I have a small backyard and want to plant an apple tree. What should I plant?

Here are some factors to consider in selecting an apple tree for a backyard setting:

► How much space is available with full sunlight and well-drained soil.

Apple trees require full sunlight for optimal blossom initiation and development the summer prior to the actual crop as well as for optimal fruit quality during the fruit’s growing season. Shading from a home and adjacent trees and buildings will result in poor tree growth, fruit yield, fruit quality and possibly greater insect and disease problems.

► The nutrient status and acidity (pH) of the soil in which the trees will be planted.

Knowing the condition of the soil will let you correct any deficiencies before planting.

► A dwarfing rootstock with a tree support system.

Once you have determined that your soil and space are adequate, you should select a dwarfing rootstock, for smaller trees. Dwarfing rootstocks will require a tree support system to allow the tree to bear fruit much earlier in the life of the tree.

► Cultivars appropriate for your environment (two cultivars are necessary for pollination).

To get the necessary cultivars for pollination, you could plant two trees, or purchase trees that have two cultivars grafted onto one trunk. Flowering crabapples in the landscape that will flower at the same time as your apple cultivars would also suffice as a pollen source.

► Knowledge of disease and insects of concern in your area when selecting the apple cultivar to plant.

Many apple cultivars will require at least a minimal spray program to manage pests. Selecting the proper cultivar will minimize pest management required to produce high-quality apples.

Answer provided by Michael Parker, North Carolina State University.