- Planting Apple Trees
- In This Series
- How To Plant Apple Seeds
- How to Prepare the Seeds
- How to Germinate the Seeds
- How to Plant the Apple Seeds
- What is the Best Soil for Fruit Trees?
- The perfect soil yields the tastiest fruit
- [email protected] of Nebraska – Lincoln
- YOUR GUIDE TO PLANTING APPLE TREES
- EQUIPMENT REQUIRED
- WHEN YOUR TREE ARRIVES
- IDEAL SOIL CONDITIONS FOR APPLE TREES
- PROTECT FROM ANIMAL DAMAGE
- PLANTING YOUR APPLE TREE
- SUPPORTING A NEW APPLE TREE
Planting Apple Trees
Successfully establishing a young apple tree in your yard starts with your planting site and planting method. Once an apple tree is established, it needs little assistance to grow and bear fruit, but you’ll first need to make sure you give your trees a strong foundation.
NOTE: This is part 4 in a series of 11 articles. For a complete background on how to grow apple trees, we recommend starting from the beginning.
Apple trees require fertile soil for good growth, so, before you plant, test the soil where your trees will be planted – including a test of the soil pH. Refer back to the section on Soil Preparation for tips on testing your soil.
If the soil pH where you plan to plant your tree is 6.0-7.0, you’re in good shape – this is an ideal range for apple trees. Take a look at the established trees and plants around the site. Check to see that they look healthy and are growing well. This will help give you an idea of the success of new plantings in the area. Remember to steer clear of soils that are extremely heavy or poorly drained.
Apple trees may be planted even when temperatures are quite cool, especially if they arrive bareroot and dormant. If a hard frost is expected, it is advisable to delay planting for a while until temperatures become more moderate. Do not expose roots to temperatures that are freezing or below. Generally, as long as your soil is workable, it is fine to plant.
- Before planting: soak the apple tree’s roots in a bucket or large tub of water for one to two hours. This helps keep the roots from drying out while you dig the planting hole. Avoid soaking roots for more than six hours. Remember: do not expose roots to freezing temperatures (or below) prior to planting.
- Dig the planting hole deep and wide enough so the root system has plenty of room and room to spread and grow. When digging the planting hole, make sure it is deep and wide enough so the apple tree’s root system has plenty of room to easily expand. Keep the more-nutritious topsoil in a separate pile so you can put it in the bottom of the hole, where it’ll do the most good.
- To loosen the soil, mix aged/rotted manure, garden compost, coir or peat moss (up to 1/3 concentration) into your pile of topsoil. The peat moss you get should either be baled sphagnum or granular peat. Note: Peat has a low pH, so if you use this rather than neutral coir, it may affect the soil pH around the roots. Coir, like our Coco-Fiber Growing Medium, can be added instead of peat – or just evenly work in 2 or more inches of organic material with the existing soil.
- Place the apple tree in the center of the planting hole with its roots down and spread out. Holding onto the trunk to keep it vertical, backfill the hole, putting the topsoil back in first. You can avoid creating air pockets by working the soil carefully around the roots and tamping down firmly as you refill the planting hole around your apple tree.
- Especially if you’re planting on a slope, create a rim of soil around the planting hole about two inches above ground level. This is called a “berm” and it works to catch water so that it can soak in rather than running off and causing soil erosion. Spread soil evenly around tree and mulch to prevent damage from water pooling and injury from freezing around the apple tree’s trunk in fall going into winter.
Read more about Digging a Planting Hole and Planting Bare-root Fruit Trees.
Thoroughly water your newly planted apple tree. A deep soaking with about a gallon of water is best. If you need to fertilize your apple trees at planting time, you can water them in with a water-soluble solution like Stark® Tre-Pep® Fertilizer. If planting in the fall, wait until spring instead to make any fertilizer applications. After watering, if soil appears to settle and sinks into the planting hole, just add more soil – enough to fill the hole to ground level again.
Apply a layer of organic material like wood mulch (rather than inorganic material like rocks), about 2-3 inches thick, around the root zone of your apple tree. Mulching helps discourage weeds while also keeping water from quickly evaporating away from the root zone. In the fall, double the mulch layer or add a layer of straw for winter protection.
Note: Rodents and other small gnawing critters could take advantage of mulch that is applied too thickly, and they may chew the tree’s bark for sustenance – a type of injury that can be fatal, especially to new apple trees.
