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We could be planting fruit trees from seed!l  RSS feed

 
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Patrick Mann wrote:I noticed a couple of statements about cross-pollination that are not accurate:
* an orchard of purely Ark Black would produce seeds that grow Ark Black due to lack of cross-pollination
* grocery store apple seeds would not grow true due to cross-pollination

Very few apples are self-fertile, so you're almost always dealing with cross-pollination. Those Ark Black trees most likely get pollinated from other trees that could be miles away.
The seeds express different combinations of the genetic material on every pollination. I believe that includes self-fertile trees. So you always have a genetic lottery, though it's constrained by what's available in the genetic material of the parent trees.



Two thoughts:  If you had two Ark Black trees and there were no other fruit trees within miles to cross-pollinate them, would they pollinate each other?  (Some apple varieties won't.)

And even if you did pollinate Arkansas Black with Arkansas Black and were sure there hadn't been any out-cross pollination, the offspring wouldn't necessarily be Arkansas Blacks, for the same reason that a brother and sister of the same parents could have children who were all different.  There are other genes in there that will come out in different ways in each offspring.
 
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Kathleen Sanderson wrote:And even if you did pollinate Arkansas Black with Arkansas Black and were sure there hadn't been any out-cross pollination, the offspring wouldn't necessarily be Arkansas Blacks, for the same reason that a brother and sister of the same parents could have children who were all different.  There are other genes in there that will come out in different ways in each offspring.



And to add to that, since the Arkansas Black trees were probably vegetatively propagated from the same parent, isn't it like a brother and his clone (himself) having children?  I'm guessing there would still be different genes expressing... or would there?
 
Kathleen Sanderson
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Mike Jay wrote:

Kathleen Sanderson wrote:And even if you did pollinate Arkansas Black with Arkansas Black and were sure there hadn't been any out-cross pollination, the offspring wouldn't necessarily be Arkansas Blacks, for the same reason that a brother and sister of the same parents could have children who were all different.  There are other genes in there that will come out in different ways in each offspring.



And to add to that, since the Arkansas Black trees were probably vegetatively propagated from the same parent, isn't it like a brother and his clone (himself) having children?  I'm guessing there would still be different genes expressing... or would there?



Yes, you are right!  It would be like two clones having children!  But I do think there would still be different genes expressing, at least in most cases.
 
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Wes Hunter wrote:

Scott Foster wrote:I guess the biggest concern I have,and the question I can't answer is why do apple trees have so many pest and disease issues that weren't around 200 years ago.  Part of it could be that I don't have enough biodiversity yet...same issue with the pollinators.  So maybe these issues will work themselves out with time.

The orchards around here are spraying millions of gallons of toxic herbicides and pesticides on the trees. What changed from the depression era and before?   The trees back in the day didn't get any herbicide or pesticide and they did well...if not they died.



I've got a book on my shelf titled "Orchard and Small Fruit Culture," copyright 1929, that devotes nearly 100 pages to controlling insects and diseases.  So they were around.

I don't know, but I'm going to hazard a guess that apple trees today aren't necessarily less resilient than they were then, but that apple culture has shifted and so more effort and emphasis is now placed on disease and insect control.  So what has changed?



When families had their own trees, if some fruit was damaged or diseased they fed it to chickens, ducks, livestock or cut the damage out and used it anyway. What changed is the emphasis on perfect fruit for market.

Fruit trees are an amazing source of free food. Now that I finally figured out how to get more of the pears than the red wasps, butterflies, and bees got, I have a cabinet full of pear butter, canned pears, and dehydrated pears. We are fortunate that pear trees thrive here on their own.

He planted peach trees which died and then one sort-of came back but struggles to produce any fruit. And I think the others are apple trees that have never produced at all. But the pears produce well in spite of high winds knocking the pears off prematurely.

I just gather them up and depending on what ripens how, share them with the livestock and ducks as necessary.

