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Propagating Quality Fruit Trees From Seed.

 
Posts: 355
Location: SW PA USA zone 6a altitude 1188ft
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Earlier this spring I tried a controlled pollination of blossoms on a MacIntosh Apple tree. What I tried to do was to take pollen from the subject tree and use it to pollinate blossoms on the same tree. How'd I do?

Well I have to admit I did terrible. I removed the open blossoms on the chosen branch and opened the unopened blossoms. My problem was that I couldn't pick up pollen or I thought that possibly I couldn't see the pollen with my old eyes. So I used a magnifying glass, still no luck seeing it. So what I resorted to was just pinching and spreading with my fingers, but I didn't feel anything, except I felt one grain of something, that felt too big to be pollen. So I covered that part of the branch with cheese cloth and when I went back there later not one apple had formed in my ribbon marked section of that branch.

I read later that a blossom needs to be open for the pollen to be available/ready. And I also read something that disproved that statement. I rather not use an open blossom, out of fear of contamination. I later had access to a Golden Delicious tree that bloomed for the first time, but I didn't think there were enough blossoms to make it worthwhile. It only developed 4 apples, which are all still there.

What my theory was that I can use pollen to self pollinate a species that is known as a self pollinator. Golden Delicious is one, MacIntosh is a maybe, but I had access to a tree.

So next year I need to do some research. I have a Yellow Transparent that will probably have a lot of blossoms, that I can use as a learning aid. My Golden Delicious may have enough blossoms next year to have a go at doing the self pollination experiment. I have a 3 month old Red Rome that bloomed this year, maybe next year it'll have enough, I doubt that, it's a dwarf and it'll have a young dwarf quantity of blossoms on it. I also plan on taking some macro photos that I can use to understand what I need to do. I've looked for macro apple blossom pictures on the web and what I find is thumbnails of copyrighted work which I don't even feel is good enough to see. I have a Nikon digital camera, a Nikon F2 film camera, a Nikon bellows and the K Tubes used for macro work. I also have a Nikon 55mm macro lens and some enlarging lenses that make great macro lenses. I need to have the subject blossom indoors out of the wind, and the camera on a tripod with enough light to allow the picture to have deep depth of field. And I need to post that picture here so that it's in the public domain.

I lost a year, which is important at my age. After I get some seeds it'll take 4, 5, or 6 years to find out what I get out of self pollinating an apple that is capable of self pollinating.

 
steward
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Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
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Location: Piedmont, North Carolina - 7b/8a
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If your apples or pears grown from seed are no good for eating you can always make cider!
 
Posts: 30
Location: Limpopo, South Africa. Sub-tropical, summer rainfall, 1200m.
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This is a great thread with some good information so I thought I should add my 2 cents. I propagate avocado seeds very successfully. I want to have a bit of biodiversity with my avo trees so have propagated Hass, Fuerte and the feral variety from Zimbabwe that we call butter avocados - they have large fruit with the most amazing buttery taste. This part of South Africa is a huge avocado growing area but it's all nasty huge monocropped wastelands of avocados which are aerial sprayed and after they prune them they paint the pruned branches to prevent sunburn. Even the "organic" growers do this. We on the other hand have about 30 avocado trees scattered about the property. We have only been on the farm about 6 weeks but I plan to plant guilds on each fruit tree as the owners we rent from have no clue about farming and the soil and trees have been badly neglected.
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Four babies growing in water on the window sill
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After a few months in water I plant them out in pots
 
pollinator
Posts: 367
Location: PNW
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I spent the holiday weekend on my property.  Started tearing out ivy to burn and thimbleberry/ferns for future soil creation - going to focus on blackberries in that area.  Picked blackberries for canning and sending to family in the Midwest (blackberry pie for Thanksgiving!), plums to ripen and eat slowly, apples for applesauce.  More apples ripening for October harvest probably and hoping for some pears then.  I left some more than half-green plums on the tree because they still needed another week probably to be tasty and I had a friend who would pick them.  

A bear came that night and tore up the tree - ate most of the plums (wishful thinking that they gave it a stomach ache from being too green).  Ripped all but three branches off, clawed up the bark.  I felt sick and so sad.  That tree was my mom's favorite and a tangible connection to her.  Buried her ashes near it.  Odds are it won't survive but I'm still hoping.  

