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Starting with fruit trees....so many questions

 
Dougan Nash
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Location: Eastern Shore, Maryland
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When I first decided to get into permaculture (1.5 years ago) I didn't think a food forest was for me. Why would I want a ton of fruit? I'm not even that crazy about fruit. I have changed my mind, but there is a limiting factor - I do not have the land for a food forest, but do have room for a few trees. Last year I put in a few berry bushes and thought that was as tall as I wanted to go (my passion is vegetables/grains). Now I really want to put in a couple fruit trees, but have no idea where to begin.

I don't know if it's something I can/should order offline. My wife and I both also only have cars, so even if I buy a decent sized tree I'm not sure how I will transport it. Most local places I doubt care about how organic/genetically pure the trees are but I want something raised "right". I also have no idea when to transplant, can I do it in spring?

I want to start with an apple and a plum tree, maybe a mulberry as well. I would love to do more, but my property is only about 1/10th an acre. Sorry for the very vague questions, I just want to get them in the ground asap.
 
patrick canidae
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Spring is the preferred planting time for many varieties of trees. Keep them well watered, do not flood them, do not let them dessicate. A wrap to keep rabbits and voles off is essential.
Pick one type of fruit and learn about it first, and then plant other types of fruit after you master the care of the first.
Although it is titled for Georgia, these are common diseases of apples from the Atlantic through the Great Lakes.

http://wiki.bugwood.org/Major_diseases_of_apple/Georgia

Plant disease resistant varieties, and consider your use. If you want to keep apples, make sure to check into their storage life! Many varieties don't store for more than a few weeks. I love my enterprise trees as they are very disease resistant and I have stored apples in my basement for up to 6 months.
Many apples do not self pollinate, and need another tree of a different variety. There are many excellent disease resistant apples, which I recommend for homestead types. I love Enterprise apples, and have a few along with Fuji's to give me a nice cross pollination. You can also find a variety of decorative crab apple that flowers at the same time and use that as a pollinator if you need a decorative planting out front, or if your neighbor wants to plant a few trees I always talk them into crab apples that flower when my trees do.

If you have limited space, use dwarf rootstock. If keeping them from being to large, bushy, and hard to care for is a concern, the espalier method is hard to beat. I keep short (9' tall) Belgian fence, and also just a trellised traditional 3 tier horizontal row of trees in my garden. You must have spur bearers, and not tip bearers. Tip bearers bear fruit at the ends of the branches, and these will be nipped off and limit production severely in an espalier type set up. The Fuji and Enterprise varieties I use are both spur bearers and produce a good amount of fruit from my funny little linear trees!

About espalier; http://www.starkbros.com/growing-guide/article/espalier-fruit-trees

You can learn about different varieties here.
http://www.orangepippin.com/

You can buy grade #1 whips and get them mailed to you. No need to pick them up. You can buy small trees of superior grades and shape them yourself, or buy large trees that cost more to ship and are of lower grades for the same price. I buy #1 whips before I buy larger caliper lower grade trees.

Have fun. It's not that hard. It's not that easy. You can do it if you do a little work every few days and have a good plan. To me, espalier is the only way to do a yard, and then you can easily garden or graze between the trees with sheep, geese or boxes of rabbits, and you can limit pruning to hand shearers and no more than a 3 rung step ladder, or from the ground and limit the height of your trees to your reach.

I can also easily row cover my trees with floating cover and keep the bugs off or reduce frost damage. You need to study brown marmorated stink bugs. They are now the bane of Atlantic fruit producers.
 
Tyler Ludens
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I was going to recommend my favorite nursery, but they have retired. Their website still contains valuable information about Southern and disease-resistant varieties of fruit: http://www.johnsonnursery.com/
 
Dougan Nash
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Location: Eastern Shore, Maryland
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Tyler Ludens wrote:I was going to recommend my favorite nursery, but they have retired. Their website still contains valuable information about Southern and disease-resistant varieties of fruit: http://www.johnsonnursery.com/


Thank you. Man, there is a lot of information to go through. Any varieties you recommend?

patrick canidae wrote:If you have limited space, use dwarf rootstock.


I don't even know where to begin looking for such a thing, is this something I would be able to order from a nursery? Would I have to graph the variety I want onto the root stock?

Espalier method I dislike the idea of (relies on pruning), but I suppose it is easier than trying to figure out how to get the apples that are 15' off the ground. Also, does one need a support for this method, or do the apples stand well on their own espalier style?
 
