Hopeful Apple Grower with Questions

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Graygan
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Joined: Tue Oct 11, 2011 9:34 pm

Hopeful Apple Grower with Questions

Post by Graygan »

Greetings everyone.

My wife and I have a VERY small postage stamp of a back yard. However, we believe it's wide enough along the back fence line to put in 2 or, more likely, 3 dwarf trees. We are desirous of putting in 2 dwarf apple trees with a dwarf cherry between them.

We are located in Chicago, very near north side. The back yard is a quiet area with very little vehicular traffic and a minor amount of foot traffic on the brick roadway/alley it borders.

South facing. Direct sunlight from about an hour after dawn until an hour before sunset.

So... On to the questions.

What varietals would you all suggest for the climate? We are close to the lake so we are 5-10 degrees warmer in the winter and 5-10 degrees cooler in the summer. Very little direct exhaust on the plants in this area. All our neighbors have fabulous plants.

My wife is fond of transparents and I'm fond of honeycrisp. Are these varietals even available in dwarf form? Would it be a good idea to have two different varietals for pollination purposes?

When it comes to planting the trees. We are hoping to get dwarf trees that are as close to mature as possible. We understand the need to make room for the root balls and to make sure there is ample growing room for the root system(There is). What kind of space between the trees would we need? What kind of care do we need to look forward to for the first couple years until we're sure they've taken to the ground? What kind of normal care after that?

I know about trimming during the late winter/early spring before the tree comes out of hibernation. I understand the arguments for/against the fertilization of the root ball when planting. I understand the need to be careful with how much fruit we let the trees bear.

Would any of you have any suggestion as to where we might find some decent dwarf trees? None of the greenhouses and landscapers I've spoken with have any kind of experience with fruit trees of any kind, let alone apples. I'm finding a decided lack of knowledge on the subject.

When would the best time to plant the trees be? I've heard anywhere from late fall(November) to early spring(late Feb/early March). Both of those opinions, of course, come from the above greenhouses and landscapers who have experience with trees, but not fruit trees.

Thank you in advance for your help. I'll check back every now and again.

adamM
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Joined: Wed Oct 12, 2011 3:09 am

Re: Hopeful Apple Grower with Questions

Post by adamM »

When would the best time to plant the trees be? I've heard anywhere from late fall(November) to early spring(late Feb/early March). Both of those opinions, of course, come from the above greenhouses and landscapers who have experience with trees, but not fruit trees.
Best time to plant tree is on November because then they are "sleeping" and roots are not damaged when moved
Adam

OrangePippin-Richard
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Re: Hopeful Apple Grower with Questions

Post by OrangePippin-Richard »

I am not sure November is the best time for planting in Chicago. It is true that trees are best planted when they are dormant, but winters can be severe in the northern states and it may be better to plant in March-April.

OrangePippin-Richard
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Re: Hopeful Apple Grower with Questions

Post by OrangePippin-Richard »

Graygan wrote: When it comes to planting the trees. We are hoping to get dwarf trees that are as close to mature as possible. We understand the need to make room for the root balls and to make sure there is ample growing room for the root system(There is). What kind of space between the trees would we need? What kind of care do we need to look forward to for the first couple years until we're sure they've taken to the ground? What kind of normal care after that?
It is often better to plant 1-year trees rather than semi-mature trees. Younger trees establish better, and will grow away more quickly, and you will be able to guide their growth more closely to suit your needs.

The spacing depends largely on the rootstock. For semi-vigorous / semi-dwarf trees, you could start wiht perhaps 10ft. Try getting some bamboo canes and putting them in different planting positions so that you can see how the trees might look.

I would also think about the style you intend to train the trees - bush or central leader etc.

Graygan
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Joined: Tue Oct 11, 2011 9:34 pm

Re: Hopeful Apple Grower with Questions

Post by Graygan »

The winters can be harsh, yes... but this year is forecasted to be less harsh. More snow, less of the super-cold where there is no snow. Plus, as I mentioned, we are in the city heat bubble as well as close to the lake so we get the moderating influence there as well.

I grew up in the desert in CA. I never realized how much difference a half mile from a large body of water can have on the local weather.

As to the training/growing of the trees, we are looking for two things. Bushy and fruit bearing. Bushy first, more as a privacy screen than anything else. We will be training the branches to fill out any open spaces. At the same time, we're also hoping we can start getting fruit within 2-3 years.