In the meantime, I'm definitely going to try to start seeds from the plums I picked - following guidelines from this thread.  They are now more precious than ever.  I admit it was discouraging too - a tree that's been growing there for years was destroyed overnight.
 
Joe Black
Posts: 30
Location: Limpopo, South Africa. Sub-tropical, summer rainfall, 1200m.
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I totally understand your situation - sorry for the loss of your precious tree. Here we don't have bears but we have Samango and Vervet monkeys and baboons who come over the fence for a tasty fruit snack. I don't bear them any grudges though - their natural habitat has been destroyed and replaced with vast awful mono-cropped plantations of eucalyptus and pine all around us, virtually eliminating the natural source of food for the monkeys and baboons. We plan to plant living hedges of indigenous thorny fruit bearing bushes and trees around the perimeter to both provide food and try and keep them out of the orchard.
 
Sonja Draven
pollinator
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Thanks for the sympathy, Joe.  Sounds like you definitely have your own struggles.  And I admire your outlook.  :)  I am not there (yet?) - less crabby that it took the fruit than that it destroyed (I think) the tree.  Also, super short-sighted for something that should instinctively know better than to destroy a perennial.  

But anyway... I like your idea of natural barriers.  I don't know if that would work for me or not but if this keeps being an issue, I will need to figure something out.
 
pollinator
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Location: Utah
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Sonja Draven wrote:The property doesn't have any peaches/necatarines/apricots and I'd like to try them and see how they do so will try this method you suggested.



Apricots, almonds and peaches germinate well from seed. I'm not sure about nectarines. Most of my seedlings are random out of my compost. Plums don't germinate quite as well, but they do germinate. Apples and pears germinate but the seedlings appear to be finicky and die easily. With those I just stick the seed in the ground and mark the spot. Those that come up without my constant attention seem to survive much better.
 
Lauren Ritz
pollinator
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John Duda wrote:After I get some seeds it'll take 4, 5, or 6 years to find out what I get out of self pollinating an apple that is capable of self pollinating.



When they're large enough (a year or two), graft a bud into another tree that is already bearing.
 
Sonja Draven
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I have a few more questions for those of you who have done this before.  

Do ALL pitted fruit need to be "cracked" and the inside seed removed?  I'm planning on planting seeds collected from peach, nectarine, plum and apple and planting them this fall in hopes of having some good seedlings in the spring.  I tried to crack open a couple of nectarine pits with pliers and destroyed the shell inside.  Is there a trick?  Is this step required?  (I have read some instructions that specifically mention this step and some don't so I wanted to ask the experts.)

Thank you!
Sonja
 
pollinator
Posts: 442
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Sonja Draven wrote:I have a few more questions for those of you who have done this before.  

Do ALL pitted fruit need to be "cracked" and the inside seed removed?  I'm planning on planting seeds collected from peach, nectarine, plum and apple and planting them this fall in hopes of having some good seedlings in the spring.  I tried to crack open a couple of nectarine pits with pliers and destroyed the shell inside.  Is there a trick?  Is this step required?  (I have read some instructions that specifically mention this step and some don't so I wanted to ask the experts.)

Thank you!
Sonja



I saw a Mother Earth News article once where the author used a vice to crack the shells for planting. Might be better than pliers. I've tried not cracking them alot, never actually gotten any cracked. My one tip for unshelled is to plant in the fall and that germination seems better in sand, potting soil, or some other course substrate than my native clay soil.
 
Lauren Ritz
pollinator
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Sonja Draven wrote:I have a few more questions for those of you who have done this before.  

Do ALL pitted fruit need to be "cracked" and the inside seed removed?  I'm planning on planting seeds collected from peach, nectarine, plum and apple and planting them this fall in hopes of having some good seedlings in the spring.  I tried to crack open a couple of nectarine pits with pliers and destroyed the shell inside.  Is there a trick?  Is this step required?  (I have read some instructions that specifically mention this step and some don't so I wanted to ask the experts.)

Thank you!
Sonja



Absolutely not. The seedlings will grow on their own just fine, or the species would have died out. If you want a guaranteed high percentage of plants, then you may have to try cracking them, as not all are strong enough to get through the shell. The simplest method I've found is a set of vice grips set just a hair narrower than the seed. The problem with cracking them is that the pit is designed to protect the seedling. If you're just putting them in the ground without additional protection, they'll attract worms, beetles, bacteria, and everything else that likes a nice juicy seed. In that case you definitely want to leave them in the shell. If you're doing controlled germination (such as in a greenhouse in pots), cracking the pit is probably simplest.
 
