I really want to get into fruittrees, but it seems it will get expensive fast. Just looking at local nurseries 5 trees will run me about $150 - mostly money I don't have or am unwilling to spend (quite poor). On the other hand if I just do a few trees every year it will take a long time to get a food forest going. Any advice on getting some fruit trees for cheap?
" With all the changes, nothing changes, no matter what you're told."
Often you can get younger trees from mail order for much less than local nurseries charge. At the end of the season a lot of the larger nurseries even have year end mark downs.
Don't underestimate the potential for starting your own trees, either. If you want a particular named variety, I believe a lot of people on here have had good success with planting seeds for the root stock and then grafting scion wood onto the established plants. Scion wood can be much cheaper than whole trees, and if you have one established tree you can harvest scion wood from that. You might even know someone who can offer you prunings off their existing trees. You might even be able to start trees on their own roots by rooting cuttings.
If you take some time to walk around your local businesses and parks you would probably be amazed how many fruit and nut trees are used as ornamentals. If you can get starts from these, they can be another good source. In own area I know where figs, pears, pomegranates, loquats, kumquats, pecans, and peaches grow. I'm not sure about the pecans, but every other one of these is a good candidate for rooting cuttings. I probably wouldn't bother with the peaches, because they grow well from seed.
Rain tree nursery sells rootstock (dwarf, semi-dwarf, etc) at around $3.50 ea. I've ordered from them and all their stock survived for me. They are going to take a few years to reach the size of tree you would get from someone like stark bros., but the price is right and if you want a smaller, earlier producing tree they will give you the final result you want.
I've found that my semi-dwarfs after a few years tend to give me sprouts from the roots, which I dig down carefully and cut off. Replanting them elsewhere give me a clone of the original rootstock. Once your trees reach a little size, your prunings in early spring can give you all the scion wood you want.
I haven't used any of these sources for scion wood, but I've grafted before and it was really easy and all of mine survived. If it doesn't make it, that's $4-5 bucks on an experiment. Most of them will make it. You Tube it. Make sure you have good contact between the cambium layers and immobilize it and tape it with the wax tape to prevent drying out. The only real problem I can foresee is if you wait too late in the year. You want to graft them before they start budding out.
There is also T budding and chip budding, which I understand can be done later spring or summer, but I've never done that.
The one thing I would comment on is don't get rushed and dig a tiny hole and stick the tree in with mainly just dirt. It's way better long tern to dig a bigger hole and really give it something richer to start it out on. It'll grow much faster!
I just ordered 3 Antonovka trees. In fact, they are due to be delivered tomorrow. It is a little more of a long term plan, but Antonovka are used for rootstock, as well as growing true to type from seed. If you bought one, you could take cuttings from it and grow your own root stock for free and then use cuttings from apple trees you like to graft onto them, while growing more from seeds once the tree starts to produce. You could easily do hundreds of trees this way for the cost of a few years and that first Antonovka tree. You would also need a pollinator tree, but that could come from a crab apple cutting that you can find nearly anywhere.
"People may doubt what you say, but they will believe what you do."
I just replanted my first seedling trees and another seedling raspberry. The two redbuds and the raspberry were underneath my black pines and had no room to grow. I found a nice Montmorency Cherry seedling my raspberry patch. I also found a tree that's either peach, plum, apricot, or cherry. Finding free trees and plants is fun. It will be interesting to see how the turn out. It's a little late and warm to be transplanting trees, but they didn't have room to grow where I found them. I'm keeping them shaded.
My county soil and water conservation district sells, once a year, young (18 inches tall or so) trees and shrubs for $1.10 a piece. Mostly large shade trees, in a reforestation effort, but also fruit and nut trees. I learned about the event by a sheer accident, searching for permit information.
City does the same, this year they had $17 Zestar apples (5-6 foot tall) which were sold out while I still was deliberating, and I wouldn't have learned about it if I didn't get on the city forester's mailing list.
...take from me the spirit of sloth, despair, lust of power, and idle talk
Companion Planting Guide by World Permaculture Association