A thread here on Permies somewhere said fruit trees planted from seed are hardier, need less water, and stronger. So I have 2 plans. First, I eat organic heirloom fruit so I saved all that seed and plan to plant it at the edges where the pecans and persimmons grow along the wet weather creek. 

If they don't produce fruit, I can always graft onto them. And I've been pondering how to graft bigger persimmons onto the wild trees. I have read that it can be done; however, these are tall and straight probably 40+ feet tall. So I'm not sure where to find a place to graft that I can reach. I'm assuming it needs to be on branches and they are waayyyyy up there.

All the trees here have off years when a hard freeze comes after they bloom. This year the pecan trees looked like they would produce, but I need to check again. Last time I looked I didn't see what I expected on them.
 
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Would anyone be interested in an apple seed exchange? 

I have a space to plant quite a lot of trees as a shelterbelt for a small pasture, so it doesn't matter much to me what the fruit quality is, though finding something tasty would be a lot of fun.  I had planned to try seedling apples for that spot, just for kicks.  I am already saving apple seeds from apples I eat, but would love to have a more diverse starting point, especially since I only have one apple and one crabapple bearing here right now, so the seeds from my own apples will probably produce something best used for cider or jelly! 
 
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Jess Dee wrote:Would anyone be interested in an apple seed exchange? 

I have a space to plant quite a lot of trees as a shelterbelt for a small pasture, so it doesn't matter much to me what the fruit quality is, though finding something tasty would be a lot of fun.  I had planned to try seedling apples for that spot, just for kicks.  I am already saving apple seeds from apples I eat, but would love to have a more diverse starting point, especially since I only have one apple and one crabapple bearing here right now, so the seeds from my own apples will probably produce something best used for cider or jelly! 



A seed exchange sounds like a great idea!  I have nine apple trees and none of them are producing yet.
 
Jess Dee
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Scott Foster wrote:

Jess Dee wrote:Would anyone be interested in an apple seed exchange? 

I have a space to plant quite a lot of trees as a shelterbelt for a small pasture, so it doesn't matter much to me what the fruit quality is, though finding something tasty would be a lot of fun.  I had planned to try seedling apples for that spot, just for kicks.  I am already saving apple seeds from apples I eat, but would love to have a more diverse starting point, especially since I only have one apple and one crabapple bearing here right now, so the seeds from my own apples will probably produce something best used for cider or jelly! 



A seed exchange sounds like a great idea!  I have nine apple trees and none of them are producing yet.



I have a Honeycrisp, and could easily save a ton of seeds, but it is likely crossed with a crabapple.  We do have other apple trees, but none bore fruit this year, so the pollen source was probably the crab.  However, that would be selecting for extreme hardiness, so it might not be all bad
 
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Hey guys, anyone interested in growing apples from seeds should check out pg 42 of the Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds (2018 catalog).  They have a new item, wild apple seeds collected from Tajikistan (and Montana).  Apparently seeds will be available for sale at the beginning of the year on Rareseeds.com.  If I had more room, I would buy some. 
 
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I haven't read the whole thread so please excuse any overlap I might write.  So I hear you on the drive for biodiversity.   I live on a suburban lot and have 25 fruit trees planted.  How could I do that?  Well, I purchased the slips on dwarfing root stock from an online retailer and then planted as a hedgerow.  I obeyed the rule of planting early-mid-late season varieties to have smaller harvest over time.   They are three years old now and beginning to produce.
That said, I have room for two more hedgerows - about 14 trees each.   What is your idea of creating this diversity?   Should I search out local natives and find a different variety of each fruit - not offered by the online store?   If I plant by seed, then I'll get full-size trees and I read that grafting onto dwarf stock allows for earlier fruiting.  Not sure I understand the why.    Your fellow permaculture enthusiast.
 
