How to Care for Apple Trees in Michigan

Apple trees make a great addition to any Michigan lawn for a variety of reasons. While the trees themselves add natural beauty to outdoor spaces and boast leafy branches that provide shade, they supply homeowners with a continuous source of delicious fruit — whether it’s a snack in the afternoon or baked into a pie for dessert.

The unique benefits of apple trees are paired with a unique set of requirements in terms of care. Compared to other tree varieties, apple trees tend to be more susceptible to insect and disease problems, with apple scab being one example. Known to frequently attack a variety of apple tree types, this highly contagious disease affects both the leaves as well as the fruit of apple trees, causing leaves to turn yellow and fall off trees early and fruit to become distorted and drop early too.

In an effort to combat apple scab and other damaging diseases, we’ve put together a checklist on how to properly care for apple trees in Michigan.

1. Follow Precise Pruning Techniques

As with other tree varieties, pruning is critical to maintaining tree health — and in the case of apple trees, producing high-quality fruit. By controlling the number of tree branches (eliminating those that are weakened) and the direction of their growth, you can create an opening for more sunlight to strengthen the tree and its fruit production while also focusing its nutrients around producing ripe fruit versus an overabundance of unripe fruit.

In the pruning process, you’ll want to avoid leaving behind long stubs from cuts while also not cutting too close to the branch collar. Ideally, about 0.25 inches of the cut branch should be left behind. While it may be tempting to cover the wound with tree paint, researchers advise against this as it keeps wounds moist and therefore more attractive to insects and disease.

2. Apply Integrated Pest Management Principles

Generally speaking, most fruit trees (apple trees included) require some form of fungicides to keep pests and diseases at bay in order to retrieve usable fruit. These fungicides are intended to protect healthy trees from infection — not treat existing infections. In the latter case, you’ll want to wait until the following spring to apply fungicides, following proper pruning in the interim.

To account for both fungal diseases and insects, apple trees should be sprayed on a regular basis. This should begin with a spray in early spring as flower buds start to develop, to when the buds start to open a few weeks later, to after blossom occurs and the petals start to drop. That way, bees and other beneficial insects have the time they need to safely pollinate the blossoms.

3. Ensure Proper Soil Drainage

Good soil drainage is critical to an apple tree’s ability to thrive. If nutrients and water can’t reach the roots of the tree system due to limited pore space, the tree will miss out on these vital elements, causing it to weaken. Compacted soil can be caused by a number of factors, from the pressure of heavy foot traffic to the heavy load of lawn equipment.

(One way to check if you have poor soil drainage: take note of sitting water after rainfall. If puddles continue to sit unmoved on soil for several hours, chances are your soil is compacted.)

Aerating your lawn offers a source of relief for compacted soil. Perforating tiny holes into the soil around your apple trees provides openings for air, water and fertilizer to reach the tree roots and in doing so creates a stronger structure that is more resistant to insects and disease.

As a provider of tree care services across Southeast Michigan, Safari Tree can offer you professional assistance for all your tree care needs. So, if you’re wondering how to care for apple trees in Michigan, give us a call. Or get a free estimate from us here!

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