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growing apples from seeds vs. cloning  RSS feed

 
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Chad Johnson wrote:Hunting for heritage.

Does anyone know where one might get heritage apple seeds? A good heritage tree source would be nice too.

I saw that at http://applesearch.org/ the apples are around NC, VA, and thereabouts. I'm in MN and am not sure how any of those would do here. I'm just starting to landscape, Sepp Holzer style, an old Finnish farm and want to get off on the right foot.

Thank you.


You might try asking local farmers if they know of any old apple trees left standing, or looking for an apple orchard that advertises having been in business a long time and ask them for fruit or seeds.

As far as fruit quality goes, I think there is a lot of value in the crabapples people tend to ignore as well. I just found a very sweet crab apple on our farm that I'm told has been there for a long time, and there is another one that's 30+ feet tall so it's clearly been there for a long time. None of the crabapples on our land are in particularly convenient places, so it's pretty apparent they are naturally occurring - I can't think of a better way to find apples that will be adapted to our climate and local pest pressures. We made apple butter from them this year - I think there is a lot to be said for getting value out of the hardier crabapples that are more common, even if they aren't necessarily as great for eating out of hand.


The sweeter of the trees in question - the fruit is great to eat right off the tree if you get it at just the right time. Otherwise, apple butter!
http://mytotalpv.blogspot.com/2013/08/just-little-crabby-apple.html
 
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Or the crabs can be grafted onto with a lot of success. Anaturally occurring crab (deer or bear droppings) are also a good sign that you're in a potential place to have a successful orchard or fruit tree based food forest.
 
chad stamps
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Yep - I was super excited to find them, even more excited to find that they were palatable. The plan is to do some grafting onto the existing trees, but I'll also be saving seeds from them to grow rootstock and grafting onto that as well.
 
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Location: Richmond, VA
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paul wheaton wrote:My understanding is that getting a marketable/decent apple is a 1 in 20,000 chance.  In other words, people start lots of apples from seeds, but what they end up with is usually pretty lame.  So it is far wiser to find a really good apple and then graft a twig onto an existing root stock. 


Just wanted to comment on this. For a lot of people, marketable is not really a goal. There are a bunch of things that go into fruit being marketable (appearance, taste, storage, shipping qualities, etc). For me, of those qualities, storage and taste are probably the only ones that matter. I don't care if an apple ships well, because I'm probably never going to be shipping apples.

So while an apple from seed may never be marketable, it may be useful to me.
 
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I would like to share this quote on this topic...

In Tasmania, we have found that we get many apple seedlings from apple pips that have been tossed out along roadsides. Every seedling apple we grow is a good apple, so we never bother to graft. They are already heavily selected apples, and we grow them from seed. All the deciduous trees that we have were imported. There are no wild apple species.

Source a transcript from a 1980s PDC, speaker Bill Mollison.

PDF is here Mollison PDC Transcript

You will find the quote on page 93
 
pollinator
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most of the trees people told me would not produce good from seed did in fact produce excellent and unique fruit. I remember reading something about luther burbank the amazing plant breeder, something like fruit trees planted from seed and left undisturbed ( meaning planted in ground and not dug up and moved) had much higher chances of being an excellent fruit. something like 80% i think.
 
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Location: Des Moines, Iowa (Zone 5)
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@Chad Stamps

You might appreciate this even though it is not a "from seed" tree. It is called the Trasncendent Crabapple available from Peaceful Valley @ groworganic.com.

Transcendent Crabapple @ groworganic.com
 
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Location: norcal
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Hi folks, I'm new to this site, but I get some referrals to my blog from threads on here once in a while. This is a subject dear to my heart and I have a pretty extensive three post series on breeding apples and growing out seedlings. http://turkeysong.wordpress.com/2013/04/03/apple-breeding-part-1-everyone-knows-you-cant-do-it-right/ I'm still in the early phases of my experiments, but the articles cover my arguments in favor of hobbyist level breeding and growing from seed. I think we can look at the problem in the light of levels of involvement.

Level one: plant out random seedlings from random seeds- Probably much less likely to yield quality fruit

Level two: Plant seeds of apples you like- more likely to give good results, but the one unknown parent is a real wild card.

Level Three: Make intentional crosses. Not only is success more likely with two known high quality parents, but you are now steering in a certain direction by combining known attributes

Level four: Studying genetics and making crosses based on that knowledge. presumably even more likely to get results that you want

Level five: Level four, but adding high tech stuff like genetic testing to determine if desired traits were passed on instead of growing out the seedling to find out

Level six: Genetic manipulation/modification GMO apples are already on the way

I'm pretty much level three, but hoping to add a little bit of knowledge regarding genetics and recessive and dominant traits. I like to keep in fun though, and researching genetics is not generally my idea of fun! As far as how to grow the apples out to fruiting, if your investment and expectations are low, growing seedling apples to fruit on their own roots might be fine, but expect to wait a looong time in most cases. If investment is higher (intentional crossing) and results are desired sooner, certainly try them out on dwarfing stocks on close spacing. I just put in 65 trees at 12 inch spacing on bud nine rootstock... 6 feet between rows. It was one year to grow into a seedling, one year in a nursery row (garden bed) at 6 inch spacing and now into the permanent trial row. I have my doubts about such close spacing, but it's been done and I have somewhat limited space. I wouldn't plant them any further than 18 inches anyway. It may be years until I get real results, but not nearly as many years since the dwarfing stock induces early fruiting.

