This is my first post here and I figured I would ask a good one...
I am buying land to start a homestead in Northwest NJ. The first order of business in the spring should be to plant fruit and nut trees. Im in hardiness zone 6a. I have about 500' stretch on the west side of the land. This strip is facing north-northwest with a pasture on either side. I want to do a double row of trees and Im thinking the best thing to do is to put the tallest trees up north and work my way down in height towards the south-southeast. Different trees have different spacing requirements and spread, but I will probably go with the widest spacing and run the trees in straight rows.
Im looking to plant nuts, maybe almonds, pecans butternut etc. Apples, apricots, cherry, pear, peach, plum, and some others if someone gives a suggestion. I have a list but I figured I wouldn't taint the suggestions of others.
The goal is to vary the ripening times as much as possible for eating fresh and Im hoping to sell produce from the farm at a market etc. and I don't want all the crops to come in at the same time. Also, most varieties need another tree to pollinate, so I need to pair them to cross pollinate. Im also planning on having bees, so they will help out a lot. Also, Im worried about diseases, like cedar apple rust but Im not too sure of common diseases in other trees. I would like to go as organic as possible for a couple of reasons, I don't want to buy chemicals, I don't want chemicals in my food or land, and I want to be sustainable.
Does anyone have any suggestions on layout, tree selection, etc. Does anyone have any experience, good or bad, with tree varieties as far as disease etc.
- I think your idea with the tallest trees on the northern side and sloping down towards the south is good; that's what we did too.
- To shelter against the northern winds and to provide early pollen for your bees, densely planted hazelnut bushes would be a good idea. Also pussy willow. To quickly create solid shade where needed and also support the bees, paulownia or catalpa.
- Look also into elaeagnus (umbellata or multiflora) as a large bush that is at the same time a windbreak, nectar for bees (mid May, nothing special), edible (in September) and a good companion / nurse plant for fruit trees (fixes N). In my experience they are really excellent in improving the growth of young fruit trees.
- Another super plant: black locust tree. Extreme bee forage in mid May. Firewood. Chop for mulch. Seeds for chickens. Good weather resistant timber. Loves to grow, if you have problems with it it's more about holding it back than keeping it alive.
- Beware of juglone spreading by roots of trees from the walnut family - usually the stone fruit trees can live with it (plum, quince, peach...) but not for example apples (elaeagnus etc can serve as a buffer in this situation also). You can also put some of the berry bushes, such as currants, around the walnuts - they will not mind neither juglone nor shade.
- Mulberry can also be next to walnut trees and has other uses (creates light shade, has edible leaves and of course the fruit - depending on your taste)
- For the bees, maybe some summer flowering trees: euodia (bee bee tree), japanese sophora, koelreuteria, vitex; and for the autumn, seven-sons tree/bush (heptacodium). Remember that bees will rarely work a single specimen - you need to create a large target.
- Almonds are maybe a bit adventurous in 6a? Unsure, I don't have first hand experience as I've always considered this bound to fail.
- Hardy figs? That's definitely possible and it does not come with a tradeoff regarding taste - they can be perfectly tasty. Bayernfeige Violetta, Desert king...
- Lots of vitamin C + healthy oils = seabuckthorn (can also serve as windbreak and leaves can be used for tea). Very undemanding. Somewhat tricky to pick.
- Long season ("autumn fruiting") raspberries for the bees (and people . In my opinion the best cost/benefit fruit by far. Easy to maintain, great taste, loves to grow, flowering/fruiting from end May into October with usually a 2-week break at midsummer when the action switches from last year's to current year's branches. Autumn Bliss is a classic and very good. Polka is even better. The taste of Joan J is, I'm told, the best but haven't been able to try it out yet.
- In a not-really-wine-country location, Regent is a grape cultivar that can grow well and it's good both as a table grape and for juice / wine. It's an interspecific hybrid, no foxiness, vinifera taste quality. There are many others but this is the one I've been impressed with.
- As to disease, I would say that instead of pondering what substances can be allowed on your trees the best bet is to choose cultivars that are tolerant/resistant. I probably can't be of much help there as I've noticed that the variety of cultivars of fruit trees for sale in continental Europe (my locale) vs. the English speaking countries are often quite different. Also, note that in the first 2-3 years, trees can be like very young babies - all the trouble that comes by tends to stick to them whereas later on they become more robust.
Well, uh... Basically this has been a quick overview of what we do at our location which is also 6a. Don't want to be biased, it's simply what I have to offer. I'm sure others will join in
posted 2 years ago
I think I have the bees covered. I want to plant a double row of just food producing trees on the border of my property to keep them out of the way and to provide a curtain on the one side of my property that's open. They will take 3-5 years to even produce a morsel, that's why I want to get them in as soon as the ground melts in the spring. There is farms all around for the bees, they will have food.