Kathleen Sanderson
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Chris Ferguson wrote:I haven't read the whole thread so please excuse any overlap I might write.  So I hear you on the drive for biodiversity.   I live on a suburban lot and have 25 fruit trees planted.  How could I do that?  Well, I purchased the slips on dwarfing root stock from an online retailer and then planted as a hedgerow.  I obeyed the rule of planting early-mid-late season varieties to have smaller harvest over time.   They are three years old now and beginning to produce.
That said, I have room for two more hedgerows - about 14 trees each.   What is your idea of creating this diversity?   Should I search out local natives and find a different variety of each fruit - not offered by the online store?   If I plant by seed, then I'll get full-size trees and I read that grafting onto dwarf stock allows for earlier fruiting.  Not sure I understand the why.    Your fellow permaculture enthusiast.



Do you need more fruit trees?  Or would your diet be better served by adding some nuts or berry bushes?

Kathleen
 
Chris Ferguson
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Good question, Kathleen.  I do have berries on the small lot: blueberries, blackberries, raspberries. two grapes but could dedicate the open area to larger bushes.  Isn't Serviceberry a large shrub?  And Goji berry?  Maybe some currant bushes.  These would take up the area that I considered for another hedgerow.  Do you have suggestions for additional berries?   I'm not sure about nuts.  I have two almond trees, dwarves, but I don't think my suburban lot could handle a large nut tree.   Am I wrong to think 60 to 80 feet for most nuts?  Regards, Chris Ferguson
 
Kathleen Sanderson
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Chris Ferguson wrote:Good question, Kathleen.  I do have berries on the small lot: blueberries, blackberries, raspberries. two grapes but could dedicate the open area to larger bushes.  Isn't Serviceberry a large shrub?  And Goji berry?  Maybe some currant bushes.  These would take up the area that I considered for another hedgerow.  Do you have suggestions for additional berries?   I'm not sure about nuts.  I have two almond trees, dwarves, but I don't think my suburban lot could handle a large nut tree.   Am I wrong to think 60 to 80 feet for most nuts?  Regards, Chris Ferguson



There are gooseberries -- I see you are in the SF area, so they should do well there.  And hazelnuts might do okay there, and are small trees.

Kathleen
 
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:
As they say, the fruit doesn't fall far from the tree. The same thing applies to growing trees from seeds: Offspring tend to resemble their parents and grandparents. Even if we don't know who's the daddy, there is an excellent chance that a great tree will produce great offspring.



When I moved to this property to help my wife in the care of her elderly mother, it was being kept mowed by a contractor who never got off his machine. Needless to say the boundaries had begin to constrict. In one such place, there was a bramble of multiflora rose the size of a tractor-trailer rig. My wife pointed out a near-dead and fallen-over tree in the middle of it as a peach planted by her father, then passed away by some fifteen years.

Well, some time passed, and that tree finished dying, but I eventually notice new peach trees sticking up out of the bramble. And so one winter a few years back I got ambitious, waded in with loppers, and took out that bramble. Cost me a little blood and a lot of sweat but I got rid of an eyesore right out the front door of the mother-in-law’s house and gained a feral peach orchard of four substantial trees plus several more seedlings coming along.

These are full sized trees on their own roots, randomly sited by rodents and gravity; they are too close to large hedgerow trees and each other. This winter they are due for some eccentric pruning.  But...

Due to various bug, disease, and animal issues and not much attention from me, despite setting fruit every year since I chopped them free we haven’t gotten much.  This past summer they set fruit copiously, which (since I did not thin it) was small — small-apricot sized.  When it was nearing ripened but still hard and crunchy, I began to hope; none of the grey rotty stuff that got it last year was in evidence.  But then birds began to peck at all the fruits. By the time I noticed, most was badly damaged, but I did pick the last dozen unripe unpecked tiny peaches and bring them inside to see if they would finish ripening in a paper bag.

Which they “sorta” did.  i gave them a week, by which time they were badly wrinkled and not much softer, still crunchy, which we don’t want/expect in a peach.  But the flavor! Deeply sweet, concentrated peach, beyond (of course) any refrigerator-chain supermarket ethelyned peach you’ll ever buy.