As far as the likelihood of getting good fruit, I think there are quite a few things indicating that if you use good parents, you are not so unlikely to end up with poor fruit. Also, I tend to think of my breeding efforts as part of a greater whole. If a lot of us do this with the intention of releasing our results into the public domain, then we are like one huge breeding project for the common good. So what if I don't produce anything really classic, if I'm part of a greater effort? The 1 in 10,000 ratio is for commercial breeding programs. I have some interesting historical information in my article regarding the likelihood of growing good apples from known parents. I'm actually in favor of those large commercial programs, even though they have narrow goals, and they are producing some great stuff (which we can build on!) but they're goals are different than ours. There are so many criteria to meet now for a commercial cultivar. Cultural traits, disease resistance, appearance. The venerable Cox's Orange Pippin, possibly the most widely cited "best flavored apple in the world" would probably never make it out of one of those programs because it's a weak growing disease prone variety. You listen to these breeders talk and flavor is the last thing they mention. Also, an apple can meet every criteria, but be axed on appearance alone. Do you think that what we would consider the "best" apple in a lot of 10,000 seedlings will be the one that meets commercial criteria? I seriously doubt it. Our goals as hobbyists and citizens of the world are different than commercial breeding programs which breed increasingly for narrowing business interests. We will probably never see another russet apple from a large breeding program. And we shouldn't rely on those guys to take over apple breeding and expect anything less than our interests being sidelined. It's up to no one but people like us to protect and increase apple diversity and continue the lines of breeding in interesting directions. Pollination isn't hard and if anyone has the drive to follow through with planting and growing seeds all the way to fruiting, I highly recommend making intentional crosses. I think that very small intensely flavored apples (like wickson), red fleshed apples and russets are all areas that could use attention from amateur apple breeders.

I guess my recommendation, having thought about this a lot, is to examine your level of commitment and what you expect. I think if someone wants to plant out some seedlings that will receive little time and resource investment, such as in a hedgerow, that's fine. If you are going to put much work into it, it's probably much wiser to use less space and grow seedlings to fruit on close spaced dwarfing stocks. You can still plant seedlings as a base for grafting an orchard of full sized trees if you want tap roots. They're really separate issues. Although you can certainly graft over seedlings you don't like once they fruit, growing a full scale orchard of seedlings seems a poor investment of time and space when those trees could be grafted to known good varieties, while seedlings are tested out separately in dense blocks. You can also work seedling scions into existing trees as a way to test, but I think it takes quite a bit longer. I have 4 wickson seedlings grafted into larger trees and none have even flowered in 4 years. My other recommendation is that people use frankentrees or close spaced systems like oblique cordon, to test out many varieties. There is so much variation in climate and apple diversity, that there is hardly any other way to find a full stable of apples to work with and just to eat. I have well over 200 varieties now and most of them will be culled as they fail to perform. It is very possible to comfortably fit over 100 varieties on a medium sized apple tree, and with the internet and an apple renaissance afoot, there is hardly any excuse not to completely geek out! Check out recently formed North American Scion Exchange (yahoo groups and facebook).

As far as the tap root issue goes, people keep telling me trees with severed tap roots are more drought tolerant. I'm not ready to buy that yet. I've planted all my walnuts and almonds in place so that they will have a tap root, and grafted them over after a year or three. I figure the tree knows what it's doing and I'll just let it sort the problem out. I haven't done apples from seed in place and mostly use m111 for large trees which is known to be drought tolerant and has other desirable attributes. So far they are doing alright. I don't have enough data to think I know what's best, but when it comes to unirrigated trees, I tend to think that the tree knows best and the tap root very likely serves a useful purpose.

One last comment. Heritage apples can be great and are certainly a good source of genetic material for special traits and flavors, but many new apples are very good and are an improvement on the average heirloom in many ways. the problem, again, is that the new programs pursue narrow lines and the diversity of apple flavors and characters, and just the width of the genetic base, is threatened. It would be sadly negligent for us to let that diversity fall to the wayside and fail to develop and improve the apple further along interesting lines that will otherwise be neglected. Frankentrees and amateur fruit breeding are two things I would like to gently shove more people into doing, and they go hand in hand.
 
steward
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Steven, welcome to Permies. You hit it out of the ball park on your first post.

I took a gander at your blog and I think you are on to something by selecting parent trees rather starting from seeds from random apples.
I'm borrowing this quote from your excellent post.

The author's analysis of five hundred commercial varieties developed since 1920, mainly Central European and American types, shows that most are descended from Golden Delicious, Cox's Orange Pippin, Jonathan, McIntosh, Red Delicious or James Grieve. This means they have at least one of these apples in their family tree, as a parent, grandparent or great-grandparent.


