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Growing Apple Trees from Seed Naturally

 
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Justin Gerardot wrote:This podcast about wild apple trees is informative and entertaining.
[url=https://www.wild-fed.com/podcast/046]Scrump! Your Guide to Foraging Wild Apples

[/url]

This podcast covers domestication of apples, Johnny appleseed,  getting yeast from apples, foraging wild apples, and more. An apple tree grown from seed, whether planted by humans or wildlife, is known as a pippin.




That link didn't seem to work but I found it, I think.  

https://www.wild-fed.com/podcast/046
 
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Thank you Michael. I have tried a couple times to edit the url. It shows up in preview mode, but not when I post it. Maybe it's because I'm trying to use desktop mode on my phone?
 
Michael Helmersson
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Justin Gerardot wrote:Thank you Michael. I have tried a couple times to edit the url. It shows up in preview mode, but not when I post it. Maybe it's because I'm trying to use desktop mode on my phone?



No, it did something weird for me too. I just pasted the link in the message and somehow it showed up functional.
 
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Looks like a neat podcast, excited to check it out!
 
Steve Thorn
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Wendy Boardman wrote:Just had to share my apple growing with everyone. It's one of my favorite seeds to sprout. Whenever our grandsons finish one of their favorite apples they give me the seeds to plant.



That seedling looks great Wendy, thanks for sharing!
 
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Steve Thorn wrote:Have you wanted to try growing apple trees from seed and create your own new variety?

Then let's grow some apple trees together!

So why grow apples from seed when there are numerous good existing varieties?

Most of the modern apples aren't adapted to my particular climate and also aren't resistant to our local pests and diseases here.

Growing apple trees from seed creates the possibility to create totally new types of apples that are more vigorous growers in your climate, more resistant to pests, and match your specific taste preferences!

If you'd like to stay up to date with the latest videos, you can subscribe to my Youtube channel HERE by clicking the red subscribe button and click the bell to get email notifications for each new video! I'd love to have you join me for this journey!



I particularly like the idea of jumbling up Apple varieties over multiple different generations. If you mix a Gala Apple with a HoneyCrisp, for example, you just have a mix of a HoneyCrisp and a Gala apple. Possibly not the only apple of its kind in the world, and not something difficult to recreate. You'd probably get similar apples every time you did that cross. But if you take that Apple, cross it with another mix, keep doing that for 2 or 3 generations then the results should be very random and unpredictable, depending what genes happened to get passed down. All sorts of sizes, flavors, textures, colors. And by the 3rd generation every single Apple seed would be a unique new Apple variety.

This would be a long term project with natural breeding and growing techniques, 3 generations would take at least 12 to 15 years.

However, it wouldn't have to take that long. If you really wanted to skip some of the "natural growing" and speed up the breeding, grafting and grow lights could allow a new generation every 2 years. I've started apples under grow lights before and can state from experience that it's very feasible to go from seed to 8 inch sapling in a few months. Add another 2 months cold stratification, and that seed you harvested in fall is now scion wood for grafting in early springtime. When grafted onto a mature tree, it would be flowering and fruiting only 2 years after you first harvested the seed.

 
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Just a quick note everyone. I had found the most amazing 'treasure' a few days ago. My grandsons had just finished eating Pink Lady apples. They brought me the cores. So I cut them open and found this!
IMG_20210511_144515_hdr.jpg
Apple seed sprouting
IMG_20210511_144345_hdr.jpg
Pink lady apple seed sprouting
 
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I have volunteer apple seedlings growing in the garden area. They are very early to emerge in March and went through snow storms unharmed. But again I found orange spots on the lower leaves. Newer ones are fine. I am letting the seedlings grow and see how it goes.
P1130641.JPG
Apple seedling with cedar rust infection
Apple seedling with cedar rust infection
 
Michael Helmersson
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Wendy Boardman wrote:Just a quick note everyone. I had found the most amazing 'treasure' a few days ago. My grandsons had just finished eating Pink Lady apples. They brought me the cores. So I cut them open and found this!



Imagine standing under an apple tree that came from a seed in an apple you had eaten, and gave to your grandmother. I can't come up with the words for how profound that would feel.
 
Steve Thorn
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Wendy Boardman wrote:Just a quick note everyone. I had found the most amazing 'treasure' a few days ago. My grandsons had just finished eating Pink Lady apples. They brought me the cores. So I cut them open and found this!



That's really neat Wendy, looking good!
 
Steve Thorn
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May Lotito wrote:I have volunteer apple seedlings growing in the garden area. They are very early to emerge in March and went through snow storms unharmed. But again I found orange spots on the lower leaves. Newer ones are fine. I am letting the seedlings grow and see how it goes.



