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Cheapest Way To Start a Fruit/Nut Tree Orchard

 
Dean Moriarty
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Location: Danville, KY (Zone 6b)
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My wife and I are looking at moving from the burbs to a 12+ acre lot of rolling hills in eastern Kentucky. The land is almost entirely open pasture/grass right now. We'd like to take a large portion of this and turn it into a fruit/but tree orchard of all kinds of varieties for our own enjoyment.

Like most projects, there's a trade-off between money and time. In our case, we'll have a lot of other things to work on so I'd like to try to create this orchard by using as much time as necessary, and as little money as necessary.

Looking at most websites, it seems that small bare-root trees will cost $20 or more, which really adds up quick. On the other hand, my understanding is that seeds aren't an option for most fruit trees because you never know what you'll get - so unless you're willing to dedicate years only to find out it's a crappy version of some fruit, then seeds aren't a great option.

What are the other options? Or are those the only two options?

I'm a nube here, so any and all advice is appreciated.

 
David Goodman
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Hi Dean,

Here's an unconventional way you can jump into this thing by trading a little time for money.

Contact your local extension and tell them you want to get a nursery license for a small retail nursery. They'll likely send an inspector over to your place to make sure you don't have any invasives, then charge you a little fee (like $25 here in FL) and issue you a license.

Once you have that license, start hunting down wholesale nurseries that deal with fruits and nuts. You can buy bundles of bare root trees from a wholesaler for as low as $7-10 per tree.

If that's too much paperwork for you, start a bunch of trees from seeds, plant them out, then start grafting them with improved varieties in a year or two. You can find budwood everywhere... just start asking people about their favorite local fruit trees.

"My grandma has this pear tree out back with thousands of sweeeet pears..."

Get some budwood; graft!

Good luck!
 
Ann Torrence
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Another option? Learn to graft. Ask your local extension office if they have a class nearby. In your area there are plenty of old-timers that know this skill, find one. Once you learn the basics, you can do fifty trees in an evening.

Rootstock is cheap, depending on how much you buy can get it to $1 a stem. Depending on your goals, you need between 40/10,000 trees per acre (not a typo, 10,000 is possible but requires a lot of trellising and irrigation infrastructure, very specific rootstocks). You want to order the rootstocks this winter, so your timing is good.

You can beg, buy or trade for scion wood. Heck I'll send you some. But if you join a group like NAFEX you will meet people locally who might have varieties that work well in your area. You are looking at $3 a stick if you have to buy. Sometimes you get enough to make two trees.

Make lots. Sell the extra trees. Or give them away.
Use the money you save to protect the trees from deer. If there's one thing I've learned, it's to fence first.
 
John Elliott
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Here in Georgia the Forestry Commission sells trees even cheaper than the wholesale price David mentioned, around $3 per tree.

Then there is the propagate it yourself method, which I have described on my blog.
 
Dan Boone
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Kentucky also sells a wide variety of seedlings at good prices: http://forestry.ky.gov/statenurseriesandtreeseedlings/pages/default.aspx
 
John Wolfram
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Location: Lafayette, Indiana
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John Elliott wrote:Here in Georgia the Forestry Commission sells trees even cheaper than the wholesale price David mentioned, around $3 per tree. Then there is the propagate it yourself method, which I have described on my blog.


John, it looks like the forestry commission offers ungrafted trees, which is useful for certain species, but common fruit rootstocks can typically be had for a buck or so.

While I've also gone the grafting route, at places like C&O and Adams County Nursery, with orders of 50/25 or more you are looking at about $10 a tree. Compared to grafting, that's only $9 a tree more (only $5 more if you bought the scion wood), and you get production 2-3 years earlier.

Other good places for getting trees:


If I were in your shoes, I'd probably get 50 trees from C&O so you'll have some fruit production in 2018; 50 pear, 50 myro, and 50 apple rootstocks from Copenhaven; and 100 pawpaw & 100 persimmon & 200 or 300 nut trees from your state nursery. That would keep your tree bill under $1000 for this year and give you a ridiculously good start.
 
leila hamaya
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some trees are better at being reliably "true to type" than others. or at least they are very close, not an exact copy but something very edible and like the parent. off kinds of fruit not cultivated usually have a lot of true to type varieties. stone fruit (apricot, plum, peach) are generally true to type and a good bet. citrus is too, but a lot of time they may be grown in places with multiple types of citrus and be naturally cross pollinated. cherries can be good, but some revert back to wild cherry characteristics. but i happen to like wild cherries, so IMO this is not a bad thing.

apples, pears, some cherries, and some nuts are not good at being reliable and have unstable random genetics that dont often turn out very good.
 
