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New To This - Advice Needed To Get Apple Trees Going

 
Clay Rogers
Posts: 33
Location: WI Zone 5a
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I have never planted an apple tree before. I know what types of apple trees I want but other than that, I am still trying to learn all I can. I know I want to get apple trees started this year as they take a while to bear fruit.

Do you guys have a place in particular that I should order from? Or, is the local place as good as any if they have the types I want?

Then, what do I need to plan on doing after I get them ordered? Should I plan on having fencing around them to keep deer etc from eating them?

I'll continue to look around for advice that applies to me but thought I would start my own post also.

Thanks!
 
Marissa Creston
Posts: 29
Location: Flathead, Montana
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Yes, you should protect them. Otherwise, deer will browse all of the buds and nibble all of the tips, voles will strip the bark and girdle the trunk, and gophers will devour the roots until you have nothing but a stick in the ground. Deer can be thwarted with either a cattle panel placed around each tree or an eight foot fence around the entire orchard. Voles can be thwarted with cage made of hardware cloth with 1/4" holes. The cage should extend at least six inches under ground, at least as high as the maximum snowfall, and should not be so tight as to restrict the tree or so loose as to allow a vole to squeeze in between the wire and the trunk. If you have gophers, you have my condolences. Fortunately, the traps work well, if you do not mind that grisly business. (Some people plant daffodils around their trees as a gopher barrier. Maybe that works for them. But my gophers pass right on through, tossing any offending bulbs out onto the surface.)


-mg


P.S. I would recommend either Fedco or St. Lawrence Nurseries, if you are looking for heirloom varieties suitable northern climates.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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I agree with Marissa, you will need to protect them from the usual suspects (deer, moles, voles). Our orchard is surrounded by a 4 foot high 2 x 4 inch fence with LGD's inside. This works very well actually for the usual suspects, our dogs love to rout voles and moles as well as keep the deer away from the orchard trees.

There are some other things you can do to keep deer away other than a tall fence; 1. one hot wire (electric fence) with blobs of peanut butter spread on the hot wire will entice deer to take a taste, once they do, they rarely come back.
2. spread a two foot wide area with blood meal all the way around either the whole orchard or each tree, if you do this one you need to be 3 feet outside the edge of the tree's drip line so the deer can't reach over. Apparently the blood meal gives them a whiff of "death odor" and they avoid the area. I've not tried this one.
3. LGD's are usually the best bet, deer will flee and even if they do come back, they will flee again at the first dog bark.

We had voles when we first bought our land but the dogs seem to have eradicated them for the most part, the only evidence of them I see now is deep in the wooded area, far away from our gardens and orchards.
We did have a few venture into the hog area, they were gobbled up apparently a tasty snack for the hogs since I saw them root the buggers up and bite them instantly.

Our biggest foe is the Raccoon population but we have some persimmon trees that they strip bare every season, since we have several I don't mind them getting the fruit from one or two.
 
Dillon Nichols
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Where I'm located, we have no vole or gopher issues, but we still need to protect our young trees from rabbits, who can reach surprisingly high.


You might already be aware of the following, but just in case, a couple things to think about:

Rootstock; have you determined which rootstock/s you would like your trees to be on? Lotsa options. Fulll-size, semi-dwarfing, fully dwarfing... even interstem grafted trees with something deep-rooted like Antonovka as the rootstock, with a dwarfing interstem between this and the fruit-bearing scionwood, to give you a deep, vigorous root system while still keeping the tree small. Generally, the more heavily dwarfing the rootstock or interstem, the faster the tree will bear fruit, and the shorter its life will be. Beyond that, rootstocks will have a variety of other attributes as far as things like fruiting, anchorage, hardiness, soil preference, suckering, and resistance to various problems.

This .pdf has a neat chart describing the aforementioned characteristics for quite a few different rootstocks. www.nc140.org/2004/domotorootstock.pdf

Hopefully, nurseries in your area are selling trees on rootstock that has been carefully selected as best for your area... Ask them about this rather than just assuming though!


