Nick LeClair

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since Jan 21, 2018
Father, husband, farmer, amateur plant breeder, cider maker.
My climate is somewhat unusual, living in the mountain foothills. Long winters, very short and very wet springs and autumns, dry summers with very hot and humid days, but rarely turning into rain, it makes growing things difficult to say the least. Seed companies don't usually offer varieties for my specific climate, so I have to breed my own, saving seed from what grows best for me. The ground is very rocky, so raised beds are required.
I have a cider orchard, and more than half of the trees are seedlings that I have selected for disease resistance, bug resistance, and vigor.
The plants that I am currently trying to breed are apples, plums, squash (c. pepo), cucumbers, and melons. All open-pollinated, and seed is saved only from the best examples.
Western Maine, zone 4b, mountain foothills
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Recent posts by Nick LeClair

David: I would be happy to send you seeds when they are ready. You mentioned Bud 118 and Antonovka rootstocks. You might find it interesting that neither do well for me. Bud 118 is almost always dead by the end of the 2nd year, as I have found it to be very susceptible to black spot canker. And Antonovka almost always runts out around 4 feet tall. Probably not coincidentally, snow only accumulates here to around 4 feet at the highest in the winter.
2 years ago
Taking root cuttings is also a common way (and my preferred way) to propagate pome (apples, pears, quince, etc) rootstocks. In the spring before the plant wakes up from dormancy, take a cutting of the root which is at least 6 inches long and at least one half inch wide. Be very careful not to separate the root "skin" from the woody core. Take note which end of the cutting was closest to the root crown. Plant the root cutting in soil straight up and down, making sure to leave about one inch of one end (the end which was closest to the root crown) stick out into the air above the soil. Do not let the soil dry out.
2 years ago
Judith Browning:  I do indeed think that it is worth trying. I think that at least some the seeds from OCM-21 should grow well for you. I hope they do anyway.
2 years ago
Apple seeds from my best 3 seedling trees (Western Maine zone 3)

These seeds come from seedling apple trees which grow well for me in the mountain foothills of Western Maine. USDA  zone 3. The coldest part of winter can get below -30F, and the hottest part of summer can get above 120F. In my localized climate, the winter is approximately 6 months long. Spring and autumn are very short and wet. Spring is often divided into 2 seasons here: Flood Season and then Mud Season. Summer is very hot and humid with little rain. The most common apple diseases here are Fireblight, Scab, Crown Rot, Powdery Mildew, Black Spot Canker, Black Knot, Sooty Blotch. The worst diseases for apple trees here are Crown Rot and Canker.

For reference, most commercial rootstocks are not vigorous or hardy enough to survive in my climate. EMLA 111 is an exception, but cannot withstand the spring flooding and only grows about 1 foot per year. Geneva 969 is an exception as well. G969 grows ok in my climate, and can withstand flooding, but puts on only about 6 inches of growth per year.

I am giving away seeds only, for my best 3 seedling apple trees. No root cuttings at this time. But I need to know in advance how many seeds to save out before the apples end up being sold or pressed for cider. I will send 20 seeds per tree. I am not going to put a dollar amount on the seeds, but a donation would be helpful. So, if you are interested, then please respond with a post and let me know which trees you are interested in, and I will message you for shipping details when the seeds are ready. Shipping only to USA and Canada.

"Little Yummy" - No sign of disease. No vole damage. Seeding tree grows in a site that floods every spring. The fruit is a 2 inch wide yellow and red pearmain, sweet with very slight acidity. Ripens in September. Low vigor. The tree is only around 14 feet tall at around 20 years old. Spur-bearer. Bears fruit every year. Had 2 inch long spikes for thorns when it was young, which disappeared when the tree started bearing fruit. This tree has been propagated from root cuttings, however, seeds will be from the original tree. Very few root suckers.

"Winter Pie" - No sign of disease. No vole damage. Seedling tree grows in a site that floods every spring. The fruit is 2 inches in diameter, roundish, often lopsided, yellow with russet blotches. Spur-bearer. The taste is very sweet, very acidic, and slightly bitter. Makes delicious pies and hard cider. Fruit is ready to pick 1 week after first autumn frost and stores at room temperature until May. Bears fruit most years. This tree grew to over 40 feet tall in less than 15 years. Puts on over 4 feet of new growth per year. This tree has been propagated from root cuttings, however, seeds will be from the original tree. Makes for a decent rootstock, but OCM-21 is better.

"OCM-21" - No "proper" name yet, as I don't sell the fruit. No sign of disease. No vole damage. Seedling tree grows in a site that floods every spring. The summer ground water level is about 1 foot below the surface where this tree is, so the roots of this tree are always wet. The fruit is a 4 inch wide yellow and pink pearmain. Bears fruit on tips and spurs. Not sure how tall it would have grown, since I severely pruned it when it was around 30 feet tall at 9 years old. The fruit is ready to pick 3 days after the first autumn frost. The flavor and texture is reminiscent of Cortland, but the flavor degrades very quickly. After a month of storage, the apple tastes like a potato. Best used for rootstock, or for cider to be pressed within one week after picking. This tree has been propagated from root cuttings, however, seeds will be from the original tree. No root suckers, and the roots are thick, barely flexible, and stronger than oak which makes propagation difficult but well worth it. This is my main rootstock variety. My most vigorous apple tree. This is a solid tree. Grows straight and tall, probably because of the thick, strong roots. Loves water. Grows okay in dry areas too. Puts on over 5 feet of new growth per year.

2 years ago
Not sure about medlars, but quince can be espaliered. Quince on pear rootstock will have more vigor than onquince rootstock.

If possible, it is best for you to know the characteristics of the variety before training the branches, since spur-type fruit trees are trained in a different manner than tip-bearers.
2 years ago
My thoughts are that the tree might not be getting enough sunlight. Apple trees need a LOT of sunlight in order to make flower buds. I have seen apple trees doing the same thing you describe when they were planted in the wrong spot. Instead of blooming, the apple trees will put on a lot of vertical growth trying to grow taller than the trees or buildings that shade it. Apple trees should be planted where they will receive at least 6000 lux hours per day between summer solstice and autumn equinox. 6000 lux hours = 6 hours of 1000 lux sunlight, for example.
2 years ago
100 feet is the minimum distance that my county allows between a septic field and a well, so I am thinking that 100 feet is most likely safe for your situation.
2 years ago
I do not make my own grafting paste, but this is what I do use:

When bench grafting, I just use melted paraffin candle wax, and dip the grafted tree upside down into the wax so that the entire scion and the graft is covered in wax. I use whip and tongue method of grafting so that the rootstock and scion hold together without tape. I find that this works extremely well.

When topworking trees, either older trees or rootstocks that have already been planted, I usually use Oatey brand toilet bowl wax. Very pliable and sticky. Take off a little bit of the wax and flatten it with my fingers and completely cover the graft. It works great.

2 years ago
I believe Black Oil Sunflower seeds contain high levels of oleic acids.
3 years ago