Apple is commercially the most important fruit of the state. Growing apple tree is easy and success in growing apple fruit depends on many factors, viz. site selection, proper orchard management, stocks and varieties adapted to your location. Apple trees can be grown in an altitude range of 1500m -2700m a.m.s.l. Apple tree requires adequate winters, having chilling units of 800-1500 hours, when temperature remains below 7 degree Celsius. Apple tree performs best in loamy soils rich in organic matter having Ph range of 6.0-7.0.
Points to remember
- Always use disease resistant tree,
- Always buy one year trees having good root system,
- Variety/rootstock should be chosen according to your location,
- Soak the roots of the plant before planting,
- Apply some water after planting,
- Apply mulch immediately after planting,
- Do not plant trees in frost conditions,
- Do not plant apple tree near to big wooded trees,
- Cut back the new tree after planting about 30 cm from graft union,
It is essential to analyze climate in your area before plantation. Most of the apple cultivars require more than 1000 chilling hours in winter, however there are some low chilling cultivars which require low chilling hours like Tydeman’s early, Anna, Dorset Golden and some gala strains. So choose the appropriate apple variety which suits your location. Your location may not have low winter temperatures, but if there are late spring frosts, low temperatures can kill blossoms of early flowering apple varieties. Checks for annual rainfall in area, if drought condition prevails choose a rootstock resistant to drought.
SITE SELECTION AND SOIL
It is advised to take a soil test prior to planting which helps in determining the amendments to be made necessary to correct nutrient deficiencies and adjust soil pH. Ideal pH range for apple trees is 6.0-7.0. Apple trees require deep and well drained loamy soil with good moisture and nutrient holding capacity. Soil should not have water logging and soil with proper drainage is most suitable for apple farming. Clay soils should be mixed with some sand to reduce compaction and to improve aeration in the soil. Apple trees need plenty of sunlight and requires at least 6 hours of sunlight in a day. Ideal site for apple is a north or east facing side. Choose a site which is not prone to hail storm and free from the influence of wild animals.
VARIETY/ROOT STOCK SELECTION
Apple trees can be planted throughout the year; however the best time to plant the trees is in winter, when the trees are dormant. The final size of the tree depends on the root stock used and cultivar grafted. Spacing of the tree should be planned accordingly. The average number of plants in an area of one bigha may range from 15 to 100. Apple variety should be selected on the basis of fruit characteristics and bloom time. Low altitude areas should choose low chilling varieties and high altitude areas should go for standard and high chilling cultivars. There should be good combination of root stock and variety to be propagated. The cultivars with very weak growth should be grafted on a strong root stock. (e.g. Super chief grafted on M.9 does not grow well. )
In Himachal Pradesh, square or hexagonal system of planting is used in valleys, whereas in slopes contour system of planting is used. It is strongly recommended to plant pollinating varieties for proper fruit setting. At least 33% pollinating varieties should be planted in an orchard to get crop every year.
Apple trees require fertile soil for good growth, it is recommended to test the soil before planting. Dig pits of size 1m*1m*1m in November month. Place some loose soil back to the pit and loosen the soil on the walls of the pits so that the roots can penetrate easily. Remove the weeds from the soil and keep the pits open for 1 month. Mix thoroughly 20-30 kg of well rotten FYM (gobar ki khaad) and 500 grams of single super phosphate with soil while filling the pits. After filling, the pit should be kept undisturbed and planting should be done after 3 weeks.
PLANTING THE TREE
Always purchase healthy, one year tree with good root system from a registered nursery. After buying the tree, it should be protected from drying out and any other injury. A small tree with good root system grows well as compared to large trees. Examine the roots of the tree and cut off roots which are broken or damaged. Before planting SOAK THE ROOTS in a large tub of water for 4-5 hours. Remove the soil from the pit and place the plant in the center of the pit with its root down. Hold the tree vertically and back-fill the soil, top soil back in first. Firm the soil well to be sure it surrounds the roots and to remove air pockets. Make sure that graft union of the plant should remain 2-4 inches above the ground, so that roots do not emerge from the scion.
IRRIGATION AND MULCHING
After planting, trees should be watered immediately to settle the soil around the root. Irrigation should be done weekly during dry periods, especially during the first year after planting. If irrigation is not possible in your site, moisture can be conserved by mulching and controlling weeds. Keep the mulch material away from the trunk as it invites several pests to attack the trunk.