My favorite apple so far is Rubinette (Swiss cross between Cox's Orange Pippin and Golden Delicious) and I would love to try a Freyberg (NZ origin, same parents).
But there are many many other apples that are great parent candidates, like Ashmead's Kernel, Esopus Spitzenberg, Gravenstein, Redfield and Pink Pearl.

Albert Etter is a hero of mine too. Wickson crab hard cider->fantastic. The nursery that is propagating what's left of his orchard has put licensing fees on a lot of the trees and most were raised in California so I haven't pursued getting a lot of them yet but they should be tried in more climates just so we know.

I think if I were interested in doing a mini-breeding program, I'd bud some of the common parent stock onto a single tree (or get dwarfs) like Cox and Golden Delicious and then some of the more unusual ones, either regional specialties or a feature I wanted to play with, like the red flesh. Newtwon Pippin and Rhode Island Greening in New England. Gravenstein is a natural in milder climates. The limbertwigs and low-chill varieties in the southeast. The fashion these days is for sweeter and sweeter fruit, but that's got to hit a dead end eventually. What about an entire breeding project based on the gillyflowers? No one is going to hit the apple lottery unless the fruit can go into cold storage for a year. But for homestead, cider or local marketing, there is plenty of room for a local apple.

One other thing we have observed in doing apple tasting parties is that not all Golden Delicious are the same. One of our neighbors has an 80 year old tree that is much better than the others around town and in the park. A sport? Age of the tree? Terroir? Apple growers I've talked to shrink back in horror when I say terroir-it hasn't been researched much if at all but it's hard to believe it doesn't have an effect. (Note to self, go get that scion wood today and back that tree up!)

It is now speculated that John Chapman (Johnny Appleseed) was planting seeds not for altruistic purposes, but anticipating future pioneers. He ran a nursery. The idea was that he would come back and sell scions to the pioneers to convert the rootstock he established into something that tasted like home.

Remember that until the temperance movement really took hold (and German immigration swung American preferences to beer) in the late 19th century, most apple was consumed as hard cider. The water wasn't fit to drink, even children were raised on cider. Cider is improved with the acidity and/or bitter tannins of most random crosses, so a spitter wasn't a bad thing for that purpose. We are commemorating that bit of history in our "Drink yer fruit" trademark.
 
Steven Edholm
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Ann: I thought Rubinette was great year before last. This year it was not as amazing, so I'm reserving judgement. I did a few crosses with it, but I had dismal germination this year, probably due to lack of chill as I didn't store them in the fridge long and planted them in a greenhouse. I'm using some of the redder etter apples as parents. Understand that those greenmantle etter apples are trademarked not patented. As far as I know that means if you can get ahold of the scions you can grow them, but you can't use the greenmantle names. This will inevitably lead to much confusion. I think it would be a good move to try breeding a red fleshed cider apple. The juice from very red fleshed apples is very red and delicious! I'm out of the cider game for now, so I won't be doing it... but someone should... hint hint. You'd think that out of 100 blood apple crosses with dabbinet, something would be pretty worthwhile. If a few dozen cider makers grouped up for a small breeding project, something great would probably come out of it. Sure is a good marketing gimmick!

There are a jillion sports of golden delicious I'm sure. The majority were probably selected for appearance at the expense of flavor. razor russet, hooples antique gold and clovis spice might be exceptions. I've got the first and trying to get the other two. Freyberg disappointed me. It does taste strongly of anise, but I ended up not finishing them. The chickens liked them! You can read my tasting impressions of it and some others here: http://turkeysong.wordpress.com/2012/10/29/red-astrachan-to-king-david-apple-tasting-impressions-summerfall-2012/ I don't see King David on your list. It's awesome eating and great for cider.

I don't see why it wouldn't be totally legit to discuss terroir and apples. Probably of equal or greater importance though is irrigation or lack of. My trees that receive little to no irrigation make intensely flavored fruit with lots of sugar. My cordon trees, which require water due to weak bud 9 rootstock, are watery by comparison. I think not over watering is key. I taste the same apples I grow from heavily irrigated orchards and I'm continually disappointed. It has to be a major factor in cider quality as well.

I'm all in favor of intensely sweet apples. I don't think it has to be at the expense of flavor and other good attributes. Wickson is supposed to get up to 25%! Other high sugar very old varieties are golden russet and golden harvey (which might interest you as a cider maker). The red fleshed apples could use an injection of sugar, so I'm inclined to use high sugar varieties when crossing. It's hard to choose parents when there are so many options, but so far I've stuck with using a blood apple as one parent.

Another thing I think we should really be breeding for as home users is long hanging varieties. I've got some pretty long hangers, but Lady Williams tops the list coming in on feb 1st. Not sure you could get away with that in climates a lot colder than I am here in N. California. Etter 7-9 (trademarked pink parfait) is quite late and totally awesome, but the red flesh coloration is light. Katherine is an excellent late Etter apple that I'll probably be using those as parents this year. I'm going with the deeper pigmented blood apples in general, though I'm tempted to cross etter 7-9 back with another red fleshed apple, because as far as cultural traits and overall quality it's quickly rising to the top. Redfield and pink pearl are light compared to some of them, and the flavor is correspondingly less "red" it seems. I'm no sure how that translates into the genes, but I'm inclined to go with more pigment when choosing parents.

