Before planting apple trees, it is important to give thought to both your own needs and the needs of the tree. There are many reasons for planting apple trees, and there are different types of trees that will suite each need.
Do you want shade? Planting apple tress can provide wonderful summer shade. For that, you would want to choose a tree with root stock that allows the tree to get bigger. On the other hand, you may want to have a good crop of apples of different kinds - all easy to reach. Then you may choose a dwarfing root stock and plant many small trees.
They need sunlight, so plant your tree where it can get the most hours of sunlight during the summer. Consider getting a soil sample. This will tell you if you have the right mineral balance for planting apple trees. Also check the soil type. Do you have heavy clay? Sand? It helps to know ahead of time what conditions you will be working with. One thing most trees don't like is standing water. It rots their roots and suffocates them. If you have long periods of standing water in the area you want to plant an apple tree, you may have to settle for a potted tree to keep it out of the water. Or there may be a way to make the water drain better. Hopefully there are lots of worms where you are planting apple trees, as this is an indication that conditions are right for plant growth. The worms themselves do an awful lot to help the soil to have the right amount of moisture and air - they really increase the soil "tilth". You can encourage the worms by mulching with organic matter continuously and by NOT using pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, or salt based fertilizers.
1. Dig a hole three times as wide as the root area of the tree. Why? Because you need to give the roots plenty of room to grow outward. Make the hole bowl-shaped, meaning without steep sides. This will enable you to make a smooth transition from the loose dirt you have dug to the tighter soil where you have not dug. It allows the tree roots to grow out instead of circling.
2. Make your hole a bit deeper than the tree's roots. Then put some of the loosened dirt back in the hole. Have mycorrhizae on hand and ready to add as you are planting apple trees. The mycorrhizae will associate with the roots of the tree and help it to get mineral nutrients and water from the soil.
3. Now place your tree in the hole. If you are planting a bare root tree, put a mound of soil in the middle of the hole and then place the roots over the mound and make sure they are headed in an outward direction. If you have a tree in a pot, then make sure the roots are free to grow outward. A tree in a pot could easily have roots that circle the pot and these should be straightened out or cut. If allowed to stay in a circle, they will develop into girdling roots.
4. Check the height of the planting. Put a stick across the hole to see the ground level at the hole. The tree's graft union should be about two inches above this stick. If it is not, then take the tree out of the hole and add more dirt until the level of the tree is right. This is one of the most important parts to planting apple trees. It is O.K. to make the tree a little higher than the surrounding soil to make the drainage better and also to allow for settling.
5. You can now fill in the hole with your loosened soil. Tamp it down around the roots so that there are no air pockets. Water in your planting, which will also remove some of the air pockets and will insure that the roots are surrounded by soil. If you want to make a watering "ditch", make it out at the edge of the branches (drip line) in a circle. You want the water to go where the roots will spread.
6. Stake your tree if it is necessary. Make sure that the stakes are away from the roots of your newly planted tree. Many people think that staking causes the tree's trunk to be weaker. The movement caused by wind can encourage the tree trunk to make itself stronger. Some grafts are more brittle and cannot stand up to a strong wind. And you don't want to have a strong wind pushing on a well leafed out tree to uproot it. Use your judgement based upon how much wind will hit the tree in its location.