Why February is the best time to plant apple trees
Gardening guru Alan Titchmarsh believes that every garden is the better for an apple tree. You may be lucky enough to have one in your garden already, but if not, February is the perfect month to plant one. What’s more, Britain’s climate is the best in the world for growing apples.
Sowing apples from their pips would take too long so gardening experts generally recommend buying young trees ready for planting. Apple trees for sale come in two forms, bare-root stock or in containers. February is a perfect month to plant them as pot-grown trees won’t suffer from drought or heat stress, and the bare-root varieties are in a dormant state of growth so can be safely planted in the soil. If you want to grow an apple tree in a patio pot, you need one that has been purpose grown for a container. Apple trees are not grown on their own roots. The top of the tree is grafted onto different roots (called a rootstock), and the roots control the size of the tree. Rootstocks come in assorted sizes, so look for ones labelled M27 or M9 which suit most gardens, or ask your nursery for advice. Bare-rooted trees are much less expensive than pot-grown trees.
The ideal position for an apple tree is a sunny, sheltered spot, well away from any frost pockets, taking care to avoid poorly-drained or shallow soils. Choose a mild day when the ground is not frozen and the forecast is reasonable and dig a square hole at least twice as wide as the bare roots. Push a stake into the hole then hold the tree carefully in place while you push the soil back in the hole, pressing it down to get rid of air pockets. Water the area well, then mulch with compost to help stop the water from evaporating. Then whatever size tree you go for, you can sit back and wait for April when beautiful coconut-ice looking blossom will appear, followed by tiny fruit developing and the promise of your first home grown crop in the autumn.
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