Alys Fowler

How to plant apple trees

To celebrate Ketchup turning one, Alys decided it was the perfect occasion to plant some apple trees at our HQ in Walsall.

I think an apple tree is the perfect present for anyone, but particularly for Ketchup’s first year. Now every autumn when the celebration comes round there will be delicious apples to eat as a present. Plus, in spring there will be blossom and the trees will also help to soften the landscape around the buildings, something pretty to look out on from the office and I hope the start of many more apple and other fruit trees to adorn the work place.

Ok I’ll get off my soapbox now.

How to plant apple trees

Apples are easy to grow and there are hundreds of different varieties. There are a few things that you need to know about choosing an apple. There are two types of apples, dessert or eaters and cookers or culinary apples, which as the names suggests are best for cooking. Some are dual use and few are really only any good for cider!


All apples are grafted on to rootstock, this means the roots are a different type of apple to the scion or top growth. This is done so that the overall size of the tree can be determined. There are several rootstock types:

  • M27 is extremely dwarfing as is best for containers or very small gardens with good soil. The trees will reach 5 feet high eventually.

  • M9 is dwarfing and again is good for small gardens. The trees will reach to 9 feet high.

  • M26 is also dwarfing and is one of the most popular rootstocks. The tree will reach 12 feet eventually.

All of these rootstocks will mean the tree needs permanent staking.

  • MM106 is also semi-dwarfing but is a better choice for poorer soils, including grasslands. The trees on this rootstock will reach 13 feet.

  • M25 is very vigorous and makes a huge tree, up to 20 feet high. These are too vigorous for most gardens, but are occasionally used when the soil is very poor. Mostly they are used for traditional orchards in grass.

Bare root or potted trees

If you buy an apple tree in the autumn, then it will probably come bare rooted. This means that there will be no soil around the roots and the tree will have no leaves. Thus you have to plant your tree quickly or else it will dry out. If you don’t have the right place immediately available, to heal the tree, plant it into some soil temporarily. Bare root trees establish very quickly and are often much cheaper than trees in pots. If you want to plant many apple trees, buying them bare rooted makes a lot of sense. Bare root trees are only sent out between November and March when the tree is not in leaf.


You will have to stake your tree so make sure that you have a suitable stake and tie. The stake should go at a 45-degree angle into the prevailing wind. You will have to check the tie regularly for as the tree grows the stems will swell and too tight a tie can kill a tree.
Mulching around the base of the tree once you have planted it is always a good idea. It will lock moisture in, keep down weeds and stop competition from grass. Only established trees can cope with mown grass around their base. Young trees find the competition too much. If you have rabbits or deer, you will have to provide adequate protection because young apple stems and branches are delicious to hungry animals over the winter.


If you plant your trees in the autumn, you don’t tend to have to worry about watering because our climate will sort that out. But if there is a prolonged period without rain, you’ll have to water. Make sure you give the tree a good soak at least once a month if the soil dries out.

Ketchup birthday planting