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Dwarf Apple Trees | Planting, Pruning & Care

Planting distances
Minimum space between plants;
Dwarf Apple Tree 5ft / 1.5m
Cordon Apple Tree [M9 rootstock] 3ft /1m

Planting Dwarf Apple Trees
Dwarf apple trees will grow in most soils that are moist but free draining avoiding salt-laden air and shallow alkaline soils. Full sun is preferred but some shade will be tolerated. For Northern positions chose a hardier variety.

Follow our videos or written guides planting bare root trees or planting containerised trees in our Help & Advice section. We strongly recommend the use of Rootgrow when planting new trees.

Initial pruning of a 1 year old maiden dwarf apple tree
Cut the main stem back to around 24 inches between November-March. This will encourage lower growing laterals and a clear stem of 12-18 inches.

If training a cordon apple tree then cut back the main stem to around 24 inches between November-March. This will encourage laterals to grow which will form the shape of the cordon.

A stake and tie should be used for all dwarf apple trees. For staking instructions see our videos and written guides planting bare root trees or planting containerised trees in our Help & Advice section

Cordon trained dwarf apple trees will require a wire support system to be trained along. Using vine eyes and galvanised wire create a set of tiers approximately 18 inches apart.

Feeding & Mulching
Apply a general fertiliser such as Growmore in late spring. Apply also a 3 inch mulch of well-rotted manure or compost to keep the weeds at bay. When applying mulch avoid making contact with the bark of the tree. Bark chip can also be used for this purpose.

Picking & Storage
Apples will come away easily from the tree with a slight twist if ripe. Many will develop better flavours if left on the tree. How long an apple will store for is dependent on the variety. Using trays to store the fruit is a traditional method but wrapping in paper and placing them into a plastic bag with several small, perforated holes is effective. Fold the top of the bag over gently without excluding all of the air and rest the bag folded side down in a cool dark place. Whichever method of storage is used, the apples should be checked regularly for rotted fruits which should be removed immediately.

Seasonal Care of Dwarf Apple Trees
Mulch in spring and feed as detailed in Feeding & Mulching above. During any summer long, hot, dry spells water occasionally, especially as the fruit begins to appear. Most trees will establish quickly and not require additional water. Over watering is often more of a problem than under watering, to get the balance right scrape away any mulch and dig down with a finger a few centimetres. If the soil is even slightly moist then no water is required. If the soil is very dry then water and repeat the moisture test as necessary. Most dwarf apple trees planted as bare roots won't require watering. Trees planted from containers may require additional water throughout the first year. Keep grass away from the trunk, in the first 3 or 4 years it is advisable to keep the grass at least 2 foot away from the base of the tree. Mulching can help to achieve this.

Pruning Dwarf Apple Trees
The goal is to have 7 or 8 strong branches, primary and secondary, which are well spaced by about 4 years old. Prune in March. On a 2 year old tree cut back strong branches to half their length and cut back weaker branches to a third of their length. On a 3 year old tree cut out any new growth which crowds the centre of the tree. Cut back new growth to about half its length. When pruning an established dwarf apple tree remove any dead or diseased wood and crossing branches that crowd the centre. Inside the head of the tree cut back any over vigorous laterals, leaving the leaders alone. Around the outside of the head prune little if at all. All established pruning should take place from November - March..

When pruning a dwarf cordon apple follow these guidelines. Once the formal pruning has been done new shoots will grow along the stem. Tie in the central leader to a cane or wire and prune back the lower side laterals to 3 or 4 buds. To encourage further laterals in early spring cut back the new growth of the leader by about half. Continue the process until the desired height has been reached and then prune out the leader. Cut back the laterals each year in August leaving 3 buds on new wood to encourage fruiting buds to form