Sonja Draven
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Thank you both so much!  

I do plan on putting them directly into the ground since I won't be able to baby sit them in pots and where I live in the city is wretched for growing anything (even seedlings).  So I'll plant them whole and see how they do.  And in the future, when I'm on-site more, I'll play with planting in pots and transplanting which sounds like a fun experiment too!
 
Lauren Ritz
pollinator
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Sonja Draven wrote:Thank you both so much!  

I do plan on putting them directly into the ground since I won't be able to baby sit them in pots and where I live in the city is wretched for growing anything (even seedlings).  So I'll plant them whole and see how they do.  And in the future, when I'm on-site more, I'll play with planting in pots and transplanting which sounds like a fun experiment too!



Plant three or four in each spot where you want a tree, and if more than one comes up you can either thin to the strongest or transplant. You may easily get all of them coming up, and that will also give you transplants for areas where none might come up (which is also a possibility, if a low one). I would plant a foot or so apart to make transplant easier if that becomes necessary.

Please remember also that not all will survive their first year.
 
Sonja Draven
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Thank you!  These are great tips and I will use them.  :)
 
Posts: 68
Location: Zone 9A, 45S 168E, 329m Queenstown, NZ
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Here are an apricot and free stone blood peach that were grown from pips, they were planted in the ground in 2012 and first blossomed in 2016. The site is windy and does not get much sun in winter and only managed to fruit for the first time this summer (southern hemisphere). I sowed a number of stones in late March and they have been sitting in a pot through winter, frosted and snowed on and still managed to germinate.
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Sonja Draven
pollinator
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Thank you, Megan.  Those pictures are lovely!
 
Posts: 106
Location: Central Indiana
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I don't have much land but right now I am working on Apple tree a pear tree and a plum tree from seed.  They are all in cold stratification process now.  I'll update once I see what happens.
 
Megan Palmer
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Location: Zone 9A, 45S 168E, 329m Queenstown, NZ
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Jonathan Ward wrote:I don't have much land but right now I am working on Apple tree a pear tree and a plum tree from seed.  They are all in cold stratification process now.  I'll update once I see what happens.



Hello Jonathan, our home is on a very small plot less than 500m2 so most of my gardening is done at a community garden where I've planted a number of fruit trees that have been deliberately planted from seed/pips/pits or have popped up in the garden beds where I've buried the contents of my bokashi buckets. As others have mentioned, worm bins are also a prolific source of fruit tree seedlings. I figure if the fruit are no good, I can still use the trees to practise grafting onto! Here are some more photos of a pit grown plum, another blood peach (that are known as black boy peaches in NZ) and a white peach that hasn't blossomed yet - it was sown in 2015.  If you open the photos on a computer, you may be able to see blossoms on just one branch of the plum and the peach blossoms are on the verge of opening.
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free stone black boy peach
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white peach
 
Megan Palmer
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Location: Zone 9A, 45S 168E, 329m Queenstown, NZ
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Despite two spring snow falls to ground level and heavy winds in the past three weeks, the pit grown apricot tree at home has set fruit. Fingers crossed i’ll get some fruit this year - lost them to the wind and frosts the last two seasons😏
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Apricot
 
John Indaburgh
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Megan

You said "Despite two spring snow falls to ground level ". That's a new term; at least to me. I googled the term and found a reference to fog to ground level which is more self explanatory. If I switch from fog to snow I get the impression that your snow usually never reaches the ground. Did I guess correctly?

By the way; you have a wonderful view there in that last picture.
 
Megan Palmer
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Location: Zone 9A, 45S 168E, 329m Queenstown, NZ
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Hello John, yes you guessed correctly! Queenstown is 300m above sea level and we only get snow cover on the ground two or three times a year over winter and it doesn’t stay around for any longer than a week at the most. However, it is officially spring by the calendar now and since mid September, it has snowed twice to ground level - fresh snow on the mountains is common right up to Xmas, the mountains that you can see in the background are the Remarkables Range where there’s a ski field (2300m) and scenes from Lord of the Rings were filmed😉 We are blessed with a pretty amazing view from our home!
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Snow in early September
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View to the east after the snow
 