My young apple seedlings had similar spots kind of bad their first year also. They were in a really wet spot then, so that may have contributed.

This year though they look flawless, I'll try to get pictures of them soon.

Yours looks great May!
 
Steve Thorn
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Michael Helmersson wrote:

Wendy Boardman wrote:Just a quick note everyone. I had found the most amazing 'treasure' a few days ago. My grandsons had just finished eating Pink Lady apples. They brought me the cores. So I cut them open and found this!



Imagine standing under an apple tree that came from a seed in an apple you had eaten, and gave to your grandmother. I can't come up with the words for how profound that would feel.



Yes, that would be really awesome.

My grandmother told me stories of her father, my great grandfather, planting lots of fruit trees and grape vines and how she and her siblings would climb the fruit trees and eat the fruit and grapes that he planted nearby whose vines were climbing up into the fruit trees. It sounded a lot like permaculture actually.

These fruit would be 75 years old or more if they are still alive. I would love to drive by and see if anything was still growing today.
 
Michael Helmersson
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Steve Thorn wrote:

These fruit would be 75 years old or more if they are still alive. I would love to drive by and see if anything was still growing today.



I find it difficult to wrap my head around this. I think it's a result of the disconnection between us and our food. Between us and nature, actually. I'm sure there are cultures where people are routinely reminded of their connection to their ancestors and nature. I think that kind of bond would greatly improve our appreciation of nature and our protection of it.  
 
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Most people who grow apples from seed in the north do it for rootstocks, but in the southern clay soils most of those roots will rot. So my solution going into the next seasons is to get Kentucky native crabapple to use as rootstock as they will be much more tolerant of the heavy clay soils. Since I live in the Wetlands portion of Kentucky we are beset with diseases and really only Gravenstein and Liberty have done well in my area. I play to graft those because they are no spray apples, and with the diversity of all the other species in my orchard it puts several trees in between each to lower disease and pest risk.
 
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Kevin Goheen wrote:Most people who grow apples from seed in the north do it for rootstocks, but in the southern clay soils most of those roots will rot. So my solution going into the next seasons is to get Kentucky native crabapple to use as rootstock as they will be much more tolerant of the heavy clay soils. Since I live in the Wetlands portion of Kentucky we are beset with diseases and really only Gravenstein and Liberty have done well in my area. I play to graft those because they are no spray apples, and with the diversity of all the other species in my orchard it puts several trees in between each to lower disease and pest risk.



If you do plant any seeds and let them grow out on their own, I hope you'll keep track of their health and share your results. I've been trying to find information on "own root" apples, and details are scarce. There are a lot of people saying "this won't survive" or "that will only last a few years", but I don't see any direct knowledge behind it, just something somebody said somewhere. I think the subject of "own root trees" is crying out for attention from Permies and deserves some serious experimentation. I'm trying it here, but results in my climate won't really mean anything for most growers.
 
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My kids and I put apple seeds from our apples on the property as well as some apples from the next province over into seedling trays with basic potting soil. Once they were up and we had about two months until freezing Temps, we put them into the ground. We have silt for soil here. Didn't add anything other than some water when we planted them. Didn't cover them or give any care for the winter either. This spring 15 out of 20 seedlings are still alive and twice the size! We will not give them any care and anything that survives will always have a home here. We plan to just keep starting seedling every year to fill in the gaps in our little area. I now have another nursery bought apple variety and a few suckers from the other apples on the property started as well. There will be even more variety over the years. Hoping they will taste good, but either way, wood, bird habitat and just plain old beautiful flowers will be worth it.
 
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Michael Helmersson wrote:

Kevin Goheen wrote:Most people who grow apples from seed in the north do it for rootstocks, but in the southern clay soils most of those roots will rot. So my solution going into the next seasons is to get Kentucky native crabapple to use as rootstock as they will be much more tolerant of the heavy clay soils. Since I live in the Wetlands portion of Kentucky we are beset with diseases and really only Gravenstein and Liberty have done well in my area. I play to graft those because they are no spray apples, and with the diversity of all the other species in my orchard it puts several trees in between each to lower disease and pest risk.



If you do plant any seeds and let them grow out on their own, I hope you'll keep track of their health and share your results. I've been trying to find information on "own root" apples, and details are scarce. There are a lot of people saying "this won't survive" or "that will only last a few years", but I don't see any direct knowledge behind it, just something somebody said somewhere. I think the subject of "own root trees" is crying out for attention from Permies and deserves some serious experimentation. I'm trying it here, but results in my climate won't really mean anything for most growers.