Tyler Ludens
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I have semi-dwarf apple trees, but I understand that standard rootstock are stronger and can be kept small just by pruning (both winter and summer pruning). The varieties of apple I am growing are Liberty, Red Free, Yates, Enterprise, and William's Pride. All of these set some fruit this past year, I think it was their 5th year growing here (fruit takes patience!). Very small but tasty apples. They are all in my kitchen vegetable garden.
 
Alder Burns
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The most important lesson I've learned the hard way about most fruit trees, on multiple sites in several climates; is not to dig a big hole into clay soil, mix in a bunch of nice amendments like compost, and plant the tree into that! If it ever gets really wet, especially in the growing season, water will collect in that loosened soil and drown the tree! If your soil is clay, plant directly into it, without adding improvements, or plant on a mound or raised bed. This last is especially important if your site is prone to getting at all soggy. You can add amendments later, in the form of a topdressing or mulch, or perhaps in a hole dug beside, rather than under, the roots of the tree.
 
patrick canidae
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Here is a typical nursery order page for a variety I use. You select the root stock, in this case you select the size of tree you want , and they send trees that are already grafted onto that rootstock. Some nurseries give you an option of various rootstocks for a given size, and you can do a little research, some just pre-select or only have one type of root stock per growth habit for a given variety of tree.

http://www.starkbros.com/products/fruit-trees/apple-trees/enterprise-apple

Just do a little looking around and don't be so overwhelmed! Most of the nurseries that sell to homeowner's have very good information available for beginners.

Mr. Ludens above has at least 3 varieties with good disease resistance I am familiar with. You can go to the orange pippin site I listed in my first reply and look up each of those varieties and their characteristics. Pick a couple of disease hardy varieties that are rated for your area, that flower at the same time, and get to it! Read how to care for bare root stock, order some trees, and you have 3 or 4 months to read the basics and pick peoples brains. They are just trees, nobody dies if you kill them or muck it up! And you get fruit to eat in 3 or 4 years if you do it even half way right .

I use fence posts and high tensile fence wire to start my espaliers. Very inexpensive and easy to do. The whole don't prune it thing may be great for larger property permies, but it looks like hell and creates lots of disease issues in town. You need good air flow around trees to reduce disease issues. Also, bud removal creates much larger and more appealing fruit if you want to trade some with neighbors for other goods. You can also put trees in nice rows and grow your vegetables in between the rows and make your entire 1/10 acre productive. I can cheat and run my tree rows east/west because of the espalier configuration and get good sun on my veg and ground cover legumes in between my rows all growing season. Sneak in a box of bees and you can have mead, hard cider, apple cider vinegar, and apples in a few years.
 
Ann Torrence
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With room for only a few trees, you might want to consider some specially grafted to have several varieties on one trunk. It ensures you'll get good cross-pollination, and won't get overwhelmed with fruit all at once. Raintree offers a bunch, so do other mail order nurseries. You might find them locally, but many of them come from the same wholesale nurseries anyway, so mail order doesn't hurt. They are more expensive, but you are getting a lot of extra nursery work in the care and grafting.

The other thing to check in your area is how many chilling hours you get. Your extension service should have a table. Some fruits need hundreds of hours more than others. Some fruit is specifically bred to need less. These are hours in the winter/spring between 32 and 45 degrees.
 
Alder Burns
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Multiple graft trees might work in a small scale situation like this where they can get the attention they need. I have almost always seen that one of the scions tends to be more vigorous than the others and will overwhelm them in a few years if left to itself.
 
Henry Jabel
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Dougan Nash wrote:
I don't know if it's something I can/should order offline. My wife and I both also only have cars, so even if I buy a decent sized tree I'm not sure how I will transport it. Most local places I doubt care about how organic/genetically pure the trees are but I want something raised "right". I also have no idea when to transplant, can I do it in spring?

I want to start with an apple and a plum tree, maybe a mulberry as well. I would love to do more, but my property is only about 1/10th an acre. Sorry for the very vague questions, I just want to get them in the ground asap.


You can fit a full sized tree in a car as it will be far from full size when you buy it! I can manage it here in the U.K and our cars are usually pretty small compared to the average U.S car. As already mentioned you might want to consider a smaller root stock for earlier fruiting/ and space if you are growing alot already.

You can plant in the spring but its alot better to plant in the dormant season especially so if the trees are bareroot.

Not sure if there are dwarf mulberries available ( I have never seen one for sale) so if you are limited on space go for a dwarf apple and dwarf plum to help make space for the mulberry.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Here's a guy with a few fruit trees in his yard: http://geofflawton.com/videos/urban-gardens-microspace/
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