaches eight years or older.
In a year, you can expect to harvest your apples from late summer through fall into early winter, depending on the variety of apples you have planted.
Giving your trees the best possible soil, water, sunlight, and spacing will ensure that they produce crops as fast as possible. Fertilizing, pruning, and thinning your trees also go a long way toward encouraging healthy crops that you can be proud of.