Our guide to a majestic apple tree

prune apple tree plant care

The essence of fruit trees!

If the apple tree is so appreciated it is because it is able to grow almost anywhere in France and that grows fairly easily. The varieties of dwarf or columnar apple trees even allow you to plant them in pots and have a small apple tree on your balcony!

Do you want an apple tree at home but you have a lot of questions? Planting, pruning, grafting and maintenance of the apple tree, it’s here everything you need to know about this tree !


Where and when to plant an apple tree?

As with most fruit trees, planting apple trees should be done when the tree is dormant. This period generally extends from october to march, when the tree begins to lose its leaves (or has lost them) until the first shoots appear. But during this whole period, it is still the end of autumn (November December) which is the right place to plant an apple tree. This way you avoid periods of frost and give your tree the best chance of a good spring recovery.

As for the location in your garden, the apple tree obviously likes the sun (especially for fragrant and sweet fruit) but does not have it does not hurt to adapt to a partially shaded place during the day, especially in hot regions. You just have to avoid exposing it too much to the winds. As for the soil, it is usually enough that it is well drained, that is to say that the water does not stagnate. It certainly has a preference for deep clay-limestone soils but it knows how to adapt to other soils.

plant an apple tree

How to plant an apple tree?

The apple tree is not a very complicated tree to plant! If you have chosen a bare-rooted apple tree, you will need to soak its roots first, but this will not delay planting in the ground for long. And you know that if you have opted for a dwarf apple tree or a columnar variety, you can also plant it in a pot to put it on your terrace or even on your balcony. While the planting steps are the same, just be sure to choose a wooden or unglazed terracotta container so air and moisture can circulate!

  1. Start by digging a big enough hole to accommodate the root ball and roots of the apple tree (about twice the volume).
  2. Remove weeds and if the soil removed is of poor quality, add some fertilizer or compost. (If it is compact, you can also mix some sand in it.)
  3. Place a layer of gravel or coarse sand at the bottom of the hole to ensure good drainage.
  4. If you are planting a bare root apple tree: Using pruners, first cut off the root tips of your apple tree.
  5. Next, prepare a thick slurry from your garden’s soil and water and soak the roots in it for at least overnight.
  6. Once done, you can proceed with planting.
  7. If you plant an apple tree in a plug: Before planting, start by immersing your root ball in water to hydrate the soil.
  8. To plant, place your apple tree in the center of your hole.
  9. The grafting point should be a little above the ground..
  10. Fill with the extracted soil and pack well.
  11. Form a small container around the apple tree and water thoroughly.
  12. Finally finish staking your apple tree. (The recommended method is guying : Plant 3 stakes in a triangle around the tree, connect them with slats, and tie the trunk to these stakes with metal wires.)

When and how to prune an apple tree?

prune the apple tree

As with all fruit trees, pruning is not essential for an apple tree. If you let your tree grow completely naturally, chances are it will still bear fruit. However, there is a risk that the apples are precisely too numerous and that the tree cannot guarantee a taste quality for all its production! Pruning therefore serves to optimize fruiting. to get the most out of it, while giving the tree a nice balanced silhouette.

workout size

This pruning is done just after planting and is intended to form the frame of the tree. It is she who will help to achieve a balanced figure for your young apple tree. Like planting, this pruning should be carried out outside the frost period and the pruning of the branches must be done carefully, with secateurs or pruners. Opt for a diagonal pruning so that water does not seep into the freshly cut wood.

  1. Remove all new growth from the trunk.
  2. Also remove the branches that cross to keep only the main ones.
  3. Match the length of these main branches to define a harmonious silhouette.
  4. Be sure to preferably cut above an outward-facing eye to encourage your tree’s future development.

Maintenance pruning and fruiting.

This pruning should be done every year and guarantees that the apple tree will bear good fruit. If he is better to do it in the middle of winter, it is still necessary to make sure that it is outside in freezing weather. If you live in a cold region with sometimes harsh winters, it is better to wait until the end of winter, just before the return of vegetation!

  1. Remove all dead branches and those with damaged wood.
  2. Lighten your apple tree by also removing branches that cross and grow inward (this won’t work).
  3. Prune the main branches around your apple tree to maintain a balanced silhouette. (If the branches are thick enough, feel free to use a tree saw.)
  4. Leave at least 3 eyes on the secondary branches before cutting their ends.
  5. Cut preferably above a bud facing outward, always with the aim of promoting the development of the tree.

