How to Grow Apples in California

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Many people think apples only grow well in cold, damp climates, but this isn't the case. Many apple varieties actually thrive in warmer and drier climates, like California's. The longer growing season gives apples time to ripen and get as sweet as they can before the harvest. You can have fresh apple cider, apple pie and just plain delicious apples if you grow your own. Here's how.

  • Decide which kind of apple tree you would like to plant. (Go to Warm Climate Apple Varieties, in Resources below. The site lists 19, all of which do well in California.) When you have chosen a variety of apple, purchase the tree.

  • Prepare the soil. Apple trees grow well in all types of soil, but prefer sandy, well-drained soil. Fertilize your soil well and add some sand if it is too clay-like.

  • Plant the tree in late winter or early spring, as soon as the ground is soft enough. Plant in full sun or partial shade. Apple trees will grow in either. Be sure to pinch off all buds. You do not want your apple tree to bear fruit in its first year. The fruit won't taste any good!

  • Prune the apple tree. Any small branches that do not have a split in them should be cut off. This will help your apple tree grow fuller and produce more fruit in the long run.

  • Water the apple tree. In a dry climate, like California's, apple trees need water three times a week. Water it for at least 20 minutes so the water can seep down into the roots.

  • Once the tree is a year old, let it produce fruit. Thin the buds and prune it in late winter or early spring. The fruit will develop slowly over the summer and should be ripe by late summer to mid-fall, depending on the variety of apple.

  • Harvest your apples as they become ripe. Some varieties need to sit for a month or two off of the tree before they are tasty. Most varieties are good right off the tree, however. An apple is ripe when the flesh is sweet yet firm. Some varieties are also tart.

Tips & Warnings

  • You should not need to use pesticides when growing apples in California since there are virtually no apple pests.
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