My point in all this is not to point out all my own failings as an orchardist; I am aware of several/many things I can do, some of which, energy and organisation permitting, i will do, to get better results from my feral peach orchard.

No, my point is that randomly-dropped reseeded animal-planted seeds from a 1970s nursury grafted tree made intensely flavorable (if small and otherwise unusual) fruit under conditions of extreme neglect.  This in a year when my own young big box store peach tree had its blossoms frozen and set no fruit at all.

I was reminded of all this last week while listening to a permaculture podcast, perhaps Greg Peterson’s? The host, discussing fruit trees, said (as if it were something everybody knows, not as if it were hands-on knowledge) that “less than 10% of peach trees make good fruit when grown from seeds.”  I suspect “good friut” must mean “shippable/marketable/prisine” but even so...
 
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If you want to grow apples from seed it's important to decide what you want. That sounds obvious but from reading this thread I see a lot of  distractions posted here.

If you get your seeds from a cider mill I'd say the trees grown from those seeds are likely to be cider apples. If you grow trees from seeds obtained in your market your likely to get a very random list of possibilities. You'd have to know how they pollinate those apples. If they use a crab as a pollinator that's not good. If in the orchard they have big blocks of the same apples then you'll improve the odds of getting an edible apple. If the apple you get your seeds from is a self pollinating apple and the apples are grown in big blocks your odds go way up. The bees are more likely to be getting their pollen out of the block, you can't guarantee it, of course.

There are studies that disprove much of the rumors about growing apples from seed. One is:

http://scholarworks.umass.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1894&context=dissertations_1

In this study they hand pollinated a variety of apples popular then, 1896-1916. The study produced 4 crab apples out of 980 trees in the study. As for the 10 year time to produce your first apple that's debunked also. The VAST majority of the trees first produced apples at 4, 5, and 6 years of age. By the 10th year there was almost zero trees that 1st produced their apples.

The study shows that the apple produced is very likely to be either similar to the mother or the father. So lets assume we were to use a self pollinating apple variety. Macintosh, Golden Delicious, Rome. The mother is Golden Delicious, the father is Golden Delicious. According to the study the resulting apples will likely be either like the mother or the father, So cheat make both parents of the same apple.

Most of the studies done are for the purpose of finding a new variety of apple. Is that your goal? I think not. So if you have an apple tree on the
http://www.homeorchardsociety.org/growfruit/apples/self-fertile-apples/
list, then hand pollinate some of the blossoms, mark the branch and cover it with some cheese cloth and use those seeds to experiment with. But even if you have a tree not on the list experiment with it. You've been getting apples on that tree, so both parents are there somewhere. If not then your tree is self pollinating and likely will produce seeds like itself.

Good luck, but pursue your goal.
 
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I have antonovka apples seeds I bought if someone wants to trade.
 
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Scott Foster wrote:

Ray Moses wrote: How do you figure that pest of apple trees were not around 200 years ago?



I should have been more specific they were not as much of an issue.



Red delicious, Golden Delicious, etc. etc. etc. are all pretty much new varieties that were hybridized for size, color and flavor.

When Johnny Appleseed was making the rounds the seed stock he had were naturally hardier, and the apples smaller, unequal in color and often not tasting as sweet as many popular varieties are like now days.

And there are many, many varieties of apples (https://www.orangepippin.com/apples) though oddly enough most super stores only sell a half dozen or so. Well it isn't that odd. See in today's perfect world we need only the most perfect fruits and vegetables and plastic wrapped meats. Our eggs are pure (white) and our milk is milky, not creamy and we definitely don't want to have spots, blotches, or lord forbid a fruit that is lopsided.

Since beauty is what pushes sales, beautiful produce is what is produced, and all of the old standards, the plants and animals your grandfolks grew up on are diminished and hiding in small gardens and small 'organic' farms.