Let me know when you've bred an awesome red fleshed cider apple
 
pollinator
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Steven Edholm wrote: I figure the tree knows what it's doing and I'll just let it sort the problem out.




=)

+1 for that quote. EXACTLY !

this actually sums up how i feel about growing trees from seed, and growing anything from seed.
people get to thinking that its got to be hard to grow stuff, and you have to always work at it, like they personally do the growing, but thats not right. the plants do the hard work of growing themselves, we can just try to provide the best place we can for that process to occur. it seems a misnomer to state that we grow the plants, when they grow themselves.

as well people expect and demand perfection of themselves and other selves/trees/the world, but this perfection doesnt exist. well...theres a kind of ordered/random perfection/imperfection thing happening...as far as i can see! but thats not what people want, i guess. and they expect too much.

in nature if a tree creates thousands of seeds in a year, and hundreds are duds, hundreds get around via seed dispersers, and hundreds drop right there....all in all maybe 3 - 12 actually turn into baby trees and only 2 or 3 actually turn into full mature trees much later (just making up some random numbers of course, but something like this). this is good enough for the tree, and its a fine strategy that works...thats the way of the abundance of the world, making too much of something, and then only using so much of it.

i can totally see improving the odds and numbers with this as much as one can (easily) by carefully gathering seeds, carefully preparing ground, etc...but i think people get WAY too carried away with the rest. why expect that we have to do so much better than nature...i am happy enough just to be a seed disperser.

people get so caught up on trying to control every aspect of growing food, of growing any plant, and getting ideal results.
i've nothing against achieving ideal results and i can see the lure of such thinking, especially for those who have financial concerns about food growing, limited space, and limited time.

but i have a high tolerance for failure, and even mediocrity...at least as far as what i grow. if i get ok results, and can eat, i am happy enough.
i'm most interested in finding the easiest ways, getting good enough quality for eating, and doing that with minimal time, little to no ferts, and not having to water excessively.
i make my plants work for what they get and hardly or never fuss with them much, with a few exceptions of things i choose to grow which are fussier.
instead i try to focus on doing a good job preparing the growing place before hand, and then feeding the soil on a continual basis....let the plants work out their own process of growing without much interference.

if i can get those ok results and also do this in a fraction of the time it takes someone to get ideal results, (as well as fert, excessive irrigation, etc, all that time consuming fussing with the plants) this is good enough for me. especially if, once i get something established enough, i can leave it to its own process and it will still thrive.

one of the keys to do this is not growing fussy plants, which is a lot of commonly grown stuff, and instead choosing hardy plants, self seeders, perennials, flood and/or drought tolerant- bonus if they can do both, and plants well suited to the climate. but sometimes i want to grow some of that stuff specially, and so there are exceptions, but the bulk of the gardening i do has these ways in mind.
 
leila hamaya
pollinator
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btw

i just got some local apples i found and collected seeds for, as well as some store bought golden delicious to sprout, direct seeded. at least i think they are the golden delicious i direct seeded, pretty sure and its what my map says...i direct seeded a lot of fruit trees seeds last fall.
unfortunately i forget where all i planted everything, but i did make a general map for when that happened, like it always does.

i am psyched anyway, life wants to grow!
...hopes for the best that they become awesome apple trees someday.
 
Ann Torrence
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Steven Edholm wrote:Freyberg disappointed me.

Still would like to try it here, if I could find scions next year (not so subtle hint)
Steven Edholm wrote:You can read my tasting impressions of it and some others here: http://turkeysong.wordpress.com/2012/10/29/red-astrachan-to-king-david-apple-tasting-impressions-summerfall-2012/ I don't see King David on your list. It's awesome eating and great for cider.

Read it, great notes. I haven't seen King David before. I need to study its bloom/harvest time. My window here is shorter than most but if they grew it in the park, it might do here. A lot of the Capitol Reef original stock came from a traveling salesman from Stark Brothers-another little known and near useless fact.
Steven Edholm wrote:
I don't see why it wouldn't be totally legit to discuss terroir and apples. Probably of equal or greater importance though is irrigation or lack of. My trees that receive little to no irrigation make intensely flavored fruit with lots of sugar. My cordon trees, which require water due to weak bud 9 rootstock, are watery by comparison. I think not over watering is key. I taste the same apples I grow from heavily irrigated orchards and I'm continually disappointed. It has to be a major factor in cider quality as well.

Last year we got hit by heavy monsoon rains, around 6". The late blast of excess water made some of the apples really bland. I had harvested some Capital Reef Reds (believed to be an indigenous sport of Red Delicious) before the storms and then after. The later ones were not nice, although that apple does not hold on the tree well to begin with. It makes sense about low irrigation concentrating flavors, like wine grapes. Dryland farmed Zinfandels are wonderful.
Steven Edholm wrote:
Let me know when you've bred an awesome red fleshed cider apple

Which of the Etter red-fleshed is most cold-tolerant, do you know? We are starting with a bunch of Redfield so a breeding program is a possibility. Not for a while yet, my hands are full right now getting this concern going. I do have some rootstock on order to attempt some summer budding this year.
 
