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Could I Have an Orchard?

 
master pollinator
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Katie and I have been thinking about getting into small grains, but we have always wanted a small apple orchard. Without sheep, I suddenly have a few hundred acres freed up! (LOL) We have a few locations we could put one, but a logical spot is a two acre field that is just too small to hay. It has decent soil; gravelly loam, sits on a 6% side hill, and is directly adjacent to a field that was once an apple orchard. It is also fenced. I am pretty confident it would grow domestic apple trees.

I have a friend that grows fruit trees for the major fruit tree suppliers of Maine. He has given me some Peach and Apple trees to try, but I am sure I could get some apple trees in volume, at least, at a decent price as I would not expect any for free of course.. Someone said dwarf apple trees are planted on 12 foot spacings, so if I did the math right, that would be just over 600 trees. And they said they would produce apples in 5 years time.

Does anyone know if that is true?

How many apples would 600 dwarf trees produce?

 
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I used to live beside an orchard of dwarf apples. It's true that they produced very quickly, but I was in the very mild winter climate St Catharines Ontario. I would suggest that you may experience winter kill but more likely just losing blossoms from time to time with late frost and what have you. I would expect them to produce well one year and then not so much others.

Sometimes rodents get in amongst them in the winter and can quickly girdle the small trees.

I think probably the most reliable polyculture a person can grow, is hay , but you already knew that.

You may be familiar with the idea of planting apples on a north-facing slope and whitewashing the trunks, in order to delay flowering. This might be a strategy worth attempting. I'd also look at the later varieties. Being in Maine,  you're not going to have the earliest apples to hit the market, so better to have nice hard apples and more regular success.
 
Travis Johnson
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I was looking at Fedco today, and they have a lot of apple trees, and as far as I can tell, a Baldwin Apple would be about the best for us. That comes in every size. But they do not state how long the time frame is before they begin to bare fruit in each size. The cost also shocked me; they want $31.50 per tree, which is fine, but calculating in the spacing, I would need around 153 trees, or $4000 when you calculate in taxes and the 20% discount for larger orders. It is an understandable mount, I could plant them today and my Great Grandchildren would be still picking their fruit, but I was thinking they were a dollar or two per tree, not $31.25!





 
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You may consider alternating tree species. such as apple, pear peach, etc. This is purported to reduce the spread of pests and diseases. I haven't seen this particular video, he has a full-feature documentary somewhere. Take a peek at this!

 
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Harvest and sale can be a big deal, if all else goes well.

Picking by hand is pretty time consuming. Storage needs to at least be rat-proof.

But, you would perhaps be machine-harvesting? That would help at harvest. But trying to do a robust polyculture without compromising machine-harvestability will havr some extra challenges..


Apples are pretty cheap. There are some farms a bitsouth of me that are making a go of apple-orcharding by having hundreds of types, as a novelty appeal..

There are also places doing cider. Laws have a lot to do with this, around here you have better ability to legally do value added stuff and sell to the public direct from the farm, if you produce booze from crops grown on site. Go figure..

If not doing something like the above and just growing as a bulk commodity, have you got a market? What are those apples worth wholesale in your region?


The expected lifespan of a dwarfing tree in a commercial orchard is SHORT, by permie standards..
 
gardener
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Travis, is that price for bare root or potted trees?
 
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Baldwin apples are VERY slow to start producing. I believe it's Fedco who relates the story that in the days when Baldwin ruled Maine, new Baldwin orchards were planted with Wagener trees planted between Baldwins. The Wageners produce very quickly, and were removed when the Baldwins came in. If I remember Baldwins may take up to 10 years to start producing. Another precocious tree, I got mine from Fedco as a scion, is the Redfield. The spring after I grafted and planted it, it flowered. The plant was a whip about 2 feet high with a nice red flower.

Were I planting dwarf apple trees I would plant them on 6 feet or so centers. The farther north you are in Maine the closer you can plant. Fedco recommends upsizing one size. A dwarf to a semi dwarf A semi-dwarf to a semi full. Another thing, I'd suggest you do is graft yourself so that you can graft your selected variety to a scion off a rootstock of the size you select, and then graft that pair to your actual rootstock. If your apples are on M-111 or Antonovka rootstock your roots will be larger, not require staking and the trees will last longer. This is called interstem grafting or multiworking.

