Apple Essentials

By National Gardening Association Editors


  • Select resistant varieties to minimize apple scab and other disease problems.
  • Apple trees are not self-fertile; plant at least one other variety that blooms at the same time. Flowering crab apples that bloom at the same time will also pollinate apples.
  • Spring planting is recommended in central and northern areas. Where fall and winter weather is generally mild and moist, fall planting is successful.
  • Buy dormant, bare-root, 1-year-old trees, if possible. Dwarfs and semi-dwarfs will bear in 3 to 4 years, yielding 1 to 2 bushels per year. Standard-size trees will start to bear in 4 to 8 years, yielding 4 to 5 bushels of apples.


  • Choose a site with full sun, moderate fertility, and good air circulation and water drainage.
  • Apples will tolerate a wide range of soil types.


  • When planting trees on dwarfing and semi-dwarfing rootstocks, be sure the graft union stays at least 1 inch above ground.
  • Space standard trees 30 to 35 feet apart, semi-dwarfs 20 to 25 feet apart, and dwarf trees 15 to 20 feet apart.
  • Surround each tree with a mouse guard before filling the hole completely.
  • Water, prune, and mulch young trees right after planting.


  • Water young trees regularly, especially those on semi-dwarfing or dwarfing rootstocks, to ensure that the root system becomes well established.
  • Renew the mulch periodically, but pull it away from the tree in the fall so mice don't nest over the winter and eat the bark.
  • Begin training trees to their permanent framework in the first season.
  • Prune bearing trees annually.
  • See our article Fruit Pests and Diseases for controls of common apple pests such as apple maggot, plum curculio, green fruitworm, codling moth, fire blight, and powdery mildew.

  • The harvest season ranges from midsummer to late fall, depending on the variety.
  • To avoid pulling out the stem when you harvest, cup the apple in your hand, tilt it upward, and twist to separate it from the spur at the point of attachment.

Photography by National Gardening Association.

Other articles in this series:
1. Apple Essentials ← you're on this article right now
2. Planting Apple Trees
3. Choosing Apple Varieties
4. Apple Tree Care

This article is a part of our Fruit Gardening Guide for Apples.

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