Steven Edholm
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Ann: You should try Freyberg, just because... different strokes and all that. mine is virus infected sadly, or I'd be glad to send you scions. I have no idea which etter reds are cold hardy. You'll probably just have to try them. King david is mid october. Not sure about bloom, but I'll watch it this year.
 
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Great information. We are in the process of making another fruit tree selection and growing from the seed of an already tasty apple tree is on our check list.
 
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Hello,

Here's my take. By no means an expert on this topic.

Apples were grown from seed until recently, and most of the apples did not taste good enough to eat. People grew apples to make cider. I will be planting many apple seeds and letting them grow, no pruning. Planning on using the "spitter" apples to make hard cider. IF they turn out to be delicious apples then I'll use them for eating. I say let them grow naturally and put the yield to some creative use. While everyone is pruning i'll drinking! haha. I figure hard cider is also great for selling/bartering and keeping morale high.

I will also say that cloning and grafting are really limiting the evolution of the apples genetic diversity. What are the consequences of limiting ourselves to just a few different breeds of apple? Is the goal of permaculture to produce delicious perfect apples on every tree? Or should we be more concerned with expanding diversity of our homesteads and farms? Just something that came to my mind. Nature put seeds in those apples for a reason... so i'm gonna go ahead and do the exact opposite of what is accepted as normal in todays apple society.
 
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I have not read every post in this thread, I read a lot of them though. I am thinking a lot about wanting to grow some apple trees and other fruit trees from seed but a lot of the fruit I would like to grow will not fruit here unless it is a variety that does not need many frost hours. My thinking is my best bet is to try and get seeds from fruit growing near me. then there is a bigger chance the trees will bear fruit. that sound right to others? I figure I will do both. I mean i already am buying trees and planting those in my garden but I want to also start planting seeds for trees.
 
pollinator
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Thank you all for this wonderful thread. I am in India now finding ways to recharge the ever lowing water tables across most of india. Planting trees which goes grow down deep is one of the primary methods.

I found this article very interesting http://www.nif.org.in/?q=acid_lime_variety

In the article Antony talks about developing a tree that could pick up minerals from the soil, where the one he had been using could not. the difference was the tap root. It also worked with dry land agriculture, because it had a tap root. Some citrus have tap root and others do not. in a lot of india they have 2 monsoon seasons, so the dry season is between January and May, which is comparable to what i am used to ion the pacific northwest, on the western side. Because of the lowering water tables, either the farmers need to be able to dig new bore wells, or figure out another form of water conservation. i am showing them how to use their own thousand plus year old methods plus the key lines we use in permaculture. As some of you know it is believed that with key lines we can get 2/3 of the production of irrigated lands. In this article he says that production on dry land limes was 2/5 of that with irrigation and he irrigated a lot. Bhasker Save is the ghandi of indian agriculture, see Vision of Natural Farming, the best permaculture book i have read, available from India. Mr. Save believes that less water use actually makes better yields than what is currently practiced. His coconuts have the highest yields in india and with minimal water. Mr. Save believes and practices that adult trees like adult children are harmed by giving them nutrients. Our job is to grow the soils while the trees and young and to turn them loose. The most important point to me here is that by watering the young nursery trees a lot, we are actually compromising their ability to "fend for themselves" in a natural environment.

I am intuitively knowing (take that Paul) that planting trees from seeds makes them more resilent, including likely to have productive yields with no irrigation. In the U.S. we can interplant with autumn olive to decrease fruiting time, so standard trees might bear in 5 years instead of 8. i do not know the reference for this but Michael Pilarsky told me about it. I want to broadcast a lot of seeds from good varieites of trees here and then find a tree or plant that works to decrease fruiting time and then use the trees that do not taste good for chop and drop. My first choice is moringa.

I am also planting the trees with 4 of pigeon peas around them, large bushy perennial to give them shade during the first three years when in the PNW we watered the baby trees. Here there is often no water to do that.

Many agricultural practices here and in the U.S. are about getting maximum yield as quickly as possible. In permaculture we would rather have long term yields without adding nutrients, etc Bhaskar Save at 94, has a good income from his 40 year old plantings because he does not have to lift a finger in his orchards, he can contract out his coconut harvesting and have an income. His grandson showed me that there are no weeds under the coconut trees because there is no light. He showed me several places where there was enough light to grow weeds and they had selected for medicinal herbs in those places. This kind o balance requies knowing how to space the trees when they are planted, or to add trees to complete the balance.

Charlotte +91 9716899289 in india
www.motherplantstrees.webs.com
www.handsonpermaculture1.org
 
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Speaking of taproots, I don't think apples have them for long. I know they don't have them here; no trees send roots more than a few feet (like maybe 3 at most) down because of the cold ground. At http://books.google.com/books?id=ulUgAQAAIAAJ&pg=PA139&lpg=PA139&dq=apple+tree+taproots&source=bl&ots=DSCw3-AeHC&sig=0QiClfyFMv7_72qon8D2fXjqAjc&hl=en&sa=X&ei=PpdzU8ekFsGNyASNgoHABg&ved=0CDwQ6AEwAzgK#v=onepage&q=apple%20tree%20taproots&f=false , the president of the Missouri State Horticultural Society said:

"I never yet saw an apple tree of over 10 years of age that had a tap root, and I have pulled up hundreds of them at 20 years, but not one of them had a tap root"

The secretary stated:

"...the apple tree begins to lose its tap root at once after the first year's growth from the seed. You may plant an apple seed and the first year the root is one straight root. The second year the tap root grows very little deeper, but sends out side roots in abundance, and the next year more so; so that at the end of the third year the apple seedling (never moved) has very little deeper root than the first year. As the tree grows older we find stronger side roots to correspond with the large spreading branches of the top, but the tap root gradually losing itself in the stronger growth of the side roots."