We are both hesitant to put in 1 year saplings as we've been given to understand it can take upwards of 10 years for the fruit to actually be edible. Granted, as I pointed out above. We are new to this, thus my looking around for information and ending up here.

OrangePippin-Richard
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Re: Hopeful Apple Grower with Questions

Post by OrangePippin-Richard »

Graygan wrote: We are both hesitant to put in 1 year saplings as we've been given to understand it can take upwards of 10 years for the fruit to actually be edible. Granted, as I pointed out above. We are new to this, thus my looking around for information and ending up here.
It depends a bit on the rootstock you choose, but most apple trees will start fruiting at 2-5 years. I think it is best to plant 1-year or 2-year trees in most cases.

CrazyEd
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Re: Hopeful Apple Grower with Questions

Post by CrazyEd »

Checkout Cummin's Nursery in upstate New York, i've purchased about 35 trees from them. They ship them bareroot via UPS, takes a couple days to get to the midwest. Cummin's run a first class operation not only offering the best quality stock but also providing excellent customer service. They have Honeycrisp on a bunch of different rootstocks, B9 might be a good option for Chicago. I have one and i'm in the Milwaukee area. Zestar! is another fantastic eating apple you could consider. Sweet 16 too! Order now and plant first week of april. You could email them and ask for suggestions too.

http://www.cumminsnursery.com/available2012.php

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PA_Docent
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Re: Hopeful Apple Grower with Questions

Post by PA_Docent »

Graygan wrote:As to the training/growing of the trees, we are looking for two things. Bushy and fruit bearing. Bushy first, more as a privacy screen than anything else. We will be training the branches to fill out any open spaces. At the same time, we're also hoping we can start getting fruit within 2-3 years.
I have an Ananas Reinette that requires another apple to pollinate. Ananas Reinette has many leaves on it making it look bushy (see picture from early this year - it has filled out now). It had many flowers produced three apples with two aborting and one to maturity, two years after planting (it was already 1-2 year old tree when I planted). I am growing it on a central leader however it is a slow grower so it only stands at 5.5' in height and about that same in width currently. The central leader is very sturdy and thick. The apple was firm and sweet-tart with just enough juice to make it enjoyable. It might lend itself to your space requirements. If anyone else has Ananas Reinette please comment.
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Chuck Rhode
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Re: Hopeful Apple Grower with Questions

Post by Chuck Rhode »

Culture: Your best bet IMHO is a two-year-old feathered tree, which is a step up from a one-year-old whip. All trees available commercially are going to be scion grafts on dwarfing rootstocks. B9 and M26 rootstocks are the most prevalent. Ceteris paribus, M26 grows a slightly larger tree than B9. Choice of scion/rootstock combination is held to be an art by nurserymen but probably doesn't matter as much to the size of the adult tree as location. Generally M26 is preferred for less vigorous scions. I suspect that, in most cases, what the nurseryman uses for rootstock is what he has on hand, though.

The B9 and M26 grafts need to be supported throughout their life. There are various strategies. Again IMNSHO you should take a look at trellis techniques. Dwarf trees can be squeezed together side-by-side in good light so long as the space sacrificed in the row is made up for in the alley on either side. This will provide the ultimate visual screening when looking across the row, and you can crowd in more varieties, too. I'll tell you where you can see a whole orchard planted on trellises: Peninsular Agricultural Research Station of the University of Wisconsin in Door County on the east side of Sturgeon Bay. They host events, and I imagine they might arrange a visit even for Flatlanders. IIRC trees there are planted on six-foot centers, which is pretty tight.

You might find a similar facility in the University of Illinois system. Pay a little attention to USDA Growing Zones. Door County, WI, and Northern Illinois are in 5b except for the microclimate of urban Chicago, so what works here should work near you, too.

Do not be intimidated by the trellises built for U. Wisc. Those are constructed on a commercial plan. There are cheaper alternatives for homeowners. Be aware, however, that the trellis must stand permanently to support the weight of the mature trees under crop load. It will need to be guyed in all directions. Not for nothing is Chicago called the "Windy City."

Sources: I bought my trees from Tony Dembski north of Gillett, WI, which is north of Green Bay, which is a good long day trip for you in early Spring. I would consult with him in person if possible. Tony can call you when he's planning to dig your trees. Then you can go get them and put them back in the ground the next day after that, minimizing transportation costs and transplanting shock at that vulnerable time of year, March.

