Bitter cold weather came early this fall, but there’ll still be days, even weeks of reasonably mild temperatures before the ground freezes hard and winter snows arrive. So, there should still be time to plant a tree or two, and some of those trees should be apples.

Apples are good fruit, and the supermarkets and farm markets are currently full of them, but it can be fun to raise your own, and convenient, too. If gardeners make a mistake on growing apples, it’s to choose a few kinds haphazardly from a catalog or nursery, and plant them. Far better to plant one or more that will produce apples early, another one or more that will have mid-season fruit, and yet another that will offer late season apples. Then you can enjoy fruit for months, instead of having far too many during just one short stretch of time.

I currently have three trees, and one is a yellow transparent that usually has ripe fruit in late august. This type is good for eating, and equally good for applesauce. I have a mid-season tree too, a Starkrimson, that’s just a little tart and makes wonderful pies. Other choices for mid-season are Cortland, MacIntosh, and Jonathan. Late season? I have a Red Delicious that produces crisp, sweet apples, though you might prefer (or include) Yellow Delicious, Granny Smith, or Haralred.

You’ll want dwarf or at least semi-dwarf trees, which are much easier to prune and spray than full sized ones, and still produce LOTS of fruit, and you’ll need to devote some time to enjoy good results. For example, it’s wise to spray apple trees with an all-purpose fruit spray available at any department store plant section each 10 to 14 days. Give them an initial spraying as soon as leaves begin to appear, then hold off until blossom petals begin to fall, and start again, keeping it up until fruit is nearly ready.

Some types of apples are partially resistant to several kinds of disease, but you’d best spray anyway. Gnarled, scabby, and knotty apples are not what you’re hoping for, and if you don’t spray, you’re sure to get them. It’s a good idea to spray around fruit trees with Roundup, to keep weeds and grass from encroaching and robbing the trees of nutrient, but make sure none of the spray touches the trunk or leaves.

Mulching is a good decision too, to hold in water, and you’ll want to feed the trees with a good fertilizer like Tree Tone, that has not only nitrogen, potassium, and potash, but trace elements like boron and zinc. These help prevent blossom end rot and promote healthy fruit. You can buy bare rooted saplings for your planting, but it’s better to purchase rooted trees in five gallon fiber pots. These can be planted directly without removing the pots or disturbing rootlets, and can see you enjoying at least a few apples the very next spring!

Finally, it’s a good idea to place sturdy tree stakes around each little tree to ensure straight growth instead of crooked, and wrap the trunks to keep off rabbits that can ring the trunks and kill seedlings. It all sounds like a lot of work, but when you crunch into that

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