Most people who start out with apple seeds got theirs from the half dozen hybridized varieties which were grafted on to old root stock for disease and pest resistance. However these seeds are often unstable and you might think you are going to be harvesting Red Delicious, but end up having something completely unexpected. Unstable not so much because the genetics of the hybrid are at fault, but unstable because pollinators will bring pollen from many miles away, thus often apples (and other fruits and nuts, etc) are cross bred.

Yes you are right, biodiversity is the key, a solid key toward having a species survive the onslaughts of pests and diseases.

I'm sure you could find a catalogue of heirloom varieties of apples (and all sorts of other fruits)... Oh look, here is one now: https://www.treesofantiquity.com/.
 
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Supposedly store sales are better when the varieties are limited, not only for a sort-of franchise branding, but also so people don't fall into analysis-paralysis when overwhelmed with choices. 

<insert seamless transition here>

It seems funny when folks chase after a pure-bred stock only to later crave the vigor that comes from diversity, and the locally-adapted genetics of open-pollination. 

If a fruit isn't good for eating, maybe it's good for pies or canning or juice.  There's probably a use for every type of fruit.

One advantage to growing from seed is there's no transplanting.  This probably means it will tend to grow faster, and healthier.  The root system in particular hopefully will be large and healthy and less likely to be root bound.  If the fruit is really terrible, I guess you can always graft on to the existing roots.  If the tree is too large at that point to graft onto the trunk, maybe it would work to graft onto one or more branches.

By the way winter is apparently the time for taking hardwood-cuttings, because there's less stress in the dormant state even if the wood is harder and slower to root.  Maybe that's a way to hedge one's bets, so if one set of propagation techniques or genetics doesn't work, maybe the other one will.  Considering how long trees can take to grow and fruit, it seems like diversity in all its forms ought to reduce overall risk. 
 
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I have approx 50 apple trees grown from seeds in my tunnel, planted last year. I am hoping the frost doesn't flatten them. I am hoping to plant them out on the land in a few years and that they will grow into large trees and can join our growing oak forest.
 
Lori Whit
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I have been checking rareseeds.com every day since the new year and the apple seeds aren't up yet.  But I will post when they are, and I'm planning to buy some as well.

I'm looking at it as a way to hedge my bets.  I planted 3 bareroot apple trees of common variety this autumn.  They'll be bearing before any from-seed fruits I grow, but if they're struggling with disease or age issues by the time the others mature, I'll have a good alternative and no time without fruit in the future.

I think good genetics will mean the apples grown from seed will be good for at least something.  And the trees will live longer, be healthier, and provide shade as well as fruit. 

Worst case scenario I end up cutting them down and giving my dad some apple wood!

Best case scenario involves trees outliving me by hundreds of years and providing fruit, shade, and enjoyment far into the future! 
 
Mike Phillipps
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I guess if the fruit is terrible, graft on to it.  If the graft fails, use the wood for woodworking.  If the wood can't be turned on a lathe, use it for firewood.  If the smoke spoils your meat, compost it.  lol. 
 
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Lori Whit wrote:Worst case scenario I end up cutting them down and giving my dad some apple wood!



It can get much worse than that! Some of the wild apple trees have fierce spines. So worst case scenario might be that a spine punctures you, and you contract some terrible disease. LOL! I'm being playful, but I have had seed grown apple tree spines -- originating in Kazakhstan -- that punctured my work boots through the sole.

 
Lori Whit
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:

Lori Whit wrote:Worst case scenario I end up cutting them down and giving my dad some apple wood!



It can get much worse than that! Some of the wild apple trees have fierce spines. So worst case scenario might be that a spine punctures you, and you contract some terrible disease. LOL! I'm being playful, but I have has seed grown apple tree spines -- originating in Kazakhstan -- that punctured my work boots through the sole.



Oh wow...that just makes me want one more!

I'm planting a flying dragon orange tree in the spring...and I keep wondering why it's so hard to find NON-thornless blackberries. 

Also, hoping to plant a cactus that can survive in my area.

So yeah.  Bring on the thorns! 