John Wolfram
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I forgot about VanWell nursery. With their wider selection of trees they would be a better choice for a first year order than C&O.
 
R Scott
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Go listen to the Mark Shepard podcasts at Permaculture voices and or the survival podcast. Mark had an approach that made money to plant trees.
 
Michael Qulek
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I second the grafting idea, but have done a few variations. I've sprouted my own rootstocks from the seeds in store-bought fruit. I've sprouted my own apples, peaches, pears, almonds; all of which have served as the rootstocks for future grafts. You won't get any dwarfing, but you'll get sturdy full-sized trees that you'll need to prune a little more in the spring.

I never bothered taking a class. I just looked at some pictures on-line and repeated what I saw. Worked for me the very first time, and that was with plain old electrical tape, not fancy grafting-specific tape. Grafting is so easy that I've made it a personal challenge to see how many varieties I can graft onto one seedling. My personal best if 5, but there's a guy on the internet that has "tree art" with 40 varieties.

I get scion wood from a variety of sources. Neighbor's trees, commercial stock I already have, and trimmings I scavanged from Home Depot. I graft in late fall after leaf drop. Scions seem to sprout here about 3-4 weeks after the ungrafted naturals sprout.

Other trees, such as fig, pomogranate, and grapes can be propogated from cuttings. Just cut sticks about 18" long, dip the cut end in rooting hormone, and plant the stick deep so only a few buds stick out. The next spring they will sprout. To save space, I've sprouted my cuttings in 3" drain pipe. Can fit a dozen cuttings in a plastic milk rack.

Good luck!
 
John Pollard
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For "native" type fruit and nut trees you can order 2 year olds here. http://extra.mdc.mo.gov/cgi-bin/mdcdevpub/apps/seedlings/search.cgi?record=all
They're going quick. Hazelnut is already gone and I wanted some of those. Grrr. Other than some that are sold out for this year, they're mostly $0.80 each up to ten but if you get 25+, they're $.040 each so that's 10 bucks for 25 seedlings. For not a whole lot of money, you could wear yourself out planting trees this spring and fill in with apples, peaches later. I think they charge an extra 10 bucks to ship out of state. Oh, and you don't pay until a week or so before ship date. A lot of those native types are good eating though some like chokeberry are usually reserved for jams and pies. They also have some legume trees there that would be good to get in the ground asap to put some nitro in the soil.
 
Bill Erickson
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A heck of a lot of great information on sources for trees and stuff. This one from Ann is a key item to me and I agree completely.

Ann Torrence wrote:Lots of good info I snipped off...

Use the money you save to protect the trees from deer. If there's one thing I've learned, it's to fence first.
 
Troy Rhodes
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If you hunt around, there are quite a few less expensive ways to get it done. Figure out how to qualify for the wholesale thing:

http://www.coldstreamfarm.net/



DO protect the new tree if you have deer. They have radar for new trees...


https://www.treeprotectionsupply.com/


Couple bucks a tree.

At my place in S michigan, I would lose more than 80% of the new trees if I didn't protect them...


Note that stone fruit generally make something very similar to the parent if you plant the seed/stone. That's peaches, nectarines, apricots, almonds, plums and some others I'm not thinking about.

Not sure if the complex mixtures like plumcots also produce true to type from the stone, but if so, you should do that.


troy
 
Peter Ellis
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Location: Central New Jersey
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When it comes to planting from seed, I suggest listening to Mark Shephard. In essence, the downside of a from seed apple that is not very good is just a tree you end up culling. The upside is a productive tree virtually for free. None of the preferred cultivars started as clones, after all
 
William Bronson
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John Pollard wrote:For "native" type fruit and nut trees you can order 2 year olds here. http://extra.mdc.mo.gov/cgi-bin/mdcdevpub/apps/seedlings/search.cgi?record=all
They're going quick. Hazelnut is already gone and I wanted some of those. Grrr. Other than some that are sold out for this year, they're mostly $0.80 each up to ten but if you get 25+, they're $.040 each so that's 10 bucks for 25 seedlings. For not a whole lot of money, you could wear yourself out planting trees this spring and fill in with apples, peaches later. I think they charge an extra 10 bucks to ship out of state. Oh, and you don't pay until a week or so before ship date. A lot of those native types are good eating though some like chokeberry are usually reserved for jams and pies. They also have some legume trees there that would be good to get in the ground asap to put some nitro in the soil.



