Apples trees can grow in a wide range of soils from medium textured clays to gravelly sands. However, poor soils will produce poor results and the best crops are found on fertile sandy soils and loams.
Soils should be well drained. Wet soils lead to poor aeration and increased incidence of crown rot in apples (Phytophthora cactorum). Generally, rooting tends to be shallow, and wet soils will restrict development, resulting in poor anchorage of the tree and a reduced area of soil from which nutrients can be extracted. Soils with high organic matter contents are normally better structured and allow good rooting.
Irrigation is necessary on dry soils, particularly when establishing and growing young orchards. Trickle irrigation and fertigation are increasingly used. In young orchards fertigation helps increase early tree growth and brings trees into bearing earlier. Sprinkler irrigation can be used to protect the tree buds and fruitlets against frost damage.
Sowing of a grass mulch between the tree rows is common practice, which together with any clippings, helps to increase water holding capacity, infiltration rate, soil aggregation and recycling of nutrients.
Apples prefer a slightly acidic to neutral soil (pH between 5.8 and 7.0). Extreme soil pH values result in nutrient tie-up or toxicity and poor tree and fruit development. It is important to amend the pH in acidic soils by incorporating lime before planting