Planting Budded and Grafted Apple Trees
All Stark Bro’s apple trees are grafted or budded to ensure growth of true-to-name planting stock. You can see where the fruiting variety on top is joined to the root variety on the bottom by a bump in the lower trunk, by a change in the bark color, or by a slightly offset angle in the tree.
Grafted apple trees need special planting attention. For most apple trees, especially dwarf apple trees, it’s very important to keep the graft above the soil level; otherwise, roots could develop from above the graft and your apple tree could grow to its full size by bypassing its dwarfing parts. Budded apple trees are manually fitted to specially selected clonal rootstocks.
For dwarf, semi-dwarf, and columnar apple trees, the bud union should be planted 2- to 3-inches above the soil line. For ideal anchorage, standard-size apple trees, as well as our Stark® Custom Graft® trees, like the Stark® Double Delicious® apple tree, should be planted 1- to 2-inches deeper than the visible soil lines from when they grew in our nursery rows.
Planting Potted Apple Trees
Apple trees that are grown and shipped in our Stark® EZ Start® bottomless pots are part of our continuing quest for producing better and stronger trees for the home grower. By following these simple instructions, you will be assured of getting your new potted apple tree off to the best possible start.
- Before planting: When your apple tree arrives, carefully take it out of the package. Rest assured, your potted tree has been watered prior to shipment and should arrive with damp soil around the roots; however, it does need another drink when it arrives at your home. Be sure the water reaches the entirety of the roots within the container. If you can’t plant your tree immediately upon arrival, keep the roots hydrated until you can plant, and keep the tree in a sheltered location. Do not place your potted apple tree in a bucket of water. This could cause the roots to rot and weaken or even kill your apple tree.
- Your potted apple tree is ready for planting as soon as it arrives. To remove the tree from its temporary container, simply grasp the sides of the pot and carefully slide the tree out. Note: If the tree’s roots do not easily slide out of the container, you may need to gently pry the inside edges of the container away from the root system, and loosen it until the roots slide freely from the pot.
- While some might shake loose, most of the potting soil should remain around the apple tree’s roots. Gently separate, untangle, and spread out the tree’s roots and place it, soil and all, into the prepared planting hole. Backfill the hole with top soil, same as you would a bare-root apple tree (see above), and water thoroughly.
- Your potted apple tree may have come with a bamboo stake, which helped straighten the tree as it grew in its pot. We recommend that you keep the tree staked when you plant, since all new trees can benefit from staking in their first years. You may remove the bamboo stake and replace it with a different tree stake if you prefer.
Note: At planting time, do not plant the Stark® EZ Start® bottomless pot in the ground. It is not intended to break down over time as your apple tree grows, and it will cause root restriction, injury, and may even be fatal to the apple tree. The pot your apple tree arrives in is intended to be a temporary container only.
One final point: Please be sure to remove the name tag from your apple tree. As the tree grows, this small piece of plastic can choke off its circulation, causing damage like girdling and even tree death. If you’d like to keep the tag on your tree, retie it loosely with soft twine and be sure to keep it from becoming restricted as the tree grows.
In This Series
- Soil Preparation
Care & Maintenance
- Pest & Disease Control
How To Plant Apple Seeds
Mint Images/Getty Images
Taking a trip to the apple orchard is one of our favorite fall activities. It’s a great weekend adventure for the whole family, and no trip to the orchard ends without donuts and cider. You can even take home a basket of your hand-picked apples to bake into pies, breads, and fall pastries. Typically, when preparing apples for baking, we throw away the core and seeds. But just like pumpkin seeds gain new life when roasted, transforming into a crave-worthy fall snack, apple seeds can be repurposed and planted to grow your very own apple tree.
It may take a few years, but growing your own apple tree at home is endlessly rewarding. It’s a gift that keeps on giving. Picking the fruits at harvest time will become one of your family’s favorite new fall traditions. Plus, seed-saving is a great way to preserve and propagate lots of heirloom apple varieties.
So if you’ve got a little space to spare in your yard or garden, why not try your hand at growing your very own apple trees? It’s a labor of love, but when you see that first apple sprout from the tree’s branches, it will be so worth it.
How to Prepare the Seeds
To start the process, you’ll want to remove the seeds from the core of your apple (you can use your favorite kind of apple from the grocery store or an orchard). Cut up the apple to use and carefully carve out every seed from around the core, ensuring there are no pieces of fruit clinging on. You want to save every seed you can to plant—this will increase the chances that you’ll get a successful crop. Keep in mind that most apple trees are not grown directly from seeds, but from grafted trees, so these seed-grown plants can be highly variable and unpredictable. Lay the seeds out to dry on a paper towel, flipping them over every 2-4 days, for around 3 weeks.
