Growing Apple Trees

Growing apple trees may be a satisfying experience, regardless of the size of your backyard or the size of your garden. You will be able to enjoy a good harvest in your very own orchard oasis if you follow the methods outlined in this tutorial, which will coach you through the basic steps of purchasing and cultivating apple trees.

Choosing the Right Apple Tree

Climate and Soil Conditions

Before purchasing an apple tree, it’s important to understand the climate and soil conditions in your area. Britain generally has a temperate climate, which is suitable for growing a wide range of apple varieties. However, different regions may have slight variations in temperature and rainfall, which can affect your tree’s growth and fruit production.

Apple trees thrive in well-drained soil with a pH between 6.0 and 7.0. Conduct a soil test to determine the pH and nutrient levels of your soil. If necessary, amend the soil to create an optimal growing environment.

Selecting the Variety

Apple trees come in many varieties, each with its own unique flavour, texture, and growth characteristics. When selecting a variety, consider the following factors:

  1. Taste and Use: Determine what you want to use the apples for—eating fresh, baking, or making cider. Different varieties excel in different uses.
  2. Pollination: Most apple trees require cross-pollination to produce fruit. This means you’ll need at least two different apple varieties that bloom at the same time. Some varieties are self-fertile, but having multiple trees will enhance fruit production.
  3. Disease Resistance: Look for varieties that are resistant to common apple diseases such as scab, powdery mildew, and fire blight. This will reduce the need for chemical treatments and make tree maintenance easier.

Buying the Tree

When buying an apple tree, you have the option of purchasing a bare-root tree or a container-grown tree. Bare-root trees are typically cheaper and are sold during the dormant season (late autumn to early spring). Container-grown trees are available year-round but can be more expensive.

Ensure you buy from a reputable nursery that provides healthy, disease-free trees. Inspect the tree for any signs of damage or disease, and ensure the roots are moist and well-formed.

Planting Your Apple Tree


The best time to plant apple trees in Britain is during the dormant season, from late autumn to early spring. Planting during this time allows the tree to establish its root system before the growing season begins.

Site Selection

Choose a sunny location for your apple tree, as they require at least six to eight hours of direct sunlight per day. Avoid planting in low-lying areas where cold air and frost can settle, as this can damage the tree and its blossoms.

Planting Steps

  1. Prepare the Planting Hole: Dig a hole that is twice as wide and as deep as the tree’s root system. This allows the roots to spread out easily.
  2. Amend the Soil: To increase drainage and fertility, amend your heavy clay or sandy soil with organic matter, such as compost.
  3. Plant the Tree: As you plant the tree in the hole, make sure the graft union—the enlarged spot where the rootstock and the tree were grafted—is above the soil line. To remove any air pockets, carefully compact the earth surrounding the roots as you backfill the hole.
  4. Water Thoroughly: Water the tree deeply after planting to help settle the soil and establish good root-to-soil contact.
  5. Mulch: Apply a layer of mulch around the base of the tree to retain moisture and suppress weeds. Keep the mulch a few inches away from the trunk to prevent rot.

Caring for Your Apple Tree


Young apple trees need regular watering to establish a strong root system. Water deeply once a week during dry periods, ensuring the soil remains consistently moist but not waterlogged. Mature trees typically require less frequent watering, but it’s important to provide extra water during prolonged dry spells.


Apple trees benefit from regular fertilization to support healthy growth and fruit production. In early spring, apply a balanced fertilizer that is high in nitrogen to encourage vegetative growth. Follow up with a second application in late spring or early summer to support fruit development. Avoid over-fertilizing, as this can lead to excessive vegetative growth at the expense of fruit production.


Pruning is essential for maintaining the health and productivity of your apple tree. Prune during the dormant season (late winter to early spring) to shape the tree, remove dead or diseased wood, and improve air circulation. Follow these basic pruning principles:

  1. Remove Dead or Diseased Wood: Cut out any branches that are dead, damaged, or showing signs of disease.
  2. Thin Out Crowded Branches: Remove any branches that are crossing or rubbing against each other to improve air circulation and light penetration.
  3. Shape the Tree: Aim to create an open, vase-like shape with a central leader and evenly spaced lateral branches. This encourages better light distribution and reduces the risk of disease.

