Setting up a small apple orchard is an investment for many years. Taking the time upfront to find the perfect spot in your backyard or homestead will ensure you get a rich harvest of juicy fruits year after year.
By considering factors like space, surrounding structures, sunlight, soil, and water, you will avoid unnecessary problems in the future.
So, where is the best place to plant apple trees for a rich harvest?
Plant apple trees where they get 6-8 hours of sun per day and at least 1 inch of water every 10 days. Soil should be rich, loamy, and well-draining with a neutral to slightly acidic PH value. Ensure they are spaced with enough room to grow but not too far apart to hinder pollination.
Let’s consider the various factors to take into account when you decide where you should plant your apple tree.
Apple trees need space between them to allow for maximum sun and air circulation. Apple trees want to spread their branches and roots and not encroach upon one another. That being said, you also need to take into account the distance between them to ensure that they are not too far apart to prevent pollination from occurring.
Here are the recommended distances depending on the type of rootstock you are planting. Remember that the space should be all around the tree in a 360-degree circle.
|Type of Rootstock||Recommended space between trees|
|Dwarf||10 feet apart|
|Semi-dwarf||15 feet apart|
|Standard||30 to 35 feet apart|
Spacing apple trees correctly will ensure that
- They get adequate sunlight
- Pollination can take place
- Trees grow to their full potential
- Air can circulate around the tree and prevent damp that encourages diseases and pests
- The trees don’t encroach upon one another and create shade
- Fruit is easier to harvest when trees are spaced out
Plant your trees away from boundary walls, fences, patios, underground pipes, underground cables, or overhead wires. Once a tree reaches an age of even 2 to 3 years, it is very difficult to transplant, so prepare upfront for the long term.
While an apple tree may grow to some extent in the shade, you certainly won’t get a luscious crop. Your tree will never reach its full potential to be healthy and live for decades. Apple trees that grow in shade are more susceptible to being attacked by pests, fungi, and diseases that breed in dampness.
When planning where to plant apple trees, ensure that your area will not be shaded by other large trees. Check that your building structures or neighboring structures won’t block out the sun. Take time to observe where the sun rays fall throughout the day and ensure that they are not obstructed.
So, how much sun do apple trees need?
Apple trees need lots of sunshine. They want full sun, which in plant-growing terms means 6 to 8 hours per day. Sunlight is vital for healthy apple trees. It has a major impact on the quality of your fruit and the tree’s lifespan.
Sun helps to keep fungal issues at bay. Sun encourages fruits with great color and flavor and a bigger size than those growing in the shade. You must definitely take the sun into account when planning where to plant your apple trees.
Water is vital for apple trees. They need at least 1 inch of rainfall every 7 to 10 days. Young trees require more during their early years of growth and should get at least 2 inches of water per week. If your rainfall is not adequate, you will have to water your trees yourself to account for the shortfall.
Watering apple trees is not quite like watering your pot plants. They require vast amounts of water to fully drench the soil around the tree and give the roots a deep soaking. Using a long hosepipe can work if your trees are within a reasonable distance of a tap, water well, or borehole. Be patient and let the water run out of the hose for an extended time to be absorbed by the soil.
If you want to get more organized, using a soaker hose will allow you to water more than one tree at a time. Although it may be costly, installing a professional irrigation system will be ideal if you want grow many apple trees to earn an income from your crops. Options include sprinklers, drip irrigation, and furrow irrigation. Setting these up may require the expertise of a professional company.
Quality of soil
Before choosing where to plant your apple trees, you must ensure that the spot has rich, loamy, well-draining soil. This type of soil allows the tree to absorb the correct amount of water and nutrients.
Clay-type soils do not allow drainage of water, and the roots of the tree will stagnate in the damp and start to rot. Loose sandy-type soils allow the water to run out too fast, and your tree will never get enough water.
The PH factor of your soil is also important to ensure that your trees reach their full potential. Apple trees do best in soil that is neutral to slightly acidic. You can test this yourself by using a small home PH soil testing kit. You want to see a reading between 5.8 and 7.0. Values below 5.8 indicate that your soil is far too acidic. Values over 7 indicate that your soil is too alkaline.
If your soil is not perfect, don’t despair! There are some things you can do to remedy the situation.
There are a few things you can do to prepare and improve your soil for the apple tree.
For soil that is too heavy or clay, you can dig in coir. Coir will loosen the texture of clay soil, improve drainage, and reduce water logging. You can also add organic compost, gypsum, pine bark, or composted leaves.
Coir is very versatile and can also surprisingly be used for the opposite type of soil, sandy soils. In this case, it will help the loose soil retain water for longer. Adding organic compost to sandy soil helps to increase nutrients that are lacking and also binds to other fertilizers that you apply, keeping them in the soil for longer.
Another option to help young apple trees get established in poorer soil is to create a bottomless raised bed. Make it at least 12 inches deep in a 3 to 4-foot circle. Fill the bed with rich, organic loamy, well-draining soil. Fertilize well and regularly until your tree becomes strong enough to deal with less-than-adequate soil.
For soil that is too acidic, you can add agricultural limestone. This is known as ‘liming’ and helps to reduce the acid content. If your soil is too alkaline, you can add sulfur or iron sulfate. For those who prefer to keep things organic, you can dig mulch, pine needles, sphagnum peat moss, compost, or coffee grounds into alkaline soil to neutralize it.
Planting apple trees is a long-term project. You need to decide where to plant your apple trees to give them the best chance of growing to their full potential and offering bountiful crops.
The best conditions offer full sun, rich loamy, well-draining soil, and adequate water. Trees must be spaced apart, so they have room to grow but are not too far apart to prevent being pollinated by wind and bees. Initial planning will ensure that you enjoy harvesting delicious apples for many years.