You’ll want to begin the seed-saving process in the fall so your germinated seeds will be ready to plant in the spring.
How to Germinate the Seeds
After the drying process is complete, sprinkle a handful of peat moss over the seeds on the paper towel, as well as a few drops of water. Mix the seeds in with the peat moss. Transfer the mixture to a plastic bag and refrigerate for 3 months to facilitate the germination process.
WATCH: Buxton Hall Ultimate Apple Pie
How to Plant the Apple Seeds
While cooling, your seeds will have sprouted in their moss mixture. Prepare your garden plot by removing any weeds and spreading compost over the soil to add nutrients. Create a furrow and plant the sprouted seeds in the ground, around one foot apart from each other. Cover the furrows to protect the seeds. And that’s it! You’ve planted your very own apple trees.
What is the Best Soil for Fruit Trees?
The perfect soil yields the tastiest fruit
The perfect soil is a delicate balance of texture, depth, acidity, and content, but it’s not an unachievable one. In general, fruit trees thrive best in well-drained soil with a sandy, loamy texture. If there’s too much clay, or too many rocks, it can be difficult for a fruit tree to flourish. Soils that are lacking in nutrients also make it challenging for fruit trees to produce tasty, juicy fruit.
While the option exists to buy readymade potting soil for your fruit trees, it’s always best to have complete control over the soil mixture you use. So, what is the best soil for plants? Equal proportions of sand, peat, and bark usually render a pretty good fruit tree soil mix.
What’s important is that the soil you end up with is capable of retaining plenty of moisture and draining away excess water without difficulty at the same time. This is one of the reasons why our spring pot range works so well for fruit trees. Water is able to find its way out through the fabric and away from the roots. For peace of mind, don’t forget that a layer of gravel in the bottom of the pot will also help to secure water drainage.
[email protected] of Nebraska – Lincoln
Young Delicious apple trees were grown in two soil types, clay loam and loess, in eastern Nebraska, under a variety of cultural conditions. The development of roots and tops was studied for the first three years after transplanting in the orchards. In all, 73 trees were excavated.
The first two years were about normal in precipitation at Lincoln (locale of the clay loam) while at Union (locale of the loess) there was a deficit of over 9 inches each year. The third year, 1934, was one of severe drought and heat at both stations. The total rainfall deficiency for the three years was 30.8 inches at Union and 11.3 inches at Lincoln. The development of root systems was extremely rapid, the roots reaching a Maximum depth of 8.8 and a lateral spread of 12 feet the first year, and 14.8 feet and 21.2 feet the second. During the third year the maximum lateral spread reached 29.4 feet and the maximum depth reached was 17 feet. This greatly exceeded the lateral spread of three-year-old tops, which was about 6 feet, and the height of the trees, which was 7 to 8 feet.
The root systems responded readily to changes in soil environment. Under clean culture a generalized root system was produced. The roots penetrated deeply and spread widely in such a manner that a very large volume of soil was thoroughly occupied. In competition with corn there was little lateral spread and most of the root growth was vertical. Under straw mulch the roots had a pronounced shallow, lateral development. Under sod mulch both tops and roots were dwarfed.
No change in the development of roots and tops could be attributed to the use of the fertilizers, ammonium sulphate and acid phosphate, except that the trees were injured somewhat by ammonium sulphate the first season.
Corn planted 7 feet from the trees had little effect upon tree-root development the first year, but when planted nearer to the tree row it resulted in dwarfing the root system. When planted 3.5 feet from the trees for two years, the average lateral spread of surface roots toward the corn was 8.4 feet, while below four feet in depth the roots were generally limited in spread to four feet. With corn planted 5 and 7 feet from the tree row, the average lateral spread of horizontal roots was 9.4 and 10.2 feet respectively. The average spread of roots of cultivated trees in loess soil was 15.5 feet after two years of growth.
The average spread of the roots of trees under cultivation in loess soil was 19.2 feet at the end of the third season. The most distinct difference between the root systems of trees under cultivation and those modified by competition with corn was the wide spread of roots of cultivated trees at great depths.
The trees in the mulched series at Lincoln all showed a marked lateral development of roots in contrast to those in loess soil at Union, but their vertical development was not so extensive. Cultivated trees after three years of growth had an average lateral root spread of 23.6 and 19.2 feet respectively at Lincoln and Union and an average root depth of 9.4 at Lincoln and 14.7 at Union.
