On Page 2 we learned about the strategy of staggering apple trees. But that strategy will be of little use without proper information about planting apple trees in the first place. The best spot for planting is an area with rich, well-drained soil and plenty of sun. Planting them where they'll get early morning sun helps reduce incidence of powdery mildew disease, as does locating them in a spot with good air circulation.
Early spring is a fine time for planting apple trees in the North. In the South, fall is perhaps the best time for planting apple trees: the roots will already have been established when next spring rolls around, giving your home apple trees a head-start.
In preparation, remove weeds and grass to form a bare circle for each transplant, about 4' in diameter. Your initial challenge in home apple tree care after bringing the apple trees home from the nursery will be keeping their roots moist -- both before and after putting them in the ground. Soaking their roots in water for 30 minutes before planting apple trees is a good first step. If the roots look dried out, extend that soaking period to about 24 hours in order to revive them.
When you make the trip to your local nursery to buy the plants, look for bare-root stock, one year old. Although it may seem that you'd be getting a good deal (because the plants are bigger), avoid planting apple trees that are more than three years old. Younger trees are easier to get established.
Planting Apple Trees
Begin digging a hole approximately twice the diameter of the root system, and about a foot deeper. When you think you have the depth of the hole approximately right, spread out the roots in the hole and check the level of the "bud union." The goal will be to have the bud union raised about 2" above ground level. The bud union is where the scion meets the rootstock as a result of grafting.
You don't want the bud union at too low a level -- for two reasons. First of all, that would invite crown rot. Secondly, you don't want the scion taking root and overriding the contribution of the rootstock.
Apply water as you fill the hole back in with soil, to remove air pockets. Add soil amendments at the same time. This is also the time to install a vole (see Page 4) guard around the trunk of your home apple trees, letting it protrude about 10" above ground level. Water well again after the transplant is complete. To help retain some of that moisture (and also keep the weeds and grass from growing back), mulch around the plant to a depth of 2"-3".
On Page 4 we look at pest control and pruning for home apple trees....