How to Care for Red Delicious Apple Trees


Nothing beats the crisp sweet taste of an orchard-fresh red delicious apple. Here's how to get your Red Delicious apple orchard up and running so you can enjoy those wonderful red treasures.

Selecting and Planting Red Delicious Apple Trees

  • Buy the trees from a grower you trust. Red Delicious apple trees do best grafted on growing rootstock and this should be done by a professional. They are self-pollinating, but will have a greater yield with more than one tree, so it's best to plant a few. Plant with pollinator apple trees that bloom in the early spring like they do, such as McIntosh and most crab apples.

  • Select your growing location. Red Delicious trees need full sun for the best apple production and well-drained soil.

  • Cultivate the soil to a depth of 15 to 18 inches. Add organic material such as compost and combine thoroughly.

  • Plant your trees between 10 and 15 feet apart in the spring about one inch below the graph line on the tree. Red Delicious apple trees only spread to 15 feet, so they're relatively compact as far as apple trees go.

  • Mulch in a diameter of about 2 feet around the trunk with straw. Water thoroughly.

Pruning, Feeding and Harvesting Red Delicious Apple Trees

  • Feed your Red Delicious apple trees in winter or early spring before new growth appears with a 12-12-12 fertilizer. Apply under the spread of the branches, do not over fertilize.

  • Thin the fruit clusters. After the Red Delicious' white blooms are gone and fruit begins to appear, thin each fruit cluster to two apples by cutting the misshapen or diseased fruit out first, and then cut the middle fruit to give the others more room.

  • Apply some type of insect control. Apple maggots are the most common pest and can be treated with a spray or controlled with earth-friendly traps.

  • Harvest your Red Delicious apples when the flesh is no longer starchy, and has a sweet flavor with darkened seeds. Red Delicious apple trees tend to deliver a good crop only every other year, so don't worry if you don't see too many apples the following year. Typically a tree will yield 2 to 5 bushels of apples annually, and the apples can last until May if stored properly.

  • Prune trees during the winter to establish early growth. Then thin in the spring to encourage apple production. Red Delicious trees must be thinned to produce well.

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