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250k apple trees on 5 acres?

 
elle sagenev
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Location: Zone 5 Wyoming
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I called to check up on regulation of orchards and the very helpful tree guy suggested several people I could talk to to assist in my food forest. One of those suggestions, however, was this guy. He apparently planted 250k apple trees on 5 acres. He told me I couldn't miss him if I drove to his town. I think I have to now. That seems like an awfully insane number of trees, all of the same species, to have in one place.
 
Adrien Lapointe
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who is the guy?
 
elle sagenev
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Adrien Lapointe wrote:who is the guy?


I'm not sure. He did not have a name for him. Just that he lived in Colorado (he did give me the town name but I'm not sure if I would want someone doing that to me so I won't do it to him) and that if I drove there I couldn't miss his farm.
 
Will Meginley
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Umm... Is he running a nursery, or an orchard? That's more than one tree per square foot. More than a little excessive if you aren't just raising seedlings.
 
elle sagenev
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Will Meginley wrote:Umm... Is he running a nursery, or an orchard? That's more than one tree per square foot. More than a little excessive if you aren't just raising seedlings.


I'm not sure as I was simply told about him and to check him out. I got the feeling he was not running a nursery though as we were discussing commercial orchards at the time.
 
elle sagenev
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Tried to Google satellite it but it must be newer than the images as I didn't see it.
 
Will Meginley
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Well then, assuming you heard the "250k" and "orchard" parts right, I wouldn't expend any gas money expecting to learn anything. I just did the math and that works out to an eleven INCH grid. I don't know if even columnar apple trees could be grown that close together, and in any case how the **** would you harvest them?

Perhaps it's an orchard with a nursery side-income?
 
elle sagenev
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Will Meginley wrote:Well then, assuming you heard the "250k" and "orchard" parts right, I wouldn't expend any gas money expecting to learn anything. I just did the math and that works out to an eleven INCH grid. I don't know if even columnar apple trees could be grown that close together, and in any case how the **** would you harvest them?

Perhaps it's an orchard with a nursery side-income?


Perhaps I did hear the number wrong. I hope so. I was rather surprised myself! He is not too terribly far from me so I'm going to have to check this out.
 
Jack Edmondson
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Perhaps he is taking a page from Mark Shepard's playbook. Plant as many trees as possible for maximum genetic sampling. The seedlings that thrive without care stay. The one's that die, good riddance. The one's that grow but don't produce well with little care, get culled for their wood value. Still that is a lot of culling. However, maximum genetic sampling does make sense from a statistical variation perspective. I believe Mark sums it thus: "You can never roll 5 of a kind, if you only have 3 dice."
 
Ann Torrence
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That sounds like an exaggeration by the guy on the phone. Although the investment might have been $250K with fencing and irrigation. The high density orchard management that is oh so popular these days tops out at about 1200 trees per acre on a 3x11 spacing. Super dwarfing rootstock, trellising, mandatory irrigation. The idea is that you get your money out of the planting right away and plan to replant in 20 years as fruit fashions change. The last numbers I've seen are around $15K per acre to plant this way. You run the numbers, take it to the bank, get a loan, based on payback beginning in two years. It's just business, right? Not my style, but very common these days. Almost de rigueur in Washington state.

You'd never get the money to buy that many trees from a bank, it'd just be like setting it on fire. Danielle, I vote that you go take a reconnaissance trip this spring.

BTW, I doubt that high density planting would work in many places in Wyoming with its dry winds. But maybe somebody's doing a test run.
 
Jay Grace
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Possibly extreme espaliering of the fruit trees?
With some trees being topped and espaliered at say one foot off the ground and the next at 1'6" and so on and allowed to run only 3ft in width. This would severly limit the quantity of fruit. But each plant would be able to devote all it's resources to but a few fruit resulting in enormous fruits that would demand a premium.

Not sure about 250k plants but you could get a lot at that planting density

But sounds like way to much work for me.
 
Kelly Smith
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that does seem really high.

when i talked to a local "u-pick-it" guy with apples/plums i thought he said he had 550 trees on 5 acres... and to me his looks like an orchard. (i live in an apple growing area of the front range)

there are different tree planting calculators online - and i am not able to come up with a way to get that many trees on 5 acres.

i would be interested to see it though - simply because it is hard for me to believe its possible.... but i have been wrong in the past.
 
Brian McCune
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Speaking hypothetically, if it is a "Restoration Agriculture" or "Strategic Total Utter Neglect" method, you would need to plant from seed. However even if this is the case (which i believe is the best way to create a heritage cultivar that grows well in your specific climate) I would suggest adding many other species besides apple trees. Over planting with tons of trees (of various types) that grow well in your climate, then culling out the bad ones. This is probably the best way to grow a food forest that will produce resiliently and indefinitely. True Permaculture has a requirement of 'permanence' , to accomplish this agriculturally you need to have genetic diversity in each layer of a forest system. There are plenty of Nut species that flourish well in the same climes as apples. As well as berries, vines, dynamic mineral accumulators, etc.
 
David Goodman
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Okay... you totally need to go see him just so we all know.

Maybe he planted them in skyscrapers! 100 stories of apples!
 
Ann Torrence
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let's do some math: square feet in 5 acres: 217800, or 1.15 sq ft per tree. That's nursery density, but not even allowing for foot paths. Much less working 5 acres with vehicular access. And in Wyoming, you'd have to irrigate that or you'd have 0, not 250K of trees. Doesn't seem likely.
 
John Wolfram
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Ann Torrence wrote:let's do some math: square feet in 5 acres: 217800, or 1.15 sq ft per tree. That's nursery density, but not even allowing for foot paths. Much less working 5 acres with vehicular access. And in Wyoming, you'd have to irrigate that or you'd have 0, not 250K of trees. Doesn't seem likely.

As a point of comparison, the Indiana state nursery has their seedlings growing at about 5 per square foot. Back in the 1970s, they were up to 25 seedlings per square foot.
 
Ann Torrence
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John Wolfram wrote:As a point of comparison, the Indiana state nursery has their seedlings growing at about 5 per square foot. Back in the 1970s, they were up to 25 seedlings per square foot.

Now that is interesting! I love working with real data
 
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