Well, because callery pears are a noxious weed where I live and they graft to European and Asian pears so well it doesn't make sense for me to buy new trees or rootstock when I can dig these up on the farm. Me thinking about this we have Chickasaw plums which could graft  cherries, plums, peaches, and more on that are on the farm as well. So following the though further why not use Kentucky native crabapples so that when I plant them they will already be adapted to the native soils. For me it only makes sense to use what is already here in my environment. and now that I am growing Asian persimmons I may try it also with the native persimmon we have in the area.
 
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Here in Vermont, apple trees are practically weeds. :-)  They grow by every roadside. Some are probably the remnants of orchards from decades past, but many are likely to have been self-started from seeds fallen from the trees in those long-gone orchards. The ground under them winds up covered in fallen apples that no one uses.

My back yard has a couple of apple trees that the previous owner put in, one with large red fruit, one with large yellow fruit. But around the perimeter of the yard, almost in the wood, are several wild apple trees, some of which grow "up" normally, while others grow in strange twisty shapes, seeking the light.  All of them produce fruit, and I use it.

The apples on these wild trees are much smaller, green, and less sweet, but they can be used in pies, and they make excellent apple jelly or apple butter. Getting an apple from seed that is sweet enough to eat by itself may be hard, but getting one good enough for cider, pie, or jams and jellies is easy!
 
Steve Thorn
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Michael Helmersson wrote: I think the subject of "own root trees" is crying out for attention from Permies and deserves some serious experimentation.  



I agree. I think own root fruit trees may be one of the keys to creating stronger and tougher trees that can fight off pests and diseases on their own.

I hope to soon have all of my fruit trees as own root trees.
 
Steve Thorn
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Lora-Leah Andersen wrote:My kids and I put apple seeds from our apples on the property as well as some apples from the next province over into seedling trays with basic potting soil. Once they were up and we had about two months until freezing Temps, we put them into the ground. We have silt for soil here. Didn't add anything other than some water when we planted them. Didn't cover them or give any care for the winter either. This spring 15 out of 20 seedlings are still alive and twice the size! We will not give them any care and anything that survives will always have a home here. We plan to just keep starting seedling every year to fill in the gaps in our little area. I now have another nursery bought apple variety and a few suckers from the other apples on the property started as well. There will be even more variety over the years. Hoping they will taste good, but either way, wood, bird habitat and just plain old beautiful flowers will be worth it.



Sounds like a great plan!
 
Steve Thorn
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Cathy James wrote:Here in Vermont, apple trees are practically weeds.  They grow by every roadside. Some are probably the remnants of orchards from decades past, but many are likely to have been self-started from seeds fallen from the trees in those long-gone orchards.




That is so neat. I hope to see the day where apples grow like weeds here too!
 
Michael Helmersson
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We have 28 young apple trees of various types and sizes. So far this year, I only see two fruits developing on one of the 3 trees that flowered. The tree is a Trailman Crab and it was crossed with flowers "borrowed" from my Mother-In-Law's Rescue? Crab. Those of you in milder zones may not comprehend how big a deal this is for us, but those two tiny apples and the seeds they will hopefully contain are big celebrities today. These will be the first apple seeds generated on our land to get planted.
Two years ago, we had a Norkent x Wickson apple that matured. After tasting the apple, I gathered the seeds into a paper towel and went to get some pots to plant them in for overwintering/stratifying. One of our dogs thought the paper towel smelled delicious and devoured it. I'm only semi-embarrassed to admit that I spent the next few days inspecting dog poop and eventually recovering apple seeds. Lots of them. Apparently, she had been eating apple cores for a few days, so I had no way of identifying the particular seeds that I was looking for. My fingers are crossed for this year's fruit.
201271607_338471271176369_1400498483550674730_n.jpg
baby apple forming in zone 1
 
Steve Thorn
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Awesome to hear about the fruit forming Michael!

I have the opposite challenge here with the intense heat and humidity, and all the diseases and pests that go with it.

Hope you get some apples this year!
 
Steve Thorn
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The Honeycrisp seedling is looking very healthy!
20210605_155816.jpg
Honeycrisp seedling
Honeycrisp seedling
 
Michael Helmersson
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Is that two years growth now? Regardless, that tree does look happy.
 
Steve Thorn
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It's about 3 feet tall now, and has gotten severely eaten back to the ground by rabbits twice now, so it's doing pretty good despite that. And Honeycrisp is a super slow grower here, so it's definitely not the most vigorous grower, like it's parent. It may be a natural dwarf.

