Backyard apple trees need sun

Q. What type of apple tree should I plant in my backyard?

Carl from Youngstown

A. There are many options for planting an apple tree in the backyard. But first, the details of the site and an general understanding of apple trees should be considered.

Apple trees need to be planted in full sun. This is necessary for fruit production, drying of morning dew and moisture off leaves and overall tree health. The site must not be in a frost pocket. If your backyard tends to have frost longer in the morning or more often than your front yard, it is not a good location for a fruit tree. The blooms can be burnt by this frost and will not produce as much fruit as often as if it were located in a better site.

In general, two apple trees of different cultivars are necessary for effective pollination and the best yield of fruit. The trees must be compatible in order to pollinate one another. In an urban situation, there may be other apple or crabapple trees in the neighborhood that will work for pollination.

Beyond these basics, the biggest concern is apple scab. It is the most devastating disease of apples. The good news is that there are many apple trees which are resistant to this disease. A few cultivars include Pristine, Crimson Crisp, Sundance, Scarlet O’Hara, Redfree, Jonafree, Liberty, Enterprise and Gold Rush. Thus, these are the trees to plant in a home orchard. These cultivars are not always available at local garden centers, so planning is required to order them either through the garden center or reputable nurseries.

If you choose to plant a tree that is not resistant to scab, then you need a strategy to control the fungal disease that affects the tree. This could range from extensive pruning to a consistent spray schedule.

Another consideration when planting a fruit tree in the home landscape is the final size of the tree. Apple trees are grafted onto rootstock. The rootstock determines the final size and height of the tree. Trees for the home orchard should be labeled dwarf (8-12 feet tall) or semidwarf (up to 15 feet tall). These trees should be either trellised or staked to ensure they can withstand a large fruit load when they reach full production in year four or five. Earlier production is possible, depending on the age of tree at planting. Heavy fruit loads should be avoided on young trees.

For more information on growing apples in the home orchard, go to

To learn hands-on pruning and more about fruit trees, consider attending the extension’s spring fruit tree pruning clinic on April 21. Details are at:

Eric Barrett is OSU Extension educator for agriculture and natural resources in Mahoning County. Call the office plant and pest clinic at 330-533-5538 to submit your questions. Regular clinic hours are 9 a.m. to noon Mondays and Thursdays.

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