There's a great book called Roots Demystified by Robert Kourik that dispels many of the myths regarding plant roots. There are very few trees that have what one would call a taproot. Most trees send out lateral roots, and there may be vertical sinker roots descending from those, but a dominant central taproot is uncommon.
 
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Since this topic's been discussed for a while, perhaps some of your seed-grown apples are old enough to bear fruit?

Video below for how to graft onto a "spitter," in this case a mangled volunteer tree whose apples are "sweet, but you wouldn't want to eat them - the texture is kind of stringy, more squash-like than apple, even when cooked."
Or any tree that needs some variety. (You could graft one branch of an isolated tree to encourage pollination, for example.)

http://youtu.be/iQ_HdNWU9Zg
I'm loading other clips to show wrapping the cuts and painting the exposed ends. (PM if you want to help me get started with some kind of simple video-editing options.)

Drawbacks cited by Mariah Cornwoman about growing your own apples from seed:
- most likely to produce large, relatively unmanageable trees that take significantly longer to start bearing fruit.
(http://permaculture.wikia.com/wiki/Own-root_fruit_trees describes options for reducing this unwanted vigor in self-rooted trees - for example by not over-irrigating, not fertilizing with nitrogen, and by binding branches downward or summer pruning to encourage fruit buds instead of green branch growth.)

In case nobody's suggested it in this thread so far:
Consider planting on terraces / below stout retaining walls, both for solar-bowl boosting and for advantages picking the tall tree from uphill. Flat terraces are more compatible with ladders than steep slopes.

- Hard to remove once established and not what you wanted.
Don't remove a non-tasty tree - those roots are well-established with proven vigor. Graft something else into it - several somethings, if you can get the scion wood.

It is true that a large, seed-grown tree could be hard to manage for easy picking size, especially in a climate where limiting water to reduce unwanted growth spurts is not an option. You may end up with a stately fruit-bearing shade tree, not a tame little hand-picker. (I have to get us a picture of my aunt's backyard apple trees - 40+ feet tall, they look like sweetgums or sycamores from the ground. The fact that they bear apples is basically irrelevant, unless you clean the ground every day during harvest season, and process the bruised fruit immediately. But a very fine specimen shade tree, with food potential a distant second function.)

- The commercial method gets you into production of palatable varieties faster, cheaper, and more reliably.
True; if you want fruits within 3-5 years, use the commercial methods. (If you think you want to keep your land through retirement, but realistically might have to move if your job changes, you might run both experiments in parallel, with the later-bearing seed-grown trees intended as your no-water retirement food.)
If you're looking for extreme hardiness not 'domesticity', this is irrelevant, as the commercial methods presume irrigation, pruning, market research and re-grafting for new markets, and other care.

- Commercial root stock is chosen for dwarfing (small, easily-harvested trees)...
This 'dwarfing' stock as I understand it works partly by limited root growth; it may in fact reduce the specific root vigor characteristics that Paul is looking for.
... and other regional traits like disease resistance, drought or other tolerances ...
True within limits of commercial method (time = money), but of debatable value if comparing tree vigor alone. The trunk graft (usually near ground level to prevent the root-stock from re-sprouting unwanted limbs) is a weak point, disease vector, and limits depth of planting. Seed-grown trees can be culled for vigor, and the survivors might easily be more vigorous than commercial root stock.

The prospect of weeding a lot of trees that will likely be culled later is a bit daunting, however. If there are no natural barriers to competition (rocky ground, heavy mulch except at seed holes, etc), the seed-grown in situ tree plantation is going to need a lot of extra TLC the first 3+ years to keep weeds at bay. I'd plant a lot of extras, too, because you want to be able to cull and compensate for failures, while still getting your 'winner' close to the desired spot. I envision a row of seed holes a few feet from a retaining wall, or whatever; maybe starting a foot or so apart, then cull to 5' (for vigor) and eventually 15' apart (after first fruiting, choosing the 'keepers' for taste, storage, & cooking potential).

Johnny Appleseed did not care about 'spitters;' even spitters make cider and applejack, which was reportedly his primary product.

If what you want is not reliable production of a marketable apple crop each year, but a tree which will survive without care and produce a good crop maybe 1 year in 3, this experiment is worth doing.
You may need to give each iteration 5 to 10 years to observe results, so running experiments in parallel is a very good idea.

The tree in the video was a volunteer, probably grown from a stray fruit from the nearby orchards that rolled down the bank or floated along the river from upstream.
It has been felled at least once, and gnawed by beavers, and is sort of shaped like a backwards "F" with a trunk and several branches lying on the ground, from which additional branches are sprouting.
Surviving this kind of punishment suggests a tree with a serious will to live.