If you're afraid to try grafting, take a cutting you cut when trimming a tree, and graft it to a different variety. Or graft it back on the same tree. Mark what you grafted so that you can follow the branch as it grows.

 
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Around here, apples grow abundantly. Orchards fall into disuse, because the price of labor is higher than the wholesale price of apples. Many people have apple trees in their back yards, and gift apples to each other. Hard for an orchard to compete with free and abundant.

If you wanted to make value added products like cider, wine, or vinegar then I'd recommend an apple orchard. Custom pressing can be lucrative. Or if you wanted to be involved in apple tourism, (farm tours), then u-pick apples at high prices might be a good addition.  

Wholesale apples around here are about $0.10 per pound. Might get $2.00 per pound selling them as part of a tourist attraction.
 
pollinator
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One thing to consider is deer and rabbits love  to eat apple trees in the winter, so protection for all of those sapplings would be well within order.       I have seen people put out sapplings only to feed the rabbits and deer.
 
Dillon Nichols
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Mart Hale wrote:One thing to consider is deer and rabbits love  to eat apple trees in the winter, so protection for all of those sapplings would be well within order.       I have seen people put out sapplings only to feed the rabbits and deer.



If you have small enough trees, the hoof-rats will have easy access to the apples, too. Crazy how high they can stretch standing on their hind legs, when motivated by delicious apples..

I'd plan on fencing the whole thing...
 
Travis Johnson
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wayne fajkus wrote:Travis, is that price for bare root or potted trees?




That was bare root trees!
 
Travis Johnson
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I did get a chance to run up and take a picture of the field that I was thinking about putting into an orchard. I will warn you, it looks bad because it was not hayed this year, and my bushog has been broke, so it is an unkempt field. But if it is not going to be hayed (it is too small), then I should do SOMETHING with it.


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Potential Apple Orchard
 
Joylynn Hardesty
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I found the full movie here. Current digital rental price $4.50. The purchase is for $9.50. The orchard is set up as a you pick, with a CSA kinda twist.


 
pollinator
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Dwarf trees aren’t as hardy and don’t live as long. They usually need staking. They can’t stand up to as much wind or drought. I think they don’t fight off diseases as well, but that’s just from my observation. They might be best for your personal situation though.

Besides selecting varieties that are marketable, it’s very important to look at disease resistance. If there are any cedars in the area, a variety resistance to Cedar Apple Rust is probably essential, especially if you only plant one or two varieties. Resistance to fireblight and scab is important too. The different rootstocks also have differences  in disease resistance and tolerances to different soils.

If you are going to hand harvest, you might want several varieties with different maturity dates. You might even want to diversify with more than one type of fruit.

You could grow berries between the trees while you’re waiting for them to produce. I think northern varieties of blackberries should grow there. The varieties from Arkansas might not work.
 
wayne fajkus
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Thats funny ken mentioned blackberries. I had that in my mind when Travis mentioned time to harvest. A person could plant blackberries at a very wide spacing, (4x the norm)  start getting harvests the next year. Take one of the 3 stalks that pop up and bend it over and bury it to root in the void and fill in the spaces. I am assuming that will work. I have 4 buried now to try it.

Asparagus is a perrenial that, in my area, has no known pests. That would be a no brainer for me if i wanted some kind of market garden. Plant once, harvest for years.

A person has to wonder when the income curve changes from the 2 i mentioned that starts bringing income sooner and/or is expandable for nothing, vs a tree that takes several years to produce income but might produce more income once it starts. I think my money would be on the blackberries. Doubling your crop every year from propagation never stops increasing. Only thing that stops it is amount of land available.
 
Travis Johnson
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We have raspberries and blackberries here already. They are natural raspberries blackberries and not cultivated, so they are a lot smaller in size. Sometimes the kids pick the berries, but they are both in a pretty big patch. I am sure I could transplant some.

I did see something the other day that I have never seen before though. On the same stalk...the same plant in other words...was both a blackberry and raspberry. I just assumed a plant could have one or the other, not both on the same plant. That plant must have recessive genes that allow it to have both. I have never seen that before.
 
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Where I used to live in BC, there were lots of small (by US standards) orchards. The apple growers didn't really make any money. Lots of people tore out their trees to put in the newest popular apple or, more commonly, cherries to export to China.  I'd do a lot of research into what varieties sell where you are and for how much.
 
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