There was a decided positive correlation between top growth and root growth for the trees in the mulched series in clay loam soil. Trees in loess soil did not show so distinct a correlation between top and root development.
Apple roots grew toward an adjacent optimum moisture supply. The response of the root systems to the various cultural treatments can be explained largely on the basis of the water content and its location in the soil. Straw mulch caused more water to be available in the upper two to three feet of soil. Here roots had a marked lateral development but vertical growth was less than under other treatments. Corn greatly reduced the soil moisture on each side of the tree row and tree roots turned downward as they approached this drier soil.
After three years of growth, apple trees on loess soil had absorbed about one-half the total available moisture present in the soil directly beneath the trees to a depth of 9 feet.
“Most tree roots…occupy an area two to four times the diameter of the crown.”
– Colorado State University Extension
“Roots may occupy an area four to seven times the surface area occupied by the crown of the tree.”
– Iowa State University Forestry Extension
“While one rule of limb has been that a tree’s roots are one and one-half to three times wider than the foliage, other investigators estimate an irregular root pattern four to seven times the crown area; and, still other researchers maintain that the root extension can be four to eight times wider than the dripline of the tree, but only under certain conditions.”
-Roots Demystified, Chapter 9, Robert Kourik, 2008. (He did his research for this chapter at the UC Agricultural Libraries at Berkeley and Davis in the late 1980s)
Well, that’s clear as mud! How can we protect roots from development (or development from roots, for that matter) if we don’t know where the roots are… or, even worse, if the roots may be everywhere?
The roots of this oak tree (left) are certain to be found in the neighboring property (right)
Some facts from the 4th edition of Arboriculture (Richard Harris, James Clark and Nelda Matheny) can make it easier to predict where roots might be:
- Roots are opportunistic. There will be more roots when conditions are favorable. Fertile, moist, uncompacted soils will have more fibrous roots.
- In dry, compacted soils with no organic matter, roots are fewer but larger and able to grow further distances from the plant.
- Open-grown trees often have a wider root system than trees closely planted together. Some species, such as Coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) can root-graft with others of their kind, sharing nutrients, stabilizing each other and reducing the stress on each individual tree.
- Root systems may grow wider when downward growth is restricted, such as by a high water table or perhaps bedrock.
However, roots can always surprise you, and direct inspection is always required to be sure where roots are.
Roots found during construction
Ultimately, comparing the spread of the root system to the spread of the canopy is problematic. The dripline is easily altered by pruning, and the roots will not shrink to match the pruned canopy. Trunk diameter is a more reliable predictor of root spread. A 2009 study by Susan Day and Eric Wiseman at Virginia Tech analyzed young trees less than 8 inches in diameter growing in unobstructed soil and found that the ratio of root radius to trunk diameter was about 38 to 1. For example, a 6-inch tree could have roots out from the trunk as far as 19 feet. Studies for mature trees are fewer, but suggest that this ratio is smaller for older trees.
Site plan with tree protection zones (TPZs) drawn on plan
Arborists typically use trunk diameter to determine a root protection zone during development. A common guideline recommends a tree protection zone with a radius of one foot for every one inch of trunk diameter – a 12 to 1 ratio. It’s important to stress that this is just a guideline. The size and location of the tree protection zone varies by species, age and condition of the tree as well as soil type and the nature of the surrounding existing development.
Hand-digging can preserve roots when trenching. Here, a hand-dug trench means an irrigation line can be successfully laid under established tree roots.
A Project Arborist should be retained in the planning stage to assess trees, review plans and look for roots in the proposed development area. Trenching or pot-holing in selected sites using an air or water excavator can expose roots with less damage than traditional excavation methods. By finding exactly where tree roots are located in advance, the project can be designed with tree preservation in mind.
Ellyn Shea is an arborist and consultant in San Francisco.
Threthny / CC BY 2.0
YOUR GUIDE TO PLANTING APPLE TREES
Before your tree arrives have the following equipment ready for planting:
- A spade to dig out the planting hole.
- A support post and a plastic / rubber spacer tie specially designed to attach newly planted trees to your support post. The support post should be reasonably strong (about 8cm / 3in) wide and about 150cm / 5ft high.
- A heavy hammer or something similar to bang the post into the ground.
- For bare-rooted trees, a bucket full of water.