How to plant and prune an apple tree on a trellis?

apple trellis palmette

Do you want an apple tree on a trellis? It’s true that this original shape is an interesting way to take advantage of a fruit tree when there is no there is not much space in your garden wherever you want dress up a wall ! If it is obviously necessary to proceed from the planting to give a good silhouette to the apple tree, pruning in trellising (or pruning in palmette) is then quite simple to carry out.

The plantation

  1. Prepare your trellis before planting your apple tree.
  2. Plant your tree as above.
  3. For the size of the plantation, try to place 2 eyes at about 30/40 cm from the ground. (It is in these 2 eyes that the 2 main frames of your trellis apple tree will grow.)
  4. Then cut the main trunk just above these 2 eyes.
  5. Disinfect and chew the wound.
  6. Finally fix the trunk to the base of your structure.

Maintenance pruning and fruiting.

For a trained apple tree, it suffices to apply the same maintenance pruning recommendations as for a classic apple tree.

  1. Do not hesitate to air your tree each year by removing dead branches, damaged ones, those that cross but also those that grow downwards.
  2. Among the many new branches, also keep only the most vigorous branches: you will thus obtain a better fruiting.
  3. And finally, apply the rule of the 3 eyes: cut the secondary branches above the third eye to avoid the multiplication of fruits. these products will go much better!

How to graft an apple tree?

When grafting an apple tree, one of the most important points to remember is to first choose a healthy, vigorous and robust rootstock. It would be a shame to graft onto a weak subject, which would only bear poor quality fruit or even carry certain diseases! It is also useless to hope to be able to plant a young apple tree in a pear tree, a plum tree or even a cherry tree. For the transplant to be successful, the the pattern must be an apple tree.

Regarding the grafting itself, there are different methods for the apple tree:

  • In crown: The grafting of a crown apple tree is done in the spring, usually just before flowering, between mid-April and mid-May. It is only done once the rootstock has entered the vegetation, and it is one of the easiest grafts to perform. It consists of making a notch in the pattern and then inserting the stem, the bark of which has been cut at an angle.

  • On shield: This transplant is practiced both in late spring and late summer, and it is also one of the easiest to perform. In some simplified explanations, it involves making a T-shaped cut in the rootstock and then inserting the scion consisting of an eye, the first centimeter of a leaf petiole and a portion of bark.

  • In lunge: The grafting of a split apple tree is done at the end of winter, around the month of March: it is when the vegetation begins to take off again that the rootstock is ready to receive the graft. Although this method is quite easy, it is not the most aesthetic, since it generally leaves significant bulges in the graft. To perform this split graft, the rootstock must be split vertically and the scissor cut at an angle is inserted inside.

  • In English : The English grafting of an apple tree is also a method to consider because of its simplicity. It takes place between March and April and to be successful, it is enough to cut the rootstock and the scion at an angle, place them on top of each other and keep them that way.

How to maintain an apple tree?

Although there are varieties that are more resistant to disease and pests, the apple tree is never completely immune to threats. Whether it’s bacteria, parasites or fungi, there are always solutions and treatments to keep your tree healthy and ensure a good harvest every year!

apple scab

olive scab disease

The leaves of your apple tree are all stained, deformed and end up falling? There is no doubt about the disease from which your tree suffers: it is scab. Caused by a fungus, it mainly affects the leaves but also the fruits which are affected by brown spots, which deform, crack and rot. To control scab, spraying with Bordeaux mixture is generally very effective.

apple canker

olive canker disease

If you have noticed lesions on the trunk and branches of your apple tree, they are probably due to a canker. These dark-colored lesions tend to grow, to spread, to be accompanied by other cracks, and are a sign that the bark is in the process of necrosis. Therefore, it is important to treat this disease as early as possible, as the affected part may die. If these are secondary branches, you must remove and burn them. But if it is woodpecker branches, you will have to treat the canker, apply a fungicide and treat your apple tree with Bordeaux mixture.

powdery mildew

olive tree powdery mildew white moss disease

Powdery mildew is a fairly common disease of the apple tree and is characterized by a kind of white foam that affects the leaves as well as the buds and fruits. It is quite serious since it attacks the apple tree directly and, moreover, no treatment can kill it. The only solution is to remove all the affected parts as soon as the first signs appear.


olive tree disease pests aphids

Aphids and caterpillars are the two main enemies of the apple tree. If your leaves curl, it’s because of aphids, but if your fruits are attacked and eaten from the inside, it’s because of caterpillars! To neutralize the proliferation of aphids, one of the most effective natural solutions is to spray black soap (you can also opt for denatured alcohols if the black soap does not have enough effect). As for the caterpillars (or more precisely the codling moths of the apple, the famous codling moths), the rinsing applied to the bark and the white oil sprayed on the trunk and the branches make it possible to destroy the larvae in winter.

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