Planting apple seedlings often takes time and patience along with soil, pots and plenty of sunlight. In nearly all cases, it is advisable to purchase already-sprouted seedlings or starter apple trees from nurseries. Gardeners generally get much better and more consistent results from professional apple seedlings than they do from simply planting apple seeds. Regardless of the seedlings' beginnings, however, they should be started indoors, where the temperature is controlled, then moved to a sunny patch outside in the early spring.
Apple farmers and orchard owners usually spend a lot of time planning for their plants and optimizing their crops. This usually involves grafting branches, planning for pollination and hybridizing certain varieties for color, taste and texture. It is for this reason that planting apple seeds is usually not recommended; the seeds, in most cases, will not yield fruit that is anything like the apples from whence they came.
Just the same, growing seedlings from scratch is not impossible, and trees of some kind usually will sprout. The first thing growers must do is germinate the seeds. This is most easily and quickly accomplished by placing the seeds in a bit of soil and water in a cool place, such as the refrigerator. After the seeds begin to sprout, which often takes several months, they can be moved to a deeper pot. Apple seedlings grow best when given a lot of sunlight, and pots should be situated accordingly.
It is almost always possible to start apple seedlings outside right away. Depending on where you live and how harsh the soil environment is, though, seeds might have a much more difficult time getting started in external soil. Botanists usually recommend starting seedlings in a more controlled way so that they can be monitored and nurtured. Caring for seedlings usually requires regular watering and pest control.
After the seedlings have begun to develop a sturdy, wooded trunk — usually when they are about 3 inches (7.6 cm) tall — get ready to plant them outdoors. To prepare for the tree’s root system, it usually is best to plant apple seedlings in an open patch of land with plenty of space on either side. Early spring, or after the ground has thawed, usually is the best time to plant seedlings.
Transplanting seedlings can be something of a tricky art. Start out by digging a hole a bit larger than the original pot. Carefully remove the apple seedlings by slowly shaking their soil loose; it is imperative that you do not damage their young roots when moving them. Set them gingerly in the hole with as much of the original dirt as you can, and give them plenty of water.
Pack soil around the plants to fill up the hole, making it level with the ground around it. Soil that is optimized for produce seedlings or fruit seedlings is best, although any rich, moist dirt will do. Water the plant again, and monitor it regularly as it adapts to its new habitat and begins to take root.
If you are hoping to produce fruit from your apple seedlings, consider attaching the seedlings to a dwarfing rootstalk soon after planting. Unless the seedlings are controlled, they can grow into trees that are very tall. The majority of orchard fruit is grown on trees that are short by design, which facilitates picking and effectively concentrates the tree’s natural sugars into the fruits. Most seedlings that are purchased from nurseries come with rootstalks already attached.