Every Aussie should grow an apple tree in their backyard – after all, there’s a tree that suits every yard! Choose from the most popular apple varieties eaten by Aussies or select a variety that you can’t get at a supermarket. The PlantNet® apple range consists of natural dwarf, dwarf, columnar, and super dwarf trees to suit all backyard shapes and sizes!
In order for you to make the most out of your apple tree, we’ve compiled 5 of the most important steps to get you started.
5 Minute Read
Where to your apple tree
Plant your apple tree in full sun. If you’re in a warmer climate with scorching hot summers, you might like to plant your apple tree where it will receive some afternoon shade to reduce fruit scalding. Many apple varieties are hardy to frosts so are suitable for cold climates of Australia.
Soil preparation is beneficial, and you should start at least 6 weeks prior to planting your new apple tree. Adding compost, well-rotted manure, or another organic soil condition will improve the soil in most soil types. Your soil or potting mix should be well-draining for best results.
Follow the complete planting and potting instructions on our Ultimate Guide to Growing Fruit Trees.
How to fertilise apple trees
In the home garden, apples perform best with a balanced fertiliser blend with added potassium. Organic fertilisers can be used but at a much higher rate than inorganic fertilisers. The main fertilising period for apple trees is spring and autumn.
To give you a general guide, PlantNet® has created a great guide for fertilising deciduous fruit trees in pots from trial work completed by PlantNet® over a 3 year period. Take the time to read this article, as it includes information specific to apples!
Watering and pruning apple trees
In winter a small amount of water once a week is all that’s needed to prevent the soil profile from drying up too much. The crucial periods where apples require water are following flowering to early summer, which assists with next seasons buds to develop, then again prior to harvesting your apples to increase fruit size. The best practice is to use your hand to measure the moisture level of your potting mix. When digging into the top 5cms of potting mix you should look for any sign of moisture – if you see moisture, don’t water; if the soil is completely dry, water well.
Using wetting agents, mulch, and drip lines are all good ways to decrease the amount of time you need to spend outside with a hose in summer and during periods where water consistency is important.
Apple trees need to be pruned at the time of planting, and the best time to plant a new apple tree is in winter as a bareroot tree. The first time you cut your apple tree back you should consider the shape you want your tree to be. Check out our ultimate guide to growing fruit trees article for further information on pruning systems and how to get started.
Following formative pruning you should then move to pruning for fruit production. This includes removing branches that don’t conform to the shape of the tree, removing dead or diseased branches, thinning old fruiting spurs, and shortening last seasons growth by about 2/3s to encourage spurs to form and keep them close to the main structural branch. This is also completed in winter.
Common apple tree pests and diseases
Apples are a favourite target for Codling Moth and Light Brown Apple Moth; apples will also be attacked by woolly aphids, mites, and QLD Fruit Fly. As far as diseases are concerned, apple scab and powdery mildew are the most prevalent. All these pests and diseases are covered in our Common Fruit Tree Pests and Diseases article article. Also read our information on Codling Moth and Light Brown Apple Moth pheromone traps, which are great for home gardens.
Netting is the best way to keep birds and insect pests away from your fruit. Net early in the season, ensuring you use a frame that keeps the net clear of the growing foliage.
Otherwise, a Bordeaux spray is essential before bud burst to address fungal problems. Also, consider Cumulus™ and Herald™ Columnar Apples which are apple scab resistant. Natural/organic treatments can be used for most pests, otherwise pesticides can be used but always consult the product instructions.
Apple pollination and harvest guide
In order to obtain fruit, most apples require a pollination partner. See below pollination partners. Please note that these can vary depending on your climate. Cross pollination can be increased with crab apples. Green indicates compatible pollination partners, red indicates self-incompatibility.
See below for the approximate harvest times for each PlantNet® variety. Please note that these times vary depending on climate and individual trees.
Glowinski, L. (1991) The Complete Book of Fruit Growing in Australia. Melbourne, VIC: Lothian.
Persley, D. (1994) Diseases of fruit crops Vol 1. Brisbane, QLD: Department of Primary Industries.