It's been remarkably happy though despite its poor location and twice defoliation, and there is almost no sign of any disease issues at all. The leaves are super dark green and healthy!
 
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What an inspiring thread! I live in an apple orchard region (my road is known as the fruit loop), so I don’t have much motivation to grow my own. They’re already everywhere, including feral apples in ditches, woods and beaches. What I don’t understand is why the orchards have to spray to keep their trees healthy, but the feral ones produce good fruit while being wholly neglected. Some of those apples are admittedly super tart, but the trees aren’t diseased and the fruit isn’t too damaged by pests, especially if picked as soon as they’re ready. So is monoculture versus plant diversity the difference?
 
May Lotito
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Volunteer apple seedling among veggies. This time I am going to move the tree not the garden.
P1140783.JPG
[Thumbnail for P1140783.JPG]
 
Steve Thorn
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Marisa Lee wrote:What I don’t understand is why the orchards have to spray to keep their trees healthy, but the feral ones produce good fruit while being wholly neglected. Some of those apples are admittedly super tart, but the trees aren’t diseased and the fruit isn’t too damaged by pests, especially if picked as soon as they’re ready. So is monoculture versus plant diversity the difference?



I think it's probably due to a few things, and the first reason is why I think it's so valuable to grow fruit trees from seeds.

1) The feral seedling apple trees have the better combination of genetics (inherited from their probably less well adapted parents) for surviving and thriving in your climate. They've had to survive on their own in the wild, so generally only the strongest and toughest will survive to become a full grown tree, and can survive easily on their own without any spraying.

2) Yeah I think plant diversity is another major benefit, which encourages insect diversity, which naturally reduces "pests"

3) The wild soil is probably extremely more fertile, with large amounts of organic matter in it, which encourages beneficial fungal and microscopic life, and holds an ideal level of moisture. Most soil in orchards that I see, especially right around the fruit trees, is extremely dead.

4) The wild trees haven't been pruned. Pruning can create lots of open wounds on the tree, making it easier for diseases and pests to enter the tree. Pruning, depending on when it's done, can also either create a rapid growth increase or decrease for the tree, both of which can negatively affect the tree's immune system.

5) They haven't been sprayed or fertilized. Even organic sprays can discourage beneficial organisms, and even organic fertilizers can negatively affect the trees immune system and growth rate.

Hope this was helpful and hope you decide to give planting your own fruit trees a try!

Steve
 
Michael Helmersson
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Steve Thorn wrote:It's about 3 feet tall now, and has gotten severely eaten back to the ground by rabbits twice now, so it's doing pretty good despite that. And Honeycrisp is a super slow grower here, so it's definitely not the most vigorous grower, like it's parent. It may be a natural dwarf.

It's been remarkably happy though despite its poor location and twice defoliation, and there is almost no sign of any disease issues at all. The leaves are super dark green and healthy!



I just reread my question above your post and realized it may have sounded like I was unimpressed by the amount of growth in your seedling. The opposite actually. I am in a harsh climate for apples, so I really can't relate to what most of you consider normal growth. I'm only slightly exaggerating when I say that, where I am, non-death over the course of a season is considered celebration-worthy. The fact that your seedling was eaten back by rabbits and still put on that much growth is tough for me to comprehend.
 
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Ive grown seedling apple trees albeit haven't had fruit from them yet. One did flower at only around two years old.  Be cool to see if it sets fruit next year. Didnt this year.

If you dont get a good fruit you can always then graft on improved varieties so never any time wasted. I had a seedling pop up in one of my gardens. I ended up grafting onto it with great success.
 
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I have a row of about 10-13 that I started from various storebought apples (seed) a few years ago. I really need to get my “orchard fence finished and get them into permanent locations. Trying to get rid of my surplus, I posted them (and my grafted ones) on social media and, given their stigma, was surprised at the demand for the seedlings.

They grow fast from years 2 on.... if you or nature don’t kill them. I definitely have fireblight and cedar apple rust present, but most of the trees have shown resistance.

Careful with the pruning! For me 20/21 was a mild but testy winter due to some intermittent and late cold snaps. Now after the fact I have seen writings about pruning timing in cold climates (z4) and I’ll wait till March instead of Jan/Feb. Seems that mid winter pruning isn’t a good idea here. It stimulates a healing response which kind of pulls the tree out of dormancy. it got down to zero after pruning and I had noticeable death or dieback on trees/whips that I had worked - including some of the prized seedlings that I was trying to shape for fruit bearing. Things are taking shape, but 4 years here and I can’t seem to grow anything except flowers on my fruit trees.

