It's Hard to Plant Fruit Trees Without Supporting Plants
It is hard anymore to plant an apple tree, or any fruit tree for that matter, by itself with no other plantings.
What I have learned and what I have observed is no tree does well absolutely on its own. There is always some other tree, some other plant, something nearby. Just like the forest edge.
A concentration of beneficial or supporting plants is not competition. Quack grass can be competition.
Trees do so much better by being with supporting plants.
I've just returned from a 2-day food forest class on the subject. Sure, it was more for those of us who need to draw these plans out for different applications, but it really cemented in the fact that fruit trees planted along with supporting and beneficial plants is obvious.
I can see how we ended up over time planting nothing but the apple trees. Heck, orchards been doing that for years. However, the focus has been narrowed during this time. We wanted apples, so that is what was planted. So, with any type of monoculture comes problems that were un-for-seen.
We don't know what we don't know. Pretty straightforward don't you think?