Another thing to keep in mind is pollination; many apple cultivars being self-sterile, they need another cultivar nearby that blooms at an overlapping time in order to be pollinated. Then there are triploids, which have three sets of chromosones instead of two, and generally can't pollinate other trees; so, in that case, you'd need two cultivars plus any triploids blooming simultaneously... or one self-fertile cultivar, plus any triploids. If you're in a populated area with plenty of other apple trees around, pollination is likely to just take care of itself regardless of what you plant, though.

A chart showing pollination data for some popular cultivars can be found here: http://www.pots2plots.com/fruit/apple%20cultivars.htm

oranegpippin.com has information, often including pollination info, on a great many cultivars.
 
Karen Donnachaidh
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It's been 20 years since we planted our "orchard" so details are a little lost. I call it an "orchard" but it's really a deer / wildlife habitat (we don't pick these for ourselves).
These are full size apple trees, 4? different varieties, grafted (but I can't remember what rootstock).
Since there were 100 or so trees to be planted, we needed help. What a fun time this turned out to be! Our neighbor called on his college alma mater and enlisted a group of 20 or so spirited youth through the college's apprenticeship program. (I've used this program in my business before - the students get college credits and you can pay them or not.) The students brought tents and camped out in the yard. We fixed them a huge breakfast in the morning and got busy planting trees. Our neighbor had an auger attachment for his tractor which made quick work of getting the holes dug. The trees were set (carefully as to not J root them) and a tree shelter (plastic sheath) was put around the base of the tree and secured with 3 cable ties. These are left on the tree and as the tree gets bigger it will split them off or you can remove them and reuse on other small trees deer may horn up. They work well for deer and rodents but you must check them occasionally for bottom suckers and any fungal issues (watch out for bee's nests). Our biggest problem has been the bears climbing up into the trees and breaking limbs as they pick apples. I've now given up on trying to prune out the damaged areas (too much!)
I know this has been a long story, but a great memory. Good luck in your project.
 
Clay Rogers
Posts: 33
Location: WI Zone 5a
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What types of apple trees would you recommend?

We like Cortland, golden delicious, and McIntosh.

I'm wondering what would be resistant to disease, blight, etc in Southern Wisconsin as we don't want to use chemical sprays.

I just heard about Liberty apples and those sound like a good addition.

So, what types of apples would you recommend?
 
Ann Torrence
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Orange Pippin is a good resource for information on apple varieties, including disease resistance. Make sure you get them in the same bloom group or at least not too far apart. They are rated 1 (earliest) to 7 (latest). A 4 and a 5 are ok. You probably don't want early flowering anyway. And if any are listed as triploid, it won't pollinate another apple, so you need at least two that will pollinate each other in addition to any triploids. Nothing wrong with triploids, but something to be aware of. Crabapples tend to bloom longer and will cover most of your pollination needs in a pinch.

We had some Liberty fruit for us last year and quite liked them. Cortland did well at our annual taste test. So did Gibson Golden Delicious, it actually won. The other thing to consider is how much fruit you want, can store, or process. Early apples tend not to store, need to be processed quickly into dried fruit or applesauce and pie filling. The later apples keep better, some even improving, but only if you have a place to keep them between 35-40 degrees.

McIntosh is the parent to a lot of modern disease resistant apples. Orange Pippin has a good list of many of them, including the Cortland and Liberty. Empire is another good one. IMHO spur-bearing trees will be easier to care for. The tip bearing fruit it's too easy to prune off all the fruiting wood and lose a crop, but you have to prune to keep them fruiting. The spur bearers put out little, you guessed it, spurs along the branches. Once you see them, you'll know immediately what I'm talking about. You can't accidentally prune them off. Most apples are spur-bearers, just another thing to keep in mind.

Your extension service might also have a list of apples that do well in Wisconsin. It's part of the resurging cider country, you should do well there.
 
