Help! - I'm planting an orchard

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Hugh
Posts: 26
Joined: Sat Apr 07, 2012 8:21 pm

Help! - I'm planting an orchard

Post by Hugh » Sat Apr 07, 2012 8:47 pm

After years of being out of the plant/horticulture world, (I was a nurseryman 20 years ago) I'm now retired (sort of) and want to plant an orchard here in Western Montana. The area is zone 5a and I know that from time to time some very low temps have been recorded. I'm thinking the lowest temps over a 50 span are in the area of -35F. This is rare and low temps like that last for a day or so. The elevation is 3400 feet, the growing season is 110 days, and the last average frost is about May 20th. This area was at one time a big Macintosh growing area. The Mac production was abandoned because of a severe drought several decades ago. We now have ample irrigation do to a ditch system.

The soil here is a sandy loam, Ph 7. The USDA rates it as "prime farm land." We are level, in a valley, however there is a slight slope to the property and it drops a small amount across our property from east to west, only slightly, a possible 3 feet and continues to drop for several hundred yards towards a river, with a total drop of about 30 feet. Is this good? I don't know.
Our place is 10 acres and I would eventually like to plant about 7 acres in apples. I am interested in "high density" planting on dwarf rootstocks.

My questions are about varieties and rootstocks.

I would like to test several varieties and want the ones that will, of course, sell. If I could recover my expense in a few years and then make a little I would be super happy about that.

So far, I'm thinking about Honeycrisp, Zestar, and ?? If anyone has any ideas about layout, varieties, rootstocks, etc, I would appreciate it very much.
Thanks, Hugh

Chuck Rhode
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Joined: Tue Dec