I was wondering about different diseases for certain trees. I know the internet has butt loads of info, but it doesn't seem to be practical experience. If a tree is listed as hardy, does that mean its resistant to certain diseases? I have some experience with cedar apple rust on apple trees. I know there are apples resistant to rust, but are they good apples? Are they storing apples or eating apples?
Im not familiar with other fruit and nut trees, their diseases and how much of a problem the cause. Ive read about fire blight, but I haven't seen someone writing about dealing with it or treating it.
Im sure there are people out there that have fruit and nut trees that have had to deal with their diseases that can chime in. And there has to be people that have fruit trees that have never had a big problem that can give me some suggestion.
One thing about my location is that I don't see any signs of orchards near me, Ive driven around and there are no signs for apple picking etc, and Ive looked on google earth. Everything is pasture, corn, etc. So picking up a disease from an existing orchard isn't a big concern. Im sure there are fruit trees near me on peoples properties, but nothing that jumps out.
posted 2 years ago
I forgot to add... Figs are a great idea! Im going to look into them
As to bees - I'm sorry if you've been at this for X years and here's little old me in my only 3rd year of beekeeping getting smart with you, but I don't know that so I'll just go ahead and say it, maybe it's for the good.
- By the time oilseed rape which is usually the first crop to flower in zone 6a gets started, the overwintering bees should already have started developing. For those early stages hazel and pussy willow are great. They cover February and early March. In our locale they are considered essential. But possibly this is also influenced by the fact that we only keep Carniolans since Slovenia is where this strain comes from. Carniolans are known for extreme swings in cluster size - very small and low consumption in the winter and explosive development in the spring.
- Apart from usually not being there in the earliest spring, farm forage is also not particulary varied - there are not that many plants in a given year on the local menu. A wide variety, especially of pollen sources, is a good thing.
Moving on - if a tree is listed as hardy, in my experience this usually relates to surviving a freezing winter. A tree with known good tolerance to various blues would be called "robust" or "healty". If the cultivar is actuall resistant / immune, not only tolerant, to certain problems, that would be listed explicitly, being an excellent thing.
However, also remember the saying that the difference between theory and practice is that in theory there's no difference, whereas in practice there is. For example, one of our apple trees is the cultivar Nela, an older release from the Czech breeding program [ http://www.ueb.cas.cz/en/content/station-apple-breeding-disease-resistance ] which concentrates on bringing together field resistance to apple scab and improved taste. You might have heard of Topaz - in Slovenia it's the standard of scab-resistant, market quality apples. Well, one of the previous generations is Nela. In our orchard it's been great until a really wet year came along. It has had scab that year and it's been so-so ever since. And that's not an early childhood problem - it's an 8 year tree grafted on a seedling.
One apple cultivar that comes from the USA (or Canada?) seems to do particularly well here - Enterprise. The leaves stay in super shape, they are almost plastic. Sadly, its taste is not as super as its resistance to disease. It's a good apple and fit for fresh consumption after 3 weeks or so after picking. But if the taste were of the same standard as leaf health it would be out of this world. Also, Goldrush (Coop 38 ). William's Pride is also good; the leaves can look spotty but it doesn't get critical. It's somewhat given to watercore. I'm told more potassium would prevent it. Again, I'm hobbled here by the fact that the US and continental Europe have a largely different set of cultivars. Try this as a starting point - http://msue.anr.msu.edu/news/a_review_of_apple_scab_resistant_varieties_for_commercial_growers and http://www.orangepippintrees.co.uk/ for descriptions of many many cultivars including disease behavior.
In our orchard we have 3 lines of disease-tolerant/resistant apples:
- the American line: Enterprise, Goldrush, William's pride
- the Czech line: Nela, Rajka, Topaz, Ametyst
- the "old traditional Slovenian" line which means old German / Austro-Hungarian: Kronprinz Rudolf, Winterrambour, Rote Sternrenette, Batulenapfel, Prinz Albrecht, Purpurroter Cousinot
All of them are doing well except Nela as described; all are eating apples but are also fine for cooking / cider / vinegar. Preferrence is a matter of taste. For me, William's pride, Goldrush, Topaz, Kronprinz Rudolf and Prinz Albrecht are the standouts. I like apples in which both the sugar and the acid are strongly represented.
I don't know about cedar apple rust since, I believe, we don't have that around here. (Doesn't mean we're in apple growing heaven... Especially on flat low lying land where cold air likes to accumulate if it decides to have one last go in late spring.)
Fireblight is primarily a pear thing. Presumably Harrow Sweet is immune. We have the cultivar but not the disease - anywhere in the orchard - so I can't talk about experience. There's an insect that causes damage which eventually starts looking very much like fireblight, causing many false alarms.