- Preferably a mulch to place around the tree when it is planted. This can be well-rotted compost, bark chip or wood chip. A black plastic mulch can also be used, although make lots of holes in it to allow rain water to easily pass through the surface into the soil below.
- Two people make the job easier and quicker although it’s perfectly possible for one person to plant a young tree successfully.
WHEN YOUR TREE ARRIVES
If you have more than one tree to plant then ensure that each tree is labelled to show which variety it is. Nothing is more annoying than having three or so apple trees arrive then unpacking them only to find out that you can’t tell which is which! Remember, one young apple tree looks much the same as any other apple tree.
Bare-rooted apple trees need to be planted as soon as possible after they arrive or when you bring them home. With container grown apple trees time is not quite so crucial but it’s definitely best to plant them as soon as possible. Plant on a frost-free day and when the soil is not frozen from previous cold weather. Don’t plant when the soil is very wet.
The British weather however is not always reliable and you may need to store your new tree for a week or so until the weather conditions are suitable. If you need to delay planting a bare-rooted tree then you will need to heel it in immediately it arrives until the weather is correct for planting. The principle behind “heeling in” is simple – get the tree into temporary soil which is moist and not frozen solid and store it there until the time is right.
Although the apple tree retailers almost insist on planting their trees immediately they arrive, and this is most definitely the best idea, heeling in is a well-established practice which will keep a bare-rooted tree in very good condition for at least a week and often more. The best way to heel in a a young tree is to dig a hole in some well dug soil adding lots of compost to break up the soil and warm it if frozen. Then place the roots of the tree into the hole and cover with the dug soil / compost. The roots should be covered completely with the soil.
It’s not even absolutely essential to keep the tree upright, it can be on its side, slightly pointed upwards with a support to keep it off the ground, just make sure that the roots are well covered with firmed down moist soil. Water the soil well and make sure the tree is well-supported. Later when you are ready to plant it permanently remove the top soil with your hands and gently tease it out from the remaining soil.
If you need to store a container grown tree then make sure the soil in the pot is moist and store it out of direct sunlight and away from strong winds. Against the outside walls of a heated house or in an unheated greenhouse is probably the best place.
NEVER STORE A BARE-ROOTED OR CONTAINER GROWN TREE INDOORS! The conditions inside a house will dry the tree out faster than you can say “I love apples”!
IDEAL SOIL CONDITIONS FOR APPLE TREES
Apple trees are generally tolerant of most soil conditions so it’s probably easier to describe what conditions to avoid. Most varieties do not grow well on light sandy soil (James Grieve and Fiesta are better than most though). Apple trees also do not grow well on water-logged soil.
Almost all other conditions are fine for apple trees including clay soil. If your soil is sandy or very heavy clay then mix in well some well-rotted compost or used multi-purpose to the soil you dig out to make the hole.
A very common problem when planting apple trees is to position them too near other trees or plants. This sometimes only becomes obvious three or four years later when your tree is well established and very difficult to move. The size of an apple tree depends on four factors:
- The rootstock is in most cases the key factor to the final size (height and spread) of your apple tree.
- The variety of apple tree. In most cases, varieties grow to approximately the same size but there are a some which are well known to grow larger compared to others on the same rootstock. For example triploid varieties tend to grow larger than other varieties, two of the best known are Blenheim Orange and Bramley’s Seedling. Read up about any varieties you plan to plant and note if they tend to grow larger than normal and adjust the spacing around it accordingly.
- Growing conditions can affect the eventual size of your tree. In poor conditions, sandy and / or poor levels of nutrition, they well turn out to be a slightly smaller tree compared to one grown in substantial soil with high levels of nutrients.
- Pruning obviously affects the size of a tree. Regular pruning designed to reduce the eventual size of an apple tree can keep its size to about three-quarters of a normally pruned tree. Remember though that pruning of this type needs to repeated for ever. If you forget to prune well for a year or two the tree will simply grow back to its normal size.
Established apple trees are more than able to cope with planting of bedding plants and other shallow rooted plants near their base. However don’t plant other apple trees, shrubs or deep rooted plants in the same area. As a rule of thumb leave an apple tree about one and a half times its maximum spread clear of other deep rooted plants. The supplier of your apple tree should be able to give you a good idea of its maximum spread.
If this information is not forthcoming then some guesswork is required and you will only ever be able roughly estimate the space required. If you know the rootstock then a good estimate for spacing between other apple trees / large shrubs would be:
- M27 rootstock – allow at least 3m / 9ft between trees
- M9 rootstock – allow at least 3.6m / 11ft between trees
- M26 rootstock – allow at least 4.5m / 14ft between trees
- MM106 rootstock – allow at least 6m / 18ft between trees.
