Notice where the graft is on the tree (small bulge near base of plant, may have tape or tar-like covering). Do not plant the graft below the soil.Do not allow any limbs to develop below the graft line. If you allow limbs to grow below the graft line the tree will revert back to the root stock. Typically you do not want that to happen! The root stock serves only to provide certain characteristics like whether a tree will be a dwarf tree, semi-dwarf tree or a standard tree. So.. do not allow anything to grow around the graft and do not bury the graft when planting.Make sure you keep the graft about 2 inches above the ground.
Notice where the soil line is on the tree to be planted.The soil line will show a difference in color at the base of the stem. Plant the tree the same depth as it was planted in the nursery i.e. using the same soil line. Plant it straight. If you have problems with deer you should probably invest in some form of fencing. A little fence will go a long way in getting you tree off to a good start.
Always remove any tags on a tree to be planted. If you want to mark the tree use a means that will not constict the tree. I almost killed one of my trees when I did not remove the guard that protects the tree from mice. As the tree grew the guard started to constict the tree, eventually the tree lost all of its leaves, at that time I realized I was "virtually" strangling the tree.
It is important during the planting process to keep the tree roots damp, you do not want to let the roots of the tree dry out. A few minutes of drying wind, especially on a sunny day, can damage or kill a tree.
Dig a hole larger than the root spread. Put the best soil you can back in the hole, I usually put any leaves or compost I have in the bottom of the hole.Sometimes I go to Starbucks and pick up coffee..Starbucks has a "Grounds for Your Garden" program whereby you can receive "free" any grounds they have to use in your garden.I have found this to be a great planting medium.Anyway put a little bit of soil/compost in the hole, put the tree in the hole to size up how it will fit in the hole(you might want to keep it in the container during the sizing up process). Adjust the soil so the tree will be planted at the same level as it was planted in the nursery. Remove tree from container, spread roots out, place tree in its hole, cover roots with soil, soak with water, add more soil, gently tamp down soil, create a very shallow bowl-shaped hollow around base of tree to trap water. A little "Rock Phosphate" and "Greensand" are a nice additions to the soil...make sure to mix well when incorporating into the soil mixture. Only add a small amount about a 1/4 cup of each ingredient for a two year tree.
Mulch around the tree but do not mulch within six inches of the trunk of the tree to discourage collar rot. I usually put the black landscaping plastic down to temper the weeds befor mulching. It lets the water through and thwarts any weeds.
The old adage is to prune so a bird can fly through your tree.
Usually you prune the bottom branches off..anything that bends downward.
Pruning in December or (in winter) is preferable as winter kills most disease that
would affect the limb that is pruned. When Meredith visited my (little) orchard he recommended that
I prune a lot of the little growth inside the innermost part of the tree and that I top some of my
really high growing branches right above where they were sprouting limbs. He said to cut them on a diagonal.
The use of dormant fruit tree spray is important.To spray your apple tree use dormat fruit tree oil on a warm day in February. Spray the bark of the tree thourougly, never spray once the flowers have opened.
Aphids are a major problem in Virginia. I grow nasturtium anywhere I can to combat aphids. I also grow comfrey as it is said to be a good companion plant for apple trees.