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Growing Apples Naturally

 
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I wanted to make this thread to help me keep track of and document growing my apple trees, with hopefully minimal work and maximum harvests!

They won't be irrigated, fertilized, or sprayed with anything, not even organic fertilizers or sprays, just naturally healthy soil, rain and sunshine!

They will be minimally pruned, if pruned at all. With minimal care, they can be truly enjoyed to the fullest! Bring on the yummy harvests!

Hopefully it can be helpful to others also!

If you'd like to stay up to date with the latest videos of what I'm growing and see monthly food forest tours, you can subscribe to my Youtube channel HERE by clicking the red subscribe button! I'd love to have you join me for this journey!
 
Steve Thorn
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Apples can be hard to grow in our area due to the heat and humidity, but some are doing really well here so far!

I hope to get my first apples in the next few years!
 
Steve Thorn
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The three apple trees grown from seed that I transplanted into the food forest earlier this year, are doing awesome so far!

Nothing has been done for them and they haven't been watered at all, and they are almost completely disease and pest free so far!

You can see a lot more about them in the thread below and also more info on the complete process on how I grew them from seed.

Growing Apple Trees from Seed Naturally
direct-seeded-apple-tree.jpg
direct seeded apple tree
direct seeded apple tree
direct-seeded-apple-tree.jpg
direct seeded apple tree
direct seeded apple tree
direct-seeded-apple-tree.jpg
direct seeded apple tree
direct seeded apple tree
 
Steve Thorn
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Location: Zone 7b/8a Temperate Humid Subtropical, Eastern NC, US
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These apple seedling rootstocks were cut back to only about 2 inches tall when they were planted this spring, now they are almost six feet tall!
six-feet-tall-apple-rootstock.jpg
six feet tall apple rootstock
six feet tall apple rootstock
 
Steve Thorn
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Some apple varieties like to grow straight up, and others have a natural spreading shape.

I used to try to force the trees to be in an open form, but I'm just going to let them grow like they desire going forward. It's way too much work trying to tie or weigh the limbs down to have a "perfect" shape. I figure the apples will naturally pull the limbs down when it starts to fruit soon, as I've observed on numerous apple trees.
20200910_160211.jpg
Apple growing almost straight up
Apple growing almost straight up
20200809_161618.jpg
Apple tree with a natural spreading shape
Apple tree with a natural spreading shape
 
Steve Thorn
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These are some photos of my apple trees from last August.

This one had been planted about a year and a half earlier, and was about 3 feet tall when I planted it. It has grown well and is over 8 feet tall now.

It is surrounded by blueberries, a blackberry, and lots of wild plants, and they are all thriving well together!

I'm guessing that I may get to harvest the first apples from this tree in about two years.
20200809_161249.jpg
Apple with blueberries and blackberries
Apple with blueberries and blackberries
 
Steve Thorn
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This apple tree didn't produce apples this year, but it did produce its first flowers, and I hope to possible get my first taste of the apples this coming year!

Most of the leaves on the left side, which was the older growth, fell off already due to some pest and disease issues earlier this year. However the newer growth on the right side is looking super healthy, and most of it grew after I had an extreme increase in the native plant and beneficial insect diversity a little ways into this growing season. It has been thriving, along with most of my other fruit trees since then.

It has a grape vine growing up it, and the second picture is a serviceberry growing nearby.
20200809_162146.jpg
Apple tree with a young grape vine growing up it
Apple tree with a young grape vine growing up it
20200809_162155.jpg
Saskatoon near the apple tree
Saskatoon near the apple tree
 
Steve Thorn
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Location: Zone 7b/8a Temperate Humid Subtropical, Eastern NC, US
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I realized after I had already planted this apple variety that it was susceptible to a lot of diseases in our area.

However it is doing much better this year. As I mentioned in the post above, I had a large increase in wild plants and beneficial insects, which have helped in so many ways. Now it just has to worry about its rapidly growing and expanding black locust tree neighbor.
20200809_162310.jpg
Fast growing black locust with an apple tree in front
Fast growing black locust with an apple tree in front
 
Steve Thorn
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These young apple trees from September were grafted about 6 months before. I've really been impressed with the growth and health of some of the varieties. Some varieties did much better than others, and some varieties just died that weren't very well adapted to our area.

The white string is about 6 feet high (2 meters) and some of the apples have passed it! They are very happy growing with a very wide range of different plants nearby.
20200903_195028.jpg
6 month old apple trees with some over 6 feet (2 meters) tall!
6 month old apple trees with some over 6 feet (2 meters) tall!
 