Note that the above are the distances between one tree trunk and the other, not the distance required between the final overall spread of the trees.
PROTECT FROM ANIMAL DAMAGE
Young tree bark, especially apple tree bark, is very attractive to rabbits, hares and deer to name but a few animals. If you live in an urban area, deer are unlikely to be a problem but in more exposed situations they can kill a young apple tree overnight.
Rabbits and hares are the easiest threat to deal with. Buy spiral tree guards and place them round the base of the tree trunk to protect from rabbits and hares. Remove the guards after a couple of years when the bark will have become hardened and unattractive to rabbits and hares.
To protect from deer damage you need to erect fencing / wire-mesh around the tree to prevent them getting anywhere near it. Do this immediately after planting if you have any suspicion that deer may be a problem.
PLANTING YOUR APPLE TREE
Before you start to dig the planting hole make sure your tree is fully hydrated. If it’s a bare-rooted tree then place the roots in a bucket of water while you dig the hole. If it’s a container grown tree then water the container well before digging the hole.
Dig a hole which is slightly wider than the container or two to three times as wide as the bare-roots ball and deep enough to take either so that the tree is to the same depth in the container or as it was, if bare-rooted, at the nursery. Bare-rooted trees will have a soil mark near the base of the trunk showing how deep they were planted.
For container grown trees remove the tree from the container disturbing the roots as little as possible. Place the tree in the dug hole and and check that the surrounding soil will be at the same level as the soil in the container – add or remove soil as required to achieve the correct height. Fill in the hole with soil firming it down as you go. Don’t apply too much pressure on the soil, just enough to ensure that any air gaps are filled with soil.
The same idea applies to bare-rooted trees but spread out the roots into the hole before adding soil. Place the tree to the correct depth in the hole (two people make this a lot easier) and gradually sprinkle on soil gently firming it down as more soil is added.
Finally water the soil around the tree very well. We recommend applying a mulch around the base of your apple tree but leave a gap of 3cm / 1 in or so of clear soil around the base of the trunk so that the mulch is not touching it. A mulch depth of 8cm / 3in and a spread of 1 metre / yard should be fine. It’s best to mulch a new apple tree after watering it and after the support stake has been put in place (see below, Supporting a New Apple Tree).
SUPPORTING A NEW APPLE TREE
Newly planted apple trees require support for the first couple of years until their roots are strong enough to support them. Some require support throughout their life, it all depends on the rootstock used. The more vigorous rootstocks require only two years support and by far the most common of these is MM106 in the UK.
It’s interesting to note that a one year old MM106 rootstock tree can probably get away with being planted with no support at all (if pruned correctly) except in very windy conditions or on light soil. However the same tree planted as a two or three year old needs support in the first couple of years. The reason is that the profile of a one year old tree is small and therefore wind resistance is minimal allowing it to grow sufficiently strong roots before it gets too large. A three year old tree however has a more developed branch structure and more foliage making it prone to wind damage in the first couple of years.
The slightly less vigorous rootstock, M26, needs to be staked for up to five years and maybe for life if conditions are particularly windy or the soil is sandy.
Next down the scale as far as vigour is concerned is the M9 which requires staking throughout its life. Finally the least vigorous rootstock commonly found in the UK is M27 which will require staking throughout its life.
The method of staking is the same whichever rootstock you have but of course a stake which is only required for a year or two can be of cheaper untreated wood whereas a stake for life should be treated to ensure it lasts as log as possible.
The stake should be about 150cm / 5ft high and 8cm / 3in thick and you should aim to have about 60cm / 2ft underground. We’ve shown a very basic diagram of how the stake should be placed against the tree but will add a real picture at the end of November when we plant our next apple tree.
Drive the stake into ground (a largish hammer is essential for this) to a depth of about 60cm / 2ft at a 45% angle so that it crosses near, but does not touch, the apple tree stem about 60cm / 2ft high above ground level. The direction of the stake should be into the direction of the prevailing (the most common direction) wind.
The reason for the direction of the stake is to ensure that when the wind blows it will tend to secure the stake further into the ground rather than blow it over.
Use a proper tree stake tie to attach the tree to the stake so that the tree trunk does not rub against the stake which would cause damage. Tying the stake relatively low down the tree trunk will allow some movement in the tree trunk which will encourage the roots to develop and support the tree better.