Of course I may feel differently in a few years, who knows.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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I planted a hundred or so 'spineless' cactus plants out in the desert. They all were gone in a few years. I suppose eaten by predators. The plants with lots of spines are still surviving. I know how to bypass cactus spines, so they are a good food source for me. I have loved growing cactus since I was a small boy. I still don't let spines deter me.



 
                          
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If growing from seed, it's important to know that fruit trees which are not grafted onto different rootstock behave differently than the usual fruit trees you buy in a nursery that are grafted. Fruit trees growing on their own roots will grow to be much bigger, like a real tree. They will also take a lot longer before the tree begins producing fruit. You could be waiting 8-12 years. Being on different rootstock has a dwarfing effect, and more of the tree's energy is diverted earlier on towards fruit production, instead of growing branches.
 
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My experience is that different apple trees naturally grow to different sizes and produce apples over different time scales this is natural when you realize that most root stocks are themselves specific types of apple

David
 
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I have a restoration site that used to be a homestead back around 1910. The homestead steadily went downhill overtime and now the organization I work for is purchasing the property and my role is restoring it to a natural state. But there are a ton of old fruit trees growing on the property that I'm designing my restoration work around. This way the old fruit trees can remain but I can also meet the restoration needs.

Many of these fruit trees are apples and we think most of them are volunteers from seed. Most of the original orchard was turned into a hayfield but on the edges there are still fruit trees. There are a few that we can tell were planted but most are from seed and the ones that were planted are all old unknown varieties. We had a cultural resources assessment done on the site (requirement for projects funded using public funds) and the surveyor got really excited about the fruit trees. There is one apple out there that produces racket ball size apples that have cream colored skin with wide pink stripes and white crunchy flesh. It is slightly bitter but very good for fresh eating and it never has bug issues. Never seen an apple that looks like it before. All the apples on the site grow and produce with no one caring for them.

The property is located just two miles from my place and I'm very excited to go collect seeds and cuttings from these apples. I'm hoping to propagate these apples through the cuttings and from seed on my property. The soils at the site are very wet with heavy clay which is similar to my place.

Potentially this site could be a great source of unique or rare genetics for apples and potentially some other fruits. There are some amazing tasting plums growing there too, plus some old grapes growing wild, and some other fruit trees. The organization I work for is purchasing the property this spring so hopefully I can start collecting seeds and cuttings soon.

I would add that I have seen old fruit trees growing abandoned on other sites. I have found several old apple and pear trees on land now publicly owned that no one is doing anything with. I would recommend scouting for these types of sites and try the fruit to see which ones are good tasting and which are not. Since these trees grow with no care they are obviously resilient and if they taste good they could be good to propagate.
 
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I've attempted to grow a ton of trees from seeds. None of them have survived. Some places planting a seed is as easy as throwing out an apple. Here, well I can hardly grow well established trees.
 
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This is so much fun! I read a lot of the articles that y'all posted. I've got a few hundred random fruit trees coming up (hopefully) this spring. I didn't really have a method in mind for finding out what trees I wanted to keep, but I think I've got the makings of a plan now.

Oh, and here's a YouTube video about a guy who grew an apple tree from seed. It seems like he got fast results from heavy summer pruning.

 

I'll try to post some pics when my trees come up.
 
Merideth Richardson
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elle sagenev wrote:I've attempted to grow a ton of trees from seeds. None of them have survived. Some places planting a seed is as easy as throwing out an apple. Here, well I can hardly grow well established trees.



Is it because of lack of rain?
 
Lori Whit
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Another video discussing planting from seeds (as well as a pear juice tutorial). 

Rareseeds.com still hasn't listed the apple seeds, so maybe they changed their minds or it didn't work out for some reason.

Personally, I've decided to plant sassafras instead.  Maybe someday I will be able to plant myself some apples from seed, but I think this isn't the year.
 