Pest and Disease Management

Apple trees are susceptible to various pests and diseases, which can affect their health and fruit production. Implementing an integrated pest management (IPM) approach can help you keep these issues under control.

  1. Monitor Regularly: Regularly inspect your tree for signs of pests and diseases. Early detection allows for prompt action and reduces the risk of severe infestations.
  2. Encourage Beneficial Insects: Promote a healthy ecosystem in your garden by encouraging beneficial insects that prey on common apple tree pests. Planting a variety of flowers can attract these helpful insects.
  3. Use Organic Controls: When necessary, use organic pest control methods such as neem oil, insecticidal soap, or biological controls like ladybirds. Avoid broad-spectrum pesticides that can harm beneficial insects.
  4. Practice Good Hygiene: Remove fallen leaves and fruit from around the base of the tree to reduce the risk of disease. Proper sanitation helps prevent the spread of fungal infections.

Harvesting and Storing Apples


The timing of apple harvest depends on the variety and growing conditions. Most apples are ready to harvest from late summer to early autumn. To determine if your apples are ripe, perform the following checks:

  1. Colour: The skin colour should have changed to the mature hue for the variety.
  2. Firmness: Gently squeeze the apple; it should feel firm but not hard.
  3. Ease of Picking: Ripe apples should come off the tree easily when twisted and lifted upwards.


Proper storage extends the shelf life of your apples, allowing you to enjoy them for months after harvest. Follow these steps for optimal storage:

  1. Sort and Inspect: Sort your apples, setting aside any that are damaged or bruised for immediate use. Only store healthy, undamaged fruit.
  2. Cool and Humid Conditions: Store apples in a cool, dark place with high humidity. An ideal storage temperature is between 1-3°C (34-38°F). A garage, basement, or unheated shed can work well.
  3. Separate Apples: Place apples in single layers in shallow boxes or trays. Avoid stacking them, as this can cause bruising.
  4. Check Regularly: Regularly check your stored apples for any signs of spoilage and remove any affected fruit to prevent it from spreading.

Troubleshooting Common Issues

Poor Fruit Production

Several factors can lead to poor fruit production in apple trees. These include inadequate pollination, insufficient sunlight, poor soil fertility, or pest and disease problems. Ensure you have compatible pollinator varieties nearby, provide proper care, and address any pest or disease issues promptly.

Fruit Drop

Premature fruit drop can be caused by environmental stress, nutrient deficiencies, or pest infestations. Ensure your tree is properly watered and fertilized, and address any pest problems. Thinning the fruit early in the season can also help reduce the burden on the tree and prevent fruit drop.

Leaf Problems

Yellowing, curling, or spotted leaves can indicate nutrient deficiencies, pest infestations, or disease. Conduct a soil test to identify any nutrient imbalances and correct them with appropriate fertilizers. Use organic pest and disease control methods to manage any infestations.

Growth Problems

Stunted growth or poor vigor can result from poor soil conditions, inadequate watering, or pest issues. Ensure your tree is planted in well-drained soil, water regularly, and monitor for pests. Mulching and proper fertilization can also support healthy growth.

Expanding Your Orchard

Adding More Trees

Once you’ve successfully grown one apple tree, you might want to expand your orchard. Adding more trees can increase your fruit yield and allow you to experiment with different varieties. Follow the same steps for selecting, planting, and caring for additional trees.

Companion Planting

Companion planting involves growing different plants together to benefit each other. Some plants can enhance the growth and health of apple trees by attracting beneficial insects, repelling pests, or improving soil fertility. Consider planting flowers, herbs, or other fruit trees near your apple trees to create a more diverse and resilient garden ecosystem.

Espalier and Other Forms

If space is limited, consider training your apple trees into different forms such as espalier, where the tree is trained to grow flat against a wall or fence. This not only saves space but also creates a decorative feature in your garden. Other forms include cordons, fans, and stepovers, each offering unique aesthetic and practical benefits.


Growing apple trees in Britain can be a delightful and rewarding experience. With careful planning, proper planting, and attentive care, you can enjoy a bountiful harvest of delicious apples right from your garden. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced gardener, the tips and techniques outlined in this guide will help you create your very own orchard oasis. Happy gardening!

Source: – Whispering Trees Nurseries, West Way, Wimbotsham, King’s Lynn PE34 3QB. Phone: 01366386858

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