Steve Thorn
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Location: Zone 7b/8a Temperate Humid Subtropical, Eastern NC, US
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I planted about 100 apple seeds about two weeks ago, sowing them directly in the ground. It would have been ideal to have done it at least a month earlier, probably more, but too much to do and too little time.

About 10 of them had already started to grow roots, so I tried to plant those gently with the root tip pointing down. These were harder to plant and took more time. It was much easier to plant the ones that hadn't sprouted yet.

I hope the germination rate will be good!
20210306_181656.jpg
Apple seeds ready for planting!
Apple seeds ready for planting!
20210306_180234.jpg
Apple seed with root sprouting
Apple seed with root sprouting
 
Steve Thorn
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Location: Zone 7b/8a Temperate Humid Subtropical, Eastern NC, US
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This is an apple tree that I grafted one year ago. I'm digging it up to plant in its final home.

I mounded up soil around it to encourage it to send out its own roots, and it did!

The darker area near the bottom right above the main set of roots is the graft. There are quite a few roots coming out from above the graft, which will be from the grafted variety.
20210313_125217.jpg
Grafted apple tree being converted into an own root apple tree
Grafted apple tree being converted into an own root apple tree
 
Posts: 58
Location: Kansas Temperate Zone
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forest garden food preservation cooking
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Coon Beans..., err i meant apple seeds, lol. I just set about 5 or 6 in a zip back with wet paper towel inside, placed the bag on top of fridge, seems to be a good propagate apple seeds for me. Thanks for the cool pics.
 
Steve Thorn
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It's been almost three weeks since I planted the apple seeds, and some are starting to sprout!
20210325_073948.jpg
Apple seedling sprouting
Apple seedling sprouting
20210325_074022.jpg
Apple seedling breaking through
Apple seedling breaking through
 
Steve Thorn
master steward
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My first apple blossoms are about open and this tree is filled with them!
20210331_184950.jpg
pink apple blossoms about to open
20210331_185000.jpg
pink apple blossoms about to open
20210331_184945.jpg
pink apple blossoms about to open
20210331_185013.jpg
pink apple blossoms about to open
 
Steve Thorn
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The apples were in full bloom a few days ago.
20210408_075443.jpg
Apple flowers
Apple flowers
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Apple flowers
20210408_075328.jpg
Apple flowers
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Apple flowers
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Apple flowers
20210408_075457.jpg
Pollinated and the petals fall off
Pollinated and the petals fall off
20210408_075315.jpg
Young flowering apple tree
Young flowering apple tree
 
Steve Thorn
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I really love the deep red buds on this apple variety.

It supposedly has a very dark red skin, and it looks like the coloring affects the buds as well.
20210405_193310.jpg
Dark red apple flower buds
Dark red apple flower buds
 
Steve Thorn
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The first baby apples started forming about a month ago!
20210418_172156.jpg
First baby apples forming
First baby apples forming
 
Steve Thorn
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A young apple tree surrounded by blueberries
20210429_185504.jpg
young apple tree surrounded by blueberries
young apple tree surrounded by blueberries
 
Steve Thorn
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The young apples are getting some color
20210508_171559.jpg
The young apples are getting some color
20210508_171613.jpg
The young apples are getting some color
20210508_171638.jpg
The young apples are getting some color
 
Steve Thorn
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Apples in late May
20210528_074919.jpg
Gala apple ripening
20210528_074849.jpg
Gala apple ripening
20210524_195221.jpg
Gala apple ripening
 
Steve Thorn
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Apples in early June.
20210605_154430.jpg
Gala apple ripening
20210605_154447.jpg
Gala apple ripening
20210605_154420(0).jpg
Gala apple ripening
20210605_154455.jpg
Gala apple ripening
 
Steve Thorn
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The Honeycrisp seedling is looking very healthy!
20210605_155816.jpg
Honeycrisp seedling
Honeycrisp seedling
 
Steve Thorn
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I'm really excited to taste these apples soon!

They haven't been sprayed with anything, pruned, fertilized, or watered!
20210617_193816.jpg
Gala apple ripening
20210617_193804.jpg
Gala apple ripening
20210617_193821.jpg
Gala apple ripening
 
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Apparently you don't have Japanese beetles. Count yourself lucky! They've been a plague in my area (Ottawa, eastern Ontario) in the past three years, making it very hard to establish apple and plum saplings (but they'll eat almost anything). In fact, the native Canada plum is the hardest hit, quite disappointing, as it's needed to pollinate the cultivar that's supposed to give superior fruit. I pick off the bugs when I see them, but they're voracious and stay ahead of me. I tried tenting the apple with floating row cover material last year, but that made it hard to monitor. If it makes it through the coming winter, I'll try tenting early, before the beetles show up. (The plums may be a lost cause.)
 