Varieties: For feathered trees your choice of varieties will be limited to what is most in demand and available. Tony will prepare custom scion/rootstock bench grafts on a season's notice or whips with a year and a half notice. These are bare-root. He does not seem put off by quantities as small as onesies and twosies. Potted whips may be in stock some years. In spring you may wish to attend his grafting classes sponsored by the Master Gardeners in Green Bay where you can purchase the materials and prepare your own bench grafts. You do have to call or write. He answers eMail only sporadically.

Follow Tony's advice on varieties for northern climates. Be sure to tell him what kind of support system you are going to use. This is the time of year to get in touch with him, so don't tarry.

Tony doesn't think much of Yellow Transparent. (He's in 5a.) I fondly remember them from west central Indiana, but, though, like many of the varieties collected by the Land Grant Colleges in Czarist Russia, they are very cold tolerant, they also need a long ripening season. Try Honeygold instead.

As the short days close down and the time change fades out of conversation, you should amuse yourself with reading about apple varieties. You won't have many choices, and you get to exercise them only once, so you should savor the experience. Be guided by advice, but, before you ask, frame in your mind how you intend to use the crop: cooking, sauce, salad, eating out of hand, juice, jelly, cider, drying, or decoration. The old folks used to have a much broader palette of choices they could bring to bear on these objectives than you might imagine, and many of their favorite varieties are still out there. Have fun!

Vinegaroon
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Location: SLC,UT

Re: Hopeful Apple Grower with Questions

Post by Vinegaroon »

There are many nurserymen who don't subscribe to the idea of fully dwarfing rootstocks for a variety of reasons. Century Farms Orchard, and Kueffel Creek sell almost exclusively on 111 a large semi-dwarf. Obviously this simplifies their life but it wouldn't matter if their customers were dissatisfied. The reason they both sell all they offer annually is because it works. You owe it to yourself to read Dave Wilson nursery's paper on backyard orchard practices, the link should be easy to find. As for planting time if the ground isn't frozen plant. I've planted trees I bought as gifts for people midsummer bareroot in the early spring potted late in the fall it just doesn't matter be careful read a bit they'll take. My preference is one yr old bareroot whips cut'em off at the knees and shape to suit the situation. I'd bet that so close to the lake you could grow mighty fine Gravensteins ,if you've not tried them I would just say you can believe all the good things you'll read. Transparent is a good apple and earlier than Gravensteins but goes mealy very quickly,cook'em or lose 'em, gravs give you a little bit longer use window and a quality dual purpose apple. Having had tree ripened honey crisp and Fuji I would go with Fuji, the same terrific crunch but Fuji in a good year.... Amazing. One of the earlier strains would probably be in order. In both cases ,Fuji and Honeycrisp, the enormous popularity is due in part to great storage and shipping qualities since you don't have those worries you might consider a more obscure choice. Whatever you decide with a bit of care my guess is you're gonna have some of the best apples in town.

Vinegaroon
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Joined: Thu Nov 15, 2012 11:27 am
Location: SLC,UT

Re: Hopeful Apple Grower with Questions

Post by Vinegaroon »

To go further about vendors, I have not bought from Kuffel creek. I have purchased from Century Farms and was mostly satisfied. I have also purchased Dave Wilson trees at retail nurseries and was satisfied. Maple Valley Orchard seems to be run by fine people and I plan to purchase from them this year. One additional source that I have purchased from and would recommend is Burnt Ridge Nursery.

Vinegaroon
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Joined: Thu Nov 15, 2012 11:27 am
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Re: Hopeful Apple Grower with Questions

Post by Vinegaroon »

Gravensteins are triploid so maybe not the best advice unless you know of neighboring apples or crabs for pollination. People say very good things about zestar, another early apple. For cherries there are some fine "pie" varieties mostly all with a self fruitful reputation. Balaton is sweet and very good fresh eating. Evans Bali has a good reputation but I can't say how good from experience. With sweet cherries you're faced with pollination issues unless you go with Sam or a couple others. Pie cherries are much easier to grow and if allowed to ripen fully fine eating plus you can cook 'em. Michigan State has introduced a number of selections from middle Europe that sound fantastic. The older selections from U of Minnesota are supposed to be small trees but I can't comment about fruit quality. Montmorency is reliable and good eating, not a big tree either. I hope some of this proves helpful.

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