Alex Riddles
Posts: 26
Location: Columbia Missouri
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When I started my home orchard 5 years ago I had plans for a harvest that would extend from late August to early November. I dug up and gave away a honeycrisp when I learner how much trouble they are. Several more have died and been replaced. These days I care more about disease resistance than any other factor.

I have several suggestions: First contact your local extension office. They will know what diseases are endemic in your area and what varieties are resistant. My best tree is an Enterprise which is highly resistant to fire blight that is common here. The Enterprise grows faster than anything else I have and is a bettter producer. I currently have three other varieties grafted on to it. If there is a disease problem you might loose a scion but not the entire tree.

Another resource you should check out is seed savers exchange in Decorah Iowa. They have an orchard with several hundred heirloom varieties. They sell a few apple trees but you need to order early. They have several videos about grafting and various other aspects of growing apples. They also do some hands on grafting lessons.
 
Marco Banks
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I've been frustrated with how slow my apple trees have grown. Compared to the plums, pluots, citrus, figs, avocados, apricots, peaches, persimmon, etc. growing in my food forest, the apples are REALLY slow growers. My oldest apple trees have been in the ground 10+ years, yet they are smaller than the apricot and aprium trees I planted 2 years ago.

I've got standard low-chill varieties (Anna, Fuji, Gala, Pink Lady, Dorsett Golden) on full-size root stock, but they just don't want to grow quickly. Same soil, same treatment as every other tree in the orchard/food forest gets, but growth is exponentially much slower. If it were just one tree, I'd think it was just a failure-to-thrive plant, or a bad location. But all of them . . . slowwwwww growwwwwwwers.
 
Ed Colmar
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Howdy everyone.

Mark Shepard talks about apples and diversity in some of his videos. I recommend finding them. He does a much better job describing this stuff than a few lines of text.

A quick mention at 2:19:00 in this video
There are more though.

Apples from a nursery are grafted clones. Clones are problematic for a number of reasons, especially as the genetics age. And, the continuous hunt for suckers is annoying.

Diversity is good. Apples are amazing at producing diversity from seed. It's easier, and cheaper, and better. Yeah you'll get a bunch of biomass (for free) from trees that are not delicious, and maybe you'll discover the next great apple variety.

Sure, buy your favorite apple from a nursery. Then start planting seed.

Protection. I protect my trees from deer with trimmed branches from other trees. Deer hate going through prickly brush. Just place the cut end of the branch near the trunk of the tree you want to protect with branch tips facing outwards, and then stack.


 
Becky Proske
Posts: 43
Location: Wisconsin, USA (zone 4b)
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Hello Clay,

I consider myself in the beginning stages as well. I've been adding more apple trees to our property over the the past 3 years. I just added a Liberty last year which I grafted onto B9 rootstock. Still way too soon for me to report on likes and dislikes. Liberty has a vigorous growing habit. I heard this from another Wisconsinite who has been orcharding a lot longer than me. I've also learned that Priscilla is another variety that might do well under organic management.

If you are still shopping for trees and wish to find something local to Wisconsin, Woodstock Nursery might be worth a look. Its a source I decided to try this year. http://wallace-woodstock.com/

Mulch, water, nutrients and protection. These are the things you will want to think about over the next couple of years if you want to give your trees a good start.

MULCH
Mulch will retain moisture, nutrients and keep the competition at bay. I've been mulching my young trees with the surplus organic matter that is available to me. This has been straw, lawn clippings, dry leaves and twigs. I mulch generously in spring and fall and replenish it as needed during the summer, expanding the mulch ring beyond the drip-line. I am transitioning to a living mulch around my trees planted in 2014. I will be adding more low growing, spreading perennials to compete with the grass this year.

WATER
Newly planted trees will need water during dry spells through the first growing season. General rule of thumb is the equivalent of a 1 inch rain per week (about five gallons).