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Location: 5353 West Lake Road, Burt, NY, US , 14028
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Apples require pollen from a different apple variety to grow fruit. Before choosing an apple tree to plant, take a look around your neighborhood. A pollen source should be within 100 feet of the apple tree you plant to ensure the pollen gets to your tree.
 
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Could you use Kaolin Clay to rebel against the beetles?
 
David Wieland
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How would you use kaolin clay? I've never heard of that for insect control.
 
Steve Thorn
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David Wieland wrote:Apparently you don't have Japanese beetles. Count yourself lucky! They've been a plague in my area (Ottawa, eastern Ontario) in the past three years, making it very hard to establish apple and plum saplings (but they'll eat almost anything).



Oh I not only have them, I have swarms of them. And lots of other things that want to eat my apples, they just aren't an issue anymore.

The thread link below gives some more info on why they aren't a problem anymore.

https://permies.com/t/155996/long-Japanese-beetles-sheriff-town

 
Chris McCullough
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You can get a long-range sprayer and spray the clay over the trees.  I haven't tried it, but secured that little tidbit into my thoughts for a "just in case" scenario.  I am now reading up on "soil solarization" for cleansing the soil for a "just in case" situation.  I also learned that if you were to use soil inoculants to increase the best microbiology, it inhibits many unwanted bugs.

PLEASE share your experience if you should try ANY of these methods on your garden!  Although I haven't had to resort to any of these methods yet, it'd be super incredible to watch your garden go from agonizing to heavenly!  Don't forget before and after photos!  Hoping the best for you!
 
Chris McCullough
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Time to get ducks???
 
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Location: Near Libby, MT
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My two Macintosh trees are growing beautifully, lots of blossoms this spring, five apples only. So I finally did a little research. Discovered that they need another kind of apple tree for pollination. Darn it. Now I need another hole in the ground, thought that I was done planting trees. Not to worry, I drafted my very strong grandson and he, and a pick ax, dug me a wonderful hole in our Rocky dirt. Now I will do some "guerilla composting" until spring and plant another apple, not Macintosh, in the spring. Suggestions for what apple I should plant?
 
Steve Thorn
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Liberty may be a good one to try out. It is supposedly very tasty and generally very disease resistant. I've heard it's susceptible to some of our pests on the east coast, but that shouldn't be a problem for you.

The things I might look into would be if it has enough time to ripen in your area and its cold hardiness.

That's awesome you're starting to get some apples Roberta, good luck with planting your new apple tree!

Steve
 
David Wieland
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I planted a Liberty apple tree about 20 years ago in rural Ottawa, Canada. According to my research at the time, it had good disease resistance, flavour, and storage characteristics. It took several years to give a crop, but the fruit is tasty. Unfortunately insect damage keeps me from getting much storable fruit. Plum curculio is a serious problem for organic culture here, and dormant oil has been no help for me.
 
roberta mccanse
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I will look into the Liberty apple. I haven't noticed any pests on my fruit trees, apple, plum, and pie cherry, two of each. But I am not a lawn person and the forest trees come close to the fruit trees. I planted them in a convenient Swale. This seems to have been a better summer for trees than for the garden. Several weeks worth of one hundred and above temperatures dried up my peas before I could pick them, and the spinach? Just forget it. Seven "freebie" tomato plants that I made room for in big buckets on a make do bridge between the bathtubs are coming along, producing fruit but seem confused by night time temps in the forties and fifties. They are refusing to redden up. My kitchen counters are full of tomatoes just beginning to blush.

Not complaining any more. My girlfriend's young plum tree had so many plums that branches were breaking. We canned thirty four half pints of jam. Actually it's more sauce than jam because I cut the sugar down. Her old apple tree is also loaded. We will can applesauce but have to deal with coddling moth.

Anyway I will keep my eyes open for the bad beetles. The Mac's like the cold nights and there's always next year. (Gardiner's say that a lot.)
 
I'm sure glad that he's gone. Now I can read this tiny ad in peace!
Permaculture Voices 1, 2 and 3 - all 117 hours of video!
https://permies.com/t/voices123
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