Follow these tips to grow your first apple tree

Each American eats about 120 apples a year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But apples can be expensive.

One way to save money is to grow your own.

The Garden Writers Association reports that more than 16 million households grow fruits, including apples.

While it can take a few years for a single apple tree to produce its first fruit, once it gets going it can provide enough apples for your family and your neighbors.

In fact, the University of Illinois Extension Service says an average tree can produce 840 pounds of apples.

Here are some tips to help you grow your first apple tree:

• Start small — Don’t plant an orchard your first time out.

However, many apple trees need to cross-pollinate with another variety to produce fruit.

Consult with your garden center or county extension service for best practices and to determine the best varieties for your area.

• Sunny side gets the thumbs up — Apple trees require full sun and well-drained soil.

• Dig the right size hole — Dig a hole at least twice the diameter of the rootball and just deep enough so the top of the rootball sits about an inch above the surrounding soil level.

• Mulch around the tree root. About an inch or two of mulch helps keep the weeds out and the moisture in.

• Protect against insects because aphids and leafhoppers can damage apple trees.

One type of insect control kills destructive insects and prevents new infestations for a season. Just mix in a watering can and pour it around the base of the tree. It’s formulated for use on more than 100 fruit, vegetable and citrus plants.

Be sure to read and follow the instructions on the label of any product that you use.