 
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I had an enjoyable time looking at some of your videos of your food forest. Very inspiring to see the variety.
Are you mostly planting from cuttings that have rooted, or are you growing from seeds?
I've got a few apple seeds that I am proud to have sprouted in pots. After three months they are only a few inches high.
Judging by the looks of your garden the sooner my young plants get into the ground the better.
 
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I have a huge apple tree on my property that produces great apples, and the tree is obviously thriving.  I planted 5 of its apples in a clearing in the woods last fall, but nothing's come up.  I'm going to try again, but maybe I will try starting seeds in pots and transplanting them.

I've had much better success with grafting.  This was my first try at it this year, with scions and purchased rootstocks, and 15 of the 20 grafts took and are thriving!  Well, most are thriving, but a couple are getting cedar rust.  That gets me back to the huge apple tree: if I can get some rootstocks from its seeds, I will graft onto some of them.  
 
Steve Thorn
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Glen Thomson wrote:I had an enjoyable time looking at some of your videos of your food forest. Very inspiring to see the variety.



Thanks Glen!

Are you mostly planting from cuttings that have rooted, or are you growing from seeds?



Most of the trees in my food forest are grafted very low and then the graft has been covered with as much soil as possible to encourage the trees to send out their own roots above the graft.

I'm experimenting with cuttings and seeds and hope to eventually transition entirely over to them if possible.

I've got a few apple seeds that I am proud to have sprouted in pots. After three months they are only a few inches high.
Judging by the looks of your garden the sooner my young plants get into the ground the better.



That's awesome on the seedlings sprouting! Yeah the sooner the better I would say, and depending on how hot it is where you are, waiting till the Fall when it is cooler may give them the best shot at thriving in the ground.

Good luck with your seedlings Glen, hope you get some apples soon!

Steve
 
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Apple need a cold treatment.  Whole apple may cause to much decay / damping off. I keep them lightly moist in a ziplock in the fridge until they start to sprout. I bought some m. Baccatta seed and it is really small but same program. it’s supposedly super hardy. I'd love to get some of the clay tolerant that was mentioned.
D6FD8F47-1FB0-4CA2-B56D-CB349E380204.jpeg
seedlings
 
Glen Thomson
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Most of the trees in my food forest are grafted very low and then the graft has been covered with as much soil as possible to encourage the trees to send out their own roots above the graft.

Sorry, but my understanding of grafting is when a cutting from one tree is attached to an existing tree that is well-rooted. The graft doesn't develop its own roots. I think I'm just misunderstanding you.

I don't understand what you mean by:
- grafted very low
- covering the graft with as much soil as possible
- encouraging the trees to send out their own roots above the graft

 
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Can you tell us how these experiments are turning out now, a few years later, Steve?
 
Steve Thorn
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Glen Thomson wrote: Most of the trees in my food forest are grafted very low and then the graft has been covered with as much soil as possible to encourage the trees to send out their own roots above the graft.

Sorry, but my understanding of grafting is when a cutting from one tree is attached to an existing tree that is well-rooted. The graft doesn't develop its own roots. I think I'm just misunderstanding you.

I don't understand what you mean by:
- grafted very low
- covering the graft with as much soil as possible
- encouraging the trees to send out their own roots above the graft



Here's a picture that may show it a little better.

The goal is for the tree to be "one tree", without needing the graft anymore, which may just eventually die off, and the new roots from the grafted variety will replace it.

Grafts can eventually fail, and if this happens on a normal tree, the tree will die. Grafted rootstock can also be weaker or less disease resistant than the grafted variety, and there may also be incompatibilities on every grafted tree. By encouraging the grafted variety to put out its own roots, I believe it's helping the tree to live a longer and healthier life, that will also produce more and better fruit as well.
Traditionally-Grafted-Trees-Vs-My-Grafted-Trees.jpg
Traditionally Grafted Trees Vs My Grafted Trees
Traditionally Grafted Trees Vs My Grafted Trees
 
Steve Thorn
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Rebekah Harmon wrote:Can you tell us how these experiments are turning out now, a few years later, Steve?



The seedlings are still doing well so far, and I'll try to post some pictures soon. I also has a new seedling from the original spot that has already grown over three feet so far this year.

The fruit trees being converted to own root trees are growing extremely well so far.

Most of them were encouraged to root on their own last year, and the older trees the year before that.

I've really only seen positive things so far. The growth rate seems better. The trees are stronger. I haven't had to do any pruning so far, most have a natural open growth shape.

I highly recommend giving them a try, Rebekah!

Steve
 
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