NUTRIENTS
Amendments will depend on your soil type. My trees are in soils that range from clay to loam (more or less). I have added compost before mulch after planting each tree. I also add more compost in fall when I expand the mulch area. I also save egg shells and crush them before sprinkling around a tree.

PROTECTION
Animal protection - Deer and rabbits are a concern for me. A physical barrier is the best choice in my opinion. I have come to favor a large ring of hardware cloth around each tree. I've also used plastic snow fence, but hardware cloth is still needed to keep small animals from the trunk. Plastic fencing is floppy and needs more posts than the hardware cloth. It functions best as a temporary barrier and I use the snow fence during the seasons I see a lot of browsing damage from deer (fall, winter and spring). I remove it for the summer months for better access to the tree. The ring of hardware cloth remains all year. Once the trees grow taller than the deer can reach I will stop this practice and just keep a small ring of hardware cloth around the trunk.

Winter protection - I bundle up my young trees in fall to shield them from the temperature extremes caused by winter sun. Plastic burlap bags wrapped around the tree and tied with twine has worked beautifully for me. I will tie the tops to the hardware cloth for support if I feel the bag adds too much weight. I will remove this in Spring when temps rise. Last year I removed it too soon and observed some bark damage on my Ribston Pippin. This year I am waiting a little longer and may not remove the covering until our night-time temps dip below freezing less often. I don't wish to continue doing this as the trees get older and hope to figure out ways to mitigate this issue naturally.

I have found the book The Holistic Orchard by Michael Phillips to be a great resource in this area.

PS: I attached a photo of my Golden Russet as an example.
 
Mary Wildfire
Posts: 9
Location: rural West Virginia
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I live in West Virginia, so will not recommend a nursery; and many other things might be different, too. I have a strong fence around my vegetable garden, and five-foot chickenwire around my cropfields, but my orchard only has hardware cloth rings a couple feet tall around each tree, and pea gravel in a ring a foot or so in diameter around the base so rodents and borers will ideally be exposed, and that has sufficed. I have free range chickens, and I didn't want to exclude them from the orchard; they help with ticks and grasshoppers and probably other bugs. If you lived here, I'd tell you not to plant this year at all because of the 17 year katydids--but I don't think Brood V extends to WI. I fertilize my trees with humanure, and sometimes something stronger (the humanure is low nutrient because little urine gets in the buckets). My three dwarf apples grew quite fast, swiftly outpacing the two semidwarf and one standard pear--this may be partly because I was so cautious as first about fertilizing or pruning pears because of fireblight. But we got hit with fireblight two years ago and it turned out it affected two of my apples, had no affect on the Priscilla apple or any of the pears (Blake's Pride, Potomac and Moonglow)...I had chosen all the varieties with disease resistance as my top consideration, and have never sprayed any of them with anything. The two affected apples were Enterprise and Goldrush--but they only lost some branch ends, nothing major. I actually want to urge you to get a Goldrush, as this is my pride and joy. It seems to bear heavily every year; it started younger than any other tree, bore despite losing half the crop the year of the fireblight, bore after a May frost that killed all the other fruit one year, and last year with none of those problems I had to thin it heavily three times and still had a couple broken branches from the load. TheGoldrush apples have less insect damage than the other two, and are very crisp, juicy, sweet, spicy, and are possibly the longest keeping of all apples--my last few are in the rootcellar now, in late March. Enterprise has been pretty good, another disease-resistant one with big red apples, a little earlier, but has fewer fruit and more insect damage. Priscilla is an early apple and is okay (I prefer late, hard apples). I thought standards might be better in some ways, better rooted (you need a permanent post for support for a full dwarf) but I have to admit certain chores are difficult even with these ten foot dwarfs...I recommend Phillips' first book, the Apple Grower. It's loaded with the spirit of one called to his vocation...but not so full of the woo-woo stuff as the second one.
 