Nut trees - you're in 6a so look for late blooming walnut cultivars. Some new French ones are excellent (Fernor for example).
In peaches, apart from selecting a curl-resistant and tasty cultivar (in my limited experience nothing is 100% immune *and* tasty but it's possible to get tasty + almost-truly-resistant, such as for example Benedicte), try to go for the ones that come true from seed. Peach trees are, in the poetic words found once upon a time on Gardenweb, "just not that excited about life" and might need replacing often. In Europe there are many local historical cultivars that have all these properties - resistance, taste and coming true from seed. I think I read once that of the US cultivars, Amsden comes true? Try it out and let me know since it's also started to be available over here recent.
Actually, you can take that as a general remark: if possible get a fruit tree that grows on its own roots. It's a bonus for vigor and health. It's a super sized bonus with peaches and apricots but it's a plus with all trees.
This completes my brain dump for now BTW, what I know of New Jersey is that it exists. So I've been relying on your being in zone 6a as the main guiding point. Hopefully I haven't spend many words on things that totally don't apply to your situation. And as you go on developing your land and accumulating experience, remember, it's good to be good, but it's great to be lucky.
I'd go for maximum variety of species and the most disease resistant of each. I won't buy any grafted trees without knowing what rootstock they are on and if it's suitable for my site. A lot of nurseries don't know or won't say what rootstock they are using. Dwarf trees aren't as hardy or as long lived, so I'd avoid them since you have plenty of space. I like raspberries and blackberries. They taste great, produce much faster than trees, and like some shade from the trees. I'm adding thimble berries next week. They sound interesting but not real productive this far south.
posted 2 years ago
There are raspberries on the property so I will see what blooms fruits out next year. I have 10 acres of forest so and I am planning on planting blueberries etc on the boarder of the pasture.
I am not planning on buying any dwarf trees at all. The standard sizes of the trees ive been looking at range from around 20' all the way up to 50-60' for the nuts. I don't want them shading the other trees when they start reaching for the sky, hence my plan on putting them on the north side of the orchard.
posted 2 years ago
Thank you for writing such a long post. The info there is what I was looking for. I will research the trees you suggested and see whats available. And thank you for the links, I am checking them out now. I have all winter to research and plan, but spring will be expensive and busy, but that's the fun part.
Practical knowledge of an apple, like the enterprise, is exactly what I was looking for. Putting 3-5 years raising a disease resistant tree, then having the fruit not be what I expect, will be very depressing and a waste of time, money and resources.
I hope more people can write about their fruit tree experiences.
Don't forget to explore your vole situation prior to planting... And rabbits / deer (you mentioned a forest).
Regarding ungrafted trees, apples (and several others) don't usually come true from seed, so how do you keep the cultivar and have it grown on its own root? Here's an interesting bit from orangepippin:
"Hugh Ermen developed several techniques for propagating own-root trees. One of the most successful involves grafting a section of the desired apple variety on to a conventional M27 rootstock, which acts as a temporary "nurse root" to get the own-root tree started. The resulting combination is then planted out in the nursery, but much deeper than usual. The M27 rootstock provides the initial growth, but the scion soon develops roots of its own and because these are naturally very vigorous, they soon out-compete the M27 rootstock which eventually dies away. The tree then continues to grow vigorously on its own roots."
posted 2 years ago
Oh yes, there are plenty of deer. Im planning on initially protecting each tree individually because they will be small. The orchard will be about 500 long and at least 50' wide, so trying to protect the entire space will be cost prohibitive in the beginning. Ive had great success in the past with making a circle out of chicken wire and things like that. I think the important thing is to not let the deer know they can't eat the trees, that way they don't see it as a food source and they wont fight to get in.
It might be a battle, and I might lose some troops but I think I can win the war.
Congrats on the homestead! I'm in western NJ too, Hunterdon county.
Sounds like you got a bunch of good advice already.
Just a few ideas from your initial post:
Almonds should be no problem. Depending how far north you are you might have a hard time ripening pecans every year.
Apples are tough around here if you are going no spray. I have had a lot more success with pears. That being said I do have several apple trees and some years are better than others.
To see a quicker return we started with a lot of berries. Grapes do pretty well around here as well.
Again congrats on the homestead, keep us updated on what you decide to plant.
I would check out Okios Tree Crops, and Fedco trees. They both have trees and shrubs that will love NW NJ. I have ordered from both of them for my place in southern NH which is a little colder but tend to have the same plant diseases and predator pressure as NJ.
Also don't underestimate the deer. They have been defeating my 7 foot fencing and seedling protection for the last 3 years.
Look at some of the natives like blueberry, american hazelnuts, chinquapin chestnut, paw paw, high bush cranberry, butternut, hickory, elderberry, mulberries and beach plums. They all will have a better chance at thriving in NJ.