4. When should I prune my fruit tree?
Most pruning is done while the trees are dormant. Normally, late winter to mid-April is a great time. Some summer pruning can be done but most pruning should be done when the trees are dormant. We have an extensive article about training & pruning fruit trees for more information.
5. Should I mulch my fruit trees?
Yes! You absolutely should. Having grass grow right up to the tree is not good as it will suck up water. The secondary issue is mowing. Mowing right up to the tree can cause damage to the trunk when the mowing blade nicks the base of the trunk which can then girdle the tree. You can mulch with bark mulch or even wood chips. Avoid the volcano-style of mulch and leave a ring around the base of the trunk free from mulch to prevent disease.
6. How often should I water?
Apple crops that are not watered will have smaller fruit, even if thinned. Apple trees not bearing fruit still need water. Not enough water will mean less growth. Typically, you want to see 12” to 24” of new growth on apple trees each year when young. Fertilizer and sufficient water are critical otherwise growth will be limited.
A note about true dwarf vs semi-dwarf: True dwarf apple trees are grown on dwarf rootstock making the tree naturally short. They also have a very shallow and small root system. Most true dwarf apple rootstocks MUST be watered when it gets very dry, or they will be stressed and not do well. This is one of the reasons why we grow and sell all our apple trees on semi-dwarf apple rootstocks.
7. How do I protect them from deer?
If you go the cage route, your fence needs to be tall as deer can eat tree branches up to about 5-feet in height. Hungry bunnies can also be an issue during winter. We recommend placing a tube protector around the trunk which helps keep the rabbits, mice, and voles from foraging on the tree trunks. Check out this article for more information about buck rub, deer browse, and deer proofing your plants.
8. Why do I thin the apples on the tree?