I guess that's what you want in a growing-from-seed experiment, ay?

-Erica
 
charlotte anthony
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olivia, yes by all means take seeds from locally growing trees, that is the essence of fruit acclimated to your area. if you start talking to people, they will tell you where this great apple tree is growing and you can get seeds or scion from these trees.

erica, you raised a great issue, the issue being either commercial production or hardy trees. also trees now or trees in the future (in this case in 8-10 years). it is a pet peave of mine, as a lot of the techniques we use in permaculture are not commercially viable, but for back yard practioners, such as retaining walls for plants. this is great for personal gardens of course. the retaining walls used for plantings happens here in india a lot. they are retaining walls made for other purposes, such as fencing around a house, and then turned into a microculture.

i am going for both: commercial production and hardy, resilient trees. how do we get that? at the current time we have some flexibility, water from below ground and nutrients from off site in current version of commercial production is possible. if there is a way to get good commercial production with a lot less labor and expense from watering, planting nursery stock in deep holes, spraying, fertilizing etc, it would be desirable even with the ability to water and bring in off site materials.

here in india where sustainable agriculture has been used for thousands of years there were a lot of food forests -- they call them plantations --which were not fertilized or watered. (we will not talk about how they are now fertilizing and watering many of them because the chemical people are telling them they will get higher yields).

right now it looks like a lot of work to figure out how to get fantastic tasting apples that are hardy, but once we figure it out, by definition it will be easy. grafting trees in situ is almost no more work, just work at home instead of in nursery, maybe there could be an itinerant grafter for people like me who do not have the eyesight to do the grafting. figuring out the right apples to plant, meaning right by what is selling well in the market is a crap shoot. better to choose healthful varieties that taste great and develop small local markets. also with autumn olive to help the trees to begin fruiting earlier, we would not loose time. and in good permaculture stacking function mode, autumn olive is nitrogen fixing, makes the soil more friable, is a great weed to take over lands where they are needed, and is good for chop and drop. i also think there are some herbs that have hormones that would encourage early fruiting and will figure those out here in india. I am thinking that scotch broom would work in the u.s. (no basis just intuition)

whether planting from seeds actually is more viable is something for experiments, another experiment paul? how many variable do we put in the experiment. that is my main criticism of the fruit industry, true hardiness of not one of the variables they are selecting for. they are selecting for transportation, early yielding, etc. i was in an orchard outside of corvalis which was 125 years old and had huge delicious apples. Joanie from the Home Orchard society said it was permaculture by elk. how can tree longevity, lack of diseases and insects be included in the mix, have permaculture breeders?

and regarding the tap root issue, i wonder if the hundred of trees that were pulled by by a previous contributor to this forum were planted from seed or from nursery stock.

the biggest thing the fruit industry would say is that a lot of time and effort has gone into disease resistant root stock. we might take seeds from disease resistant tree varieties if a disease such as fire blight is an issue for on site grafting. most diseases are not an issue in situations where extra water and fertilizer are not used, but i can understand not wanting to risk fire blight. a criticism of the organic movement here in india is that by using a lot of fertilizer (even organic fertilizer) and a lot of water the cells of the plants are enlarged and attract diseases and insects. there are spaces between the soil particles which trap air. with too much water, these spaces are closed off, leading to acidity among other things. so we only want the soil damp, not wet. one of my indian sources states that most disease is caused by water inside the drip line. he recommends that water only be applied one foot beyond the drip line. when it rains, this is where most of the water goes.

one of the sustainable practices used for centuries here in india is for a 3 foot high by 3 foot wide mulch trench every 30 feet in the trees, or wherever it falls in keeping with the tree distances, ideally every other row of trees. and when i say 3 feet high i mean outside of the trench. they keep the same mulch piles every year. interesting as hugelkultur could be just that. so establishing this is a lot of work but gives a site for pest predators, a source of microbes, a place the tree roots come to get their nutrients, if they are perpendicular to the direction of the water they would trap water moving down, etc.

when we plant a lot of extra seeds and then take out the unworkable ones, yes that would require extra weeding, if weeding was done. mulching would be my preference, mulching from chop and drop trees. however, there are two other options: grafting the ones that do not work and using the trees that do not work for chop and drop.
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I found this Chicago Tribune article via a friend and thought it perfect to post to this thread.

U.S. shortage of 'spitter' apples threatens boom in hard cider

Even as hard cider is enjoying phenomenal growth, U.S. craft brewers are facing a shortage of bittersweet, bittersharp and sharp apples, the fruits traditionally used to make hard ciders.

Greg Peck, assistant professor of horticulture at Virginia Tech University, said there are no figures for how many so-called spitters - apples too tart or bitter to eat fresh but perfect for cider making - are available currently.

In 2012, the total U.S. crop of apples was 216 million bushels, of which 1.7 million were used to make cider. Of that, Peck estimated, "only a handful" of those were bittersweet, bittersharp or sharp varieties.

At Montana CiderWorks in Darby, Lee McAlpine is lucky enough to have a reliable apple grower but said the situation could easily change.