Erica Wisner
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My Wisconsin uncle backs up the idea of using two short fences, or an enclosure about 5 or 6 feet across, as an effective deer barrier. They had some kind of study a while back, using temporary little fenced-off areas for deer exclusion, and he said with these tighter fenced circles (about 6 feet across) they reported that only one brave, young buck tried to jump into a circle and eat. He jumped back out again and didn't try it again - that tight of a take-off and landing is just not fun for a critter that likes a quick escape route. You may be able to do similar things with some flagged string or wire, like you do for hawks over a chicken run. Break up the "runways" so they can't get a clean jump in or out, and it can be a more effective physical and psychological barrier for less total material and cost. A 5-foot "chicken moat" around big garden areas doubles as a deer fence.

My in-laws' orchard has done pretty well with an 8-foot vertical fence, here in inland WA. But in bad years for deer, or good years for apples and gardens, the neighbors report that some of their deer will Fosbury-flop their way over an 8 foot fence. If they are determined enough, eventually they can bend over the tops of high fences.

Voles, rabbits, etc. have been observed in the gardens, but have not done much damage to the fruit trees that we've seen. We tend to keep two boisterous dogs on the property, and they get excited about critters even if they can't get to them. (Doesn't have to be a trained LGD, any mutt can bark at deer.)
The fenced orchard area doubles as a dog turnout when we all have to leave home the same day, but our leggy mutt can jump the fence as good as any deer, so it's not quite perfect.
(280 yards of 8-foot fence with one 10-yard run of 6-foot fence is as good as a 6-foot fence.)

We have more problems with frost and drought (and privately, my begrudging opinion, with shallow watering and anti-mulch gardening practices by my well-meaning mother in law, who would rather have a co-dependent garden than learn to develop self-tending plantings). So all my tree planting experiments for low-attention gardening are dependent on really hardy stock to survive really crappy first-year tending. We are often gone for weeks or months at critical times in the garden. If you're a good farmer, and given that you're in a much friendlier climate for summer humidity, you will probably have far better success than we do. And we would not likely have any relevant experience of what blights to avoid - very different, arid-summer climate.

In the open meadow area, I've tried using brush piles to protect new trees, with some success. There are currant bushes that are browsed to the ground across the meadow, but survive as puffball-trimmed shrubs in the center of a "driftwood" pile (old logging slash) that the deer and horse can't quite reach past.
I got distracted with wildfires and publishing, and killed off some of the starts from lack of water - but the sticks are still there, so deer didn't get 'em. I also used some cayenne pepper spray on some of the starts and not others - seemed to help OK but I don't have live trees to show for it, just intact sticks. Might be voles in those piles, come to think of it, it would be a perfect place for them. I know there are ant-hills in some of them (not that I suspect them of killing trees, but they like the undisturbed, uncompacted earth there).

In the boggy pond area, I've had some success planting larger quantities of new trees - rooted willow cuttings - so that the deer and moose can browse the outer ones without killing all the inner trunks. I get free willow trimmings from a local farm, so it's not much work to keep shoving sticks in the mud and feed the moose.
If you can get cuttings to root (using willow-water for rooting "hormone," or the hard-core stuff), or have another way to get a lot of surplus planting material, or if you can use scrubby trees or thorny scrub of other varieties to protect experimental plantings-from-seed, this might be of interest for half-wild, half-food-forest areas. I could see using a thorny plum thicket as the outer guard for a mixed-fruit stand, and then putting up a "stile" where you can get in to tend, pick, and aggressively prune the interior. (Maybe a gate made of thorny branches, or something like that). Haven't done that yet, but all in good time.

Thorny fences are used a lot for livestock control in areas where metal fencing is expensive; in combination with guardian dogs, watchful humans, or other active deterrents, they're a useful option for defining the protected/"dangerous" zone and concentrating the deterrent effects of your guardians.

Good luck! Have fun with it.

-Erica
 
Cj Sloane
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Location: Vermont, off grid for 22 years!
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I highly recommend buying the Permaculture orchard. Digital Download is available and worth every penny ($15? a steal at that price). http://www.permacultureorchard.com/
Here's a clip:
 
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