Great resource! I am liable to make a huge order, but I can't tell when they would arrive, or how big they would be from the web site, do you know?
 
Eric Thompson
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William Bronson wrote:
John Pollard wrote:For "native" type fruit and nut trees you can order 2 year olds here. http://extra.mdc.mo.gov/cgi-bin/mdcdevpub/apps/seedlings/search.cgi?record=all
They're going quick. Hazelnut is already gone and I wanted some of those. Grrr. Other than some that are sold out for this year, they're mostly $0.80 each up to ten but if you get 25+, they're $.040 each so that's 10 bucks for 25 seedlings. For not a whole lot of money, you could wear yourself out planting trees this spring and fill in with apples, peaches later. I think they charge an extra 10 bucks to ship out of state. Oh, and you don't pay until a week or so before ship date. A lot of those native types are good eating though some like chokeberry are usually reserved for jams and pies. They also have some legume trees there that would be good to get in the ground asap to put some nitro in the soil.



Great resource! I am liable to make a huge order, but I can't tell when they would arrive, or how big they would be from the web site, do you know?



The Missouri trees are great and most of them are 2-3 feet tall plus a good root. Order soon before they sell out!!
 
William Bronson
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Never mind I found the info here: http://mdc.mo.gov/sites/default/files/resources/2010/04/seedlingorderform.pdf

Trees are usually 1 year old bare root seedlings,some are 2-3 years old.
Deliveries from third week of february to second week of may, at this time, had to look on the order form for that.
 
Peter Hartman
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In my area we have a plague of bradford pears going wild. There are probably 20 or so 3-5 year old trees on my property. The trees have some how turned out to have thorns on them and they are terrible. I am going to attempt a cleft graph on 5-10 of these trees in the early spring. I have 2 bartlett pears that I am going to attempt to get the scion wood from. I have found a few sources online that I can order more from but they are call in only.



 
elle sagenev
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I've bought, and am still buying, a large variety of fruit tree types. I then plan to grow my own rootstock and graft with wood from the bought trees. Should be a cheap way to expand.

I'm doing 40 acres, maybe 80 if I can get the 40 next to us in a few years. So price is a huge issue. I don't even have a full 3 acres planted yet and I'm over 1k in.

But I'm ok with spending a fair amount to get the trees I want that will grow here. I haven't started getting root stock yet as I don't have a clear idea what I want to graft yet. I'm waiting to see which trees do the best.
 
Greg Safronoff
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The Kentucky Nut Growers Association, http://www.pawpaw.kysu.edu/knga.htm is a good place to start to find info and going to the annual spring meeting to meet others growing nut trees in your area. The Northern Nut Growers Association, http://www.nutgrowing.org/ is a source for info for North America. I started growing nut seedlings in composted beds in my garden and found that 1 year seedlings with their fibrous root system transplanted better than 2 year old trees which would develop a taproot. Then started growing nut seedlings in plant bands, basically 1 quart milk carton containers with an open bottom, placed in a milk carton crate, to air prune taproot of nut trees. Had good survival especailly after mulching with strawy cow manure, this is the same type of containers that Oikos Tree Crops,http://www.oikostreecrops.com/ to grow all their container plants in.

I have been recently experimenting with growing chestnut seedlings to develop a fibrous root system for better transplanting survival. In the past I bought bare root grafted chestnut trees from a nursery to plant them out and to have them die in pots which were well watered. Another attempt to grow bare root chestnut seedlings I purchased and transplanted into deep pots had fair survival, but I noticed that root regeneration only occured at the the cut end of the taproot and no roots regenerated along the length of the taproot, also the top grew very little. Another attempt at growing chestnut from seed into shallow containers I observed looking at the root system that once the tap root reached the bottom of the container the top stopped growing and the plant stayed small. Another observation planting chestnut seed in open mesh bottom flats, a sheet of paper on the bottom to cover the holes, 2 inches of organic soil mix, after germination the taproot grew through the bottom and was air pruned, some lateral roots were stimulated. Seed planted 1 inch deep and allowed to air prune as they grew out of the bottom of the container stimulated many more lateral roots. So air pruning right after germination as close as possible to the root/stem interface developed the best fibrous root system I found. So last spring in a friends greenhouse using organic soil mix, I took open bottom mesh flats covering the bottom with a sheet of paper, about 1 inch of organic soil mix, placed the chestnut seed spaced about an inch apart and covered with soil. In about two weeks,after sprouting, in April the seedlings were up and ready to transplant. Chestnut can have uneven germination and this selects out for the best seedlings by transplanting only the best seedlings with the most vigorous fibrous lateral root system. We transplanted the seedlings into RootMaker 18 cell paks designed to stimulate air root pruning. Seedlings left in the containers all summer were about 12 to 18 inches tall, but best of all the root developed a fibrous root sytem. Transplants that were moved up into 1 gallon pots were taller and had a larger fibrous root system. This spring I look forward to experimenting with seed I have collected from grafted trees of chestnut, heartnut, hazelnut, hardy English walnut, and seed from Siberian peashrub, honey locust, black walnut and hickory. The website http://rootmaker.com/ has the RootMaker containers I have experimented with and there is a video and slideshow at the link that describes the commercial nursery system that Dr. Carl Whitcomb developed.