Gail Gardner
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Krofter Young wrote:All of the trees that Johnny Appleseed planted throughout the Ohio River Valley were from seed.  Those trees had the highly valuable random genetics your referring to.  Since then we've done nothing but select for ever sweeter and larger fruit.  In the process, nutrition has gone by the way side.  I've seen the term "spitters" used several times in this thread.  Too bad.  Those spitters are often the most nutritious apples. With diabetes and obesity running rampant (due to deriving ever more calories from carbs (sugars)), we would do well to eat more spitters and fewer of the sickly (literally) sweet apples found in most stores today.  Besides, planting from seed leverages genetics much more powerfully to develop land races and cultivars than planting the same old root stocks and waiting for hundreds of years for that root stock to hopefully acclimate to the soil and climate conditions of any given local.



Our ancestors canned a lot of fruit and turned it into apple butter, apple cider, etc. They also baked with it. When you can, you need to add some kind of sweetener, so the apples themselves do not necessarily need to be that sweet.

We should not judge fruit trees only on whether the fruit is the tastiest to eat out of hand. Some of our fruit should be what is healthy, has high nutrient value, and puts up well.
 
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Scott Foster wrote:

Wes Hunter wrote:

Scott Foster wrote:I guess the biggest concern I have,and the question I can't answer is why do apple trees have so many pest and disease issues that weren't around 200 years ago.  Part of it could be that I don't have enough biodiversity yet...same issue with the pollinators.  So maybe these issues will work themselves out with time.

The orchards around here are spraying millions of gallons of toxic herbicides and pesticides on the trees. What changed from the depression era and before?   The trees back in the day didn't get any herbicide or pesticide and they did well...if not they died.



I've got a book on my shelf titled "Orchard and Small Fruit Culture," copyright 1929, that devotes nearly 100 pages to controlling insects and diseases.  So they were around.

I don't know, but I'm going to hazard a guess that apple trees today aren't necessarily less resilient than they were then, but that apple culture has shifted and so more effort and emphasis is now placed on disease and insect control.  So what has changed?

It's easy to romanticize the past, but I think it's safe to say that the farms of yesteryear were more diverse than they are today.  When it was much more common to run livestock (poultry, sheep, hogs) under one's fruit trees, a burden was certainly eased.  Further, though the concept of production regions (e.g. dairy in Wisconsin, apples in Washington) is by no means new, I assume that particular regions were not as narrowly focused as they tend to be now, so that in apple country, for example, there was plenty of other agricultural production going on, thus mitigating some of the disease and insect risk.

I'd think another contributing factor is the increase in land prices.  Farmland is now not priced according to its productive capacity, it seems, but is valued as an investment or for residential and recreational concerns, in many places at least.  This then puts more strain on the farmer to make money, which could easily lead to a (desperate?) attempt to spray more in order to yield more salable fruit.

And then there are consumer demands for flawless fruit.  If you can't sell your apples because they've got a bit of scab, or a few indentations from insect bites, by gaw you're going to have to do something about it.

Anyway, I don't say this at all to dismiss your overall thoughts, Scott.  I've got a field of about 3 acres that borders my woodlot.  Over the coming couple years, my intention is to plant it (primarily) to widely spaced seedling apple trees.  I figure I'll get some apples for eating, some for cooking, some for cider, and some fit only for the deer and squirrels, which will, in turn, become apples for me.  I set out about 20 itty seedlings last spring in another location, but they ultimately didn't make it.  Whether they got grazed, pecked, or just outcompeted I don't know, but next spring I'll set them out in a nursery bed first to grow for a year or two before planting out.



Thanks Wes!


I get what you are saying.  I would point out that most of the recent information we have regarding growing apples is based on commercial growers.  I'm not hammering Monocultural orchardists but I don't think we need to model our permaculture or food forest efforts on the same information.  We want stuff to taste good or fit the nitch we want it to fill.  Picking apples primarily on how they look and how long they last aren't necessary.   If you wanted to sell say a Russet Apple that's not very appealing to the eye but tastes like ambrosia you would have to educate the customer.  Here take a bite.