Still, she refuses to press cider from readily available dessert apples, which many artisanal cider makers claim make for an inferior product."People are making cider out of anything they can press, but you just can't make a really sophisticated cider out of fruit that doesn't contain any tannins," McAlpine said.

"The lack of apples is an opportunity, not a crisis," said Rowell. "It's going to take time, but we're going to get back on track. We're going to resurrect some of these apples."
 
charlotte anthony
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thanks so much jocelyn for your post on the need for spitters. what a wonderful permaculture solution (or might i say nature solution) to planting apple seeds.
 
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I started some apple trees from seeds two weeks ago. There were about 90 trees in soil blocks. This is a fancy shot I took with my point and shoot camera.



Yesterday, I planted another 400:



Most of the seeds I planted had started sprouting in the fridge or were showing signs that they were about to. I started stratifying them in the fridge around mid-February and kept them in the jar where I would rinse them every other day to avoid molds from growing on them.

 
charlotte anthony
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i am wondering Adrien what you want to do with your apple trees seedlings.

i want to take this oppostunity to report on some seeds for mango trees here in india. my friend narsanna koppola planted hundred of mangoes from seeds. none were spitters. it turns out that mango trees from seeds give great production for 100 years and when production slows they can chop them off at 4 feet and they regrow and give good production for another 50 years. grafted mango trees give good proiduction for only 20 years. is it like this with apple trees, does anyone know.

he did not have water for his trees. all he could do was dip a bucket in a well and fill a pottery veseel that he put in next to his new baby seedlings, once a month. he had 25 inches of rain a year and mostly over 3 monjths. most of the trees did well. he also did not fertilize them ever. he planted them with herbs and glyricidia and gave them lots of mulch from the same. now they are 11 years old, still never irrigated and never fetilized and are producing magnificiently. now that is resilience and sustainability.
 
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I look at it as a win win. If the apples don't taste nice, I'll use them as root stocks. Either way, growing from seed is free. I've got around 100 apple tree seedlings right now.
Apple-seedling.jpg
[Thumbnail for Apple-seedling.jpg]
 
Adrien Lapointe
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charlotte anthony wrote:i am wondering Adrien what you want to do with your apple trees seedlings.


I am planning on planting this year's seedlings at a friend's place, he has hundreds of feet of swales to fill with plants.

My understanding is that some of those seedlings will be very long lived in comparison to the modern dwarf trees. Some of them might turn out to be great producers, some might not. I am growing ~90 in soil blocks to put in the field in a few weeks. I am hoping that the nature of the soil block will make it so that the impact on the roots will be minimal.
 
Adrien Lapointe
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elle sagenev wrote:Either way, growing from seed is free.


Yeah, that is my thinking, plus it is really cool to start trees from seeds and think that they will outlive you!
 
charlotte anthony
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i do not know about apple trees, but i would bet it is similar. mango trees here when grown from seed slow down in production after 100 years. at that point they cut them to 4 feet and they have good production for another 50 years. grafted trees have good production for 20 years. quite a difference.

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Dr Temp wrote:Some trees respond to planting them deep like a tomato transplant. Others do not like it and take to an early grave.


That's basically what you do to start cottonwood trees. Cut a big branch that's more or less the shape you want the tree to grow into, punch a hole about half as deep as the branch is long, drop it into the hole, and fill it up after. (Or just stab it into the ground if your soil is soft enough.)

As to own-root and hardiness, I've been told by commercial orange growers that own-root oranges tolerate much colder temps than do grafted trees.



 
charlotte anthony
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Thanks Rez for the reminder about sticking the tree branches in the ground. Here in India we can stick glyricidia tree branches in the ground to make a new tree. (or pomgamia or subabul) One way to use this is for a fence. we plant the branches about every 6 inches.. the only concern for depth is to keep the wind from blowing them over so we bury about 2.5 feet. voila it acts like a fence immediately and within one month we have a living fence growing.
 
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That's pretty cool! I'm going to plant some sort of hedge on my boundary and I'll have to think about something like that.
 
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paul wheaton wrote:ctreedude,

In that case, it seems that in a dry-ish area, a lot of trees that start with a taproot, might keep their taproot if the taproot finds deep water.  But if you water that tree in the summer, it might lose its taproot. 

And, this could be true of apple trees started from seed.



is there a thread regarding growing fruit/nut/other trees from seed, and what method are used to allow the trees to grow without being choked by existing grass, "weeds", etc?  I thought I heard about geese being good for this...will they not eat a young sapling?  Are there any animals that will graze the grass and "weeds" but not tree saplings?  There is a man named Casey Dahl who started a 10-acre fruit project in WI.  I don't think these trees were grown from seed, but I think he is the one that mentioned he might use geese as weeders if he were to do it over again, but then again, he used tubes to protect the trees from deer, which would also protect them from geese.  The question I'm asking is in regards to my idea of growing the trees from seeds in the field, rather than transplanted young trees.  if there are no animals which would skip over green saplings grown from seed, can you put a tube over the spot where the seed was planted to prevent the animal 'mowers' from gobbling it up?  would the tube allow enough light for the seed to germinate?
 
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