Megan Palmer
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Sadly I lost the apricot tree back in February, it blew over in a freak storm and found that the base of the trunk was rotted so it would have eventually fallen over. It looks like it may have been damaged by a weedeater when it was still a sapling and amazed that it managed to grow to the size it did. The blood peach tree produced over 30 peaches (yes I counted them!) and despite trying to keep all the branches at a manageable height, a couple of got away from me so next year, will be too high to reach to harvest the peaches - lucky for the birds.
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Free stone peach
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Theses were baked with brown sugar and a splash of wine
 
Posts: 90
Location: Providence, RI, USA
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About 5 years ago I planted pawpaws, apples, peaches and nectarines from seed. Many died, but some are thriving. This is the first year I expect any fruit - from the peach tree shown above. I don't consider five years a terribly long time to wait for a tree to bear fruit, especially when I have other trees already.

My reason for planting from seed was only partly to get fruit. In many cases it was to have free pollenizers for named variety, nursery-grown trees that I was planting at the time. Of course, I still hope that these trees will produce delicious new varieties of fruit but, even if they do not, I will have utilized a free resource to increase the abundance and diversity of my food forest.

One other benefit of planting from seed is that you often get a very healthy root system onto which you can graft named variety branches. Sure, it may need more pruning than a dwarf root stock, grafted tree, but it's a free resource with which to experiment. If I had more space, I'd plant lots of trees from a wide variety of seeds to add healthy diversity to my orchard. I suspect there would be benefits (and challenges) that I can't even imagine without trying.

Finally, there some tiny crab apple trees that grow in our city park which I believe would make excellent dwarf root stock. I've been meaning to graft some good branches onto a few and see how they work out. If you use some creativity, even a tree that seems pointless may become quite useful.
 
pioneer
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I've planted seeds from Pink Lady and Gala apples on my place to see how they will do.  If they thrive and produce well, that will be fantastic.  If they don't, I can always use them for root stock and graft on branches from my other trees.  At the prices for nursery trees, I can afford to plant seeds from a few apples and see how they do.  Besides, if they don't produce good fruit, apple wood is great for smoking pork butts, pork loin, and chicken.  Might even get some wood that I could use to carve spoons to sell.
 
pollinator
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Two years ago I had some American Guinea hogs that I fed many buckets of apples during the autumn. Last spring where their paddock had been there sprouted hundreds of apple seedlings. I potted up about 100 of them and this year I have been planting them out.. They are all 2-3 feet tall at this point.

Interesting observation:
I left the apple seedlings over the winter in 1-gallon pots sitting on a piece of plywood on the ground. The seedlings were all about 2 feet tall and pencil to pinky-finger diameter before going dormant. Some rodents (voles, I think) winter nested under the plywood and ate approximately 2/3rds of the seedlings down to little nubbins about 2 inches tall. I thought they were totally F'd, but lo and behold they came back just fine, and now they have two stems just as tall if not taller than they were last year. All fine and good however I think with future overwintering apple seedlings I will put them on a table with steel legs that the rodents can't climb up.

 
pollinator
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Megan Palmer wrote: The blood peach tree produced over 30 peaches (yes I counted them!) and despite trying to keep all the branches at a manageable height, a couple of got away from me so next year, will be too high to reach to harvest the peaches - lucky for the birds.



yummm, so want to try to grow a bunch of these blood peaches.
one really awesome thing about these varieties is that they are highly resistant to the dreaded peach leaf curl....
 
leila hamaya
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still growing fruit from seeds...have started a bunch of citrus, some tangerines and lemons, a few peaches and plums, a bunch of passionflower types.

i've been a bit all over the place, travelling a bunch to some difference spots...but have grown out a few of these in one place......and we will see where they end up.

i think it was another of our fruit trees from seed threads...where someone told the story of their grandpa still planting seeds on the window sill of the old peeps home...
i definitely resonate with that, this is how i will be i feel certain...80+ years old and still trying to figure out how to get a toothpick into an avocado seed to start on my window sill...even being in like...zone 5 or something and no hope for avocado hardiness...     =)

we just keep planting, and then plant more. where it ends up, well who can say?  plant hundreds of seeds every year, and some of them work out =)
i think this is an area where it's best not to focus on being so results oriented. maybe you will see results, maybe you wont. i say there are many benefits to planting seeds, and not all of them related to potential results.

and then bonus...while your years are passing by anyway...somewhere in the background hundreds of things you planted are now producing oodles of food =). so results count, yes, and great when it works.
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Been there. Done that. Went back for more. But this time, I took this tiny ad with me:
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