  When we talk about creating genetic diversity in an apple, the tree and the pest do the dance of natural selection.  The apple tree and the bug change over time in order to counter the other...it's constant.  What we have done is clone and reduce our apple yields to basically two strains.  By only cloning, we aren't allowing the apple to adapt.  I'm not saying there were no pests, I'm saying the man has come in and changed the game.   By cloning, we are not allowing the apple tree to evolve defenses.  The critter, fungus etc is still evolving.  

How are commercial apples chosen 1. Beauty, 2. Ability to get to the store in great shape.  Taste is the last thing considered when breeding.  I don't have any proof that we are dealing with a lot of disinformation because I haven't actually done it yet.  If I base my assumptions on why we are trying to implement permaculture practices, growing from seed makes a lot of sense.   Most of the new strains of apples that are non-GMO and are tough as nuts (Liberty Apple)  were found by cross-breeding with the apples from the Kazakhstan forests.   By cross-pollinating, planting the seeds and moving to a dwarf rootstock we can test an apple within 3 or 4 years.

I may be full of it.  We shall see.

Check out the video below that was shared with me...






When it comes to disease and insect problems,  I am not convinced that tree genetics is the biggest issue.   For a permaculture perspective on this see Micheal Phillips Apple grower and Holistic Orchard books.  They detail how and why a forest edge ecotype is the foundation of biological pest and disease control.  

Also highly recommend Micheal Pollans Botany of Desire for a useful historical perspective on the Apple.
I also really love Steven Edholms apple breeding and grafting Videos but regardless of  BiteMe ,   Micheal Pollan has still provided an essential perspective needed to see the big picture.
 
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We don't really do apple trees down here (SWFL)but you see this a lot with mangoes and avocados.In reality, the top growers do just what you are suggesting: grow out seeds until something good comes along. With their name on a variety, it is instantly in demand. Aside from sometimes tracking parentage, there is no difference between their "breeding" and anyone else.

The biggest reason people buy named varieties in my experience are time and space. They have an extremely limited area, they want the best taste, and they don't want to wait for it.

We plan on starting our groves with what is available- air layers and grafts. Once they are in production the rest will be started from seeds. There is no denying the importance of biodiversity, especially when you see what has happened with citrus and bananas lately.
 
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If i was you i would plant a few tried and tested grafted apple trees and then cross them yourself.
That way you really increase the chances of seed-grown trees that might have good fruit and if they don't, cut them and graft on to them again.
Most commercial apple orchards have pollinator trees with bad fruit quality that significantly lowers the percentage of good fruit among the trees you grow from store bought apple seeds.
 
Scott Foster
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Just a quick update. 

I started fifteen apple seeds this winter and they all sprouted.   Most of the baby trees are out in beds.  Below is a shot of one tree I kept in the house.     These seeds came from a local orchard and a good New Zealand apple from the grocery store.  This should be interesting.

I have the bug now.

As a side note, I started potatoes in the fall from grocery store potatoes.  So far six potato plants have sprouted.   I planted a lot more potatoes than six so I will be more careful this year. 

The potatoes were a last minute thing so I just planted the entire potato without cutting or sprouting ( I know there is a word for it but can't remember what it is.)

I made two raised bed polytunnels and used a cover crop of clover which I left in place and cut back as needed.   This was a great way to get stuff out early and make some room under the grow lights.  I was gone for four days in the cold of early spring and everything was still alive when I got back.      No doubt I'm putting a bigger polytunnel up this year.


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One of fifteen apple trees started from seed. (so easy)
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Grocery Store potatoes started in the fall
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maters I started too early
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Raised bed hoop house the worked really well
 
Lori Whit
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Have you guys read this article from Twisted Tree Farm?

WHY I GROW APPLES FROM SEED http://www.twisted-tree.net/new-page-2/

Great information, lovely pics, and this nugget:

    A request made to the Geneva Agricultural Experiment Station in NY will get you 100 free seeds sent from the Kazakhstan apples they planted.



I didn't see anything about this on the site but I only looked briefly.  A wonderful possible resource!
 
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