 
Heather Davis
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My dad runs the breading program for the American Chestnut Foundation in Maine and they are always looking for folks who have land to grow breading orchards of chestnuts that have been cross bred with Chinese chestnuts and selected for blight resistance. Perhaps Kentucky's chapter is looking for orchard space. If so, they'll provide the trees, plant the seedlings and teach you how to tend the orchard. In 5 years you'll have nuts and they'll challenge the trees with blight and use the strongest trees with the best American traits for continuing their breading program. There will be plenty of chestnuts left over for you! http://www.kychestnut.org/
 
Mike Haych
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Michael Qulek wrote:I second the grafting idea,



Absolutely. I don't understand why permies want to go out and buy fruit trees. I see this over and over and it leaves me scratching my head. Growing your own rootstock and grafting is far more better idea especially if you are swapping scion wood. See NA Scionwood Exchange. Cost is one thing but far more important, it seems to me, is the first hand variety knowledge you get from the person you are trading with. You also build community. Apple rootstock isn't just about dwarfing. Some varieties are adapted for specific soils. Some are particularly cold hardy. But even these kinds of rootstock cultivars are not expensive if you buy once and trench layer or stool from them on. The stacking function for those looking for income streams is pretty significant. A morning grafting seminar for 20 people at $50/head and they get to take home a tree is a quick chunk of change where your net is very close to your gross. You don't have to be proficient in all the various types of grafts - show what you know.

If you use electrical tape, you have to remember to remove it since it will not break as the branch grows and it will quickly constrict the graft area. Taking electrical tape off should be not carefully since it will strip the bark off as I found out the hardway. I prefer to use parafilm grafting tape. It's nice and stretchy, adheres to itself, and will break as the branch grows.


 
james Apodaca
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Who was it that runs his orchard using the STUN (Sheer total utter neglect) method? Mark Shepard?

I'm of that mindset.. Plant every seed that comes through your kitchen and you'll find the answer that God has intended for you.

I've got Lychee, Rambutan, Starfruit, 6 different Citrus trees, Dragon Fruit, Passion Fruit, Muscadines, Raspberries and Blackberries all started from seed.. I haven't got a clue if they will be the producers I hope they will be but if they aren't.. Well I've got my own source of genetically unique seed stock to plant more. The problem I'm going to have to contend with is space in my 8th of an acre backyard with it's massive oak tree..

If I had 12 Acres I could easily dedicate a portion of that to letting an orchard go feral (through STUN) by jonny appleseeding my land from fruit I'm already eating every week while I purchased cultivars that I DO want for production.

At the end of the day - if you can't find anything to do with your feral produce (making vinegar, alcohol, feeding livestock, worm farming, composting to support productive stock.. et.al.) you will at least have organic matter to return to the earth, in the form of a fallen tree, in a desired location where you want to develop the next generation of your productive stock.

Restoration Agriculture with Mark Shepard - was a very enlightening podcast, from The Permaculture Podcast, at least from the perspective that if your options are to wait for money to buy root stock or plant a random seed.. your odds are better to plant the seed while you wait.

The BEST part of having time on your side is that not everything has to happen at once: so long as you're not gambling everything you have on, say, apple yields of unknown eating quality that won't happen for years to come.

***CAVEAT: I think in that podcast linked above (series of 3, make sure you hear them all) Mark was talking to Scott about ways he got cheap stock by giving seed he needed started to nurseries and guaranteeing he would buy 100% the stock back from them at a pre-negotiated price... So that podcast may actually be directly in-line with what you are looking for. I would defiantly give it a listen. It was a very good series of interviews.
 
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