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Apples - soil requirements

Information about the soil requirements for apple trees

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Apples require a balanced diet with plenty of humus in the soil to retain moisture – without which the fruits will not make any size and will lack juice. As apples require magnesium in the soil, lime is best given when the ground is prepared, as magnesium carbonate, about 525g per sq m (1 lb per sq yd). Apples also require potash; for heavy soils give 33g per sq m (1oz per sq yd), doubling this amount where the soil is light and the potash easily washed away. The amount of nitrogenous manures will depend on variety. The most vigorous apples will need little, for they require no assistance in making new wood. But those of more compact habit need as much shoddy or farmyard manure as can be obtained, and cooking apples need more nitrogen than dessert kinds. Nitrogen will intensify the green colouring of the cooking apples, whilst potash will bring out the scarlet and crimson colourings of dessert apples. Where possible, use organic nitrogenous manures, which will supply the necessary humus.
Young trees will suffer a shortage of nitrogen if planted directly into grass. In its nitrogen requirements, grass will be in competition with the trees, so it is important when planting in grass first to make a circle of 60cm (2ft) diameter and to remove the turf from this area before preparing the soil. In areas of low rainfall, all apples will benefit from a thick mulch of garden compost or farmyard manure given in June to check moisture evaporation. Trees growing in dry districts will also require more nitrogen, and if after two years they have made less than 30cm (12in) of new growth, give each tree a 66g-per-sq-m (2oz-per-sq-yd) application of sulphate of ammonia early in spring when growth recommences.
Lack of potash may be shown by the leaves turning brown at the edges and becoming crinkled, whilst the fruit will be small. Potash will also release the phosphates in the soil, which are so important in building up the size of the fruit and stimulating root action. So in spring give each tree a 33g-per-sq-m (1oz-per-sq-yd) dressing of sulphate of potash. Magnesium deficiency, which causes the leaves to turn pale green, is corrected by spraying the foliage with magnesium sulphate (Epsom salts) at a strength of 25g to 1 litre (4oz to 1 gal) of water. In difficult soils, these apples will do well: in limestone and chalk, Gascoyne’s Scarlet, Barnack Beauty, Charles Ross, St Everard; in wet, badly drained soil, Lord Derby, Grenadier, Monarch, Laxton’s Superb; in cold, heavy clay, Newton Wonder, Adam’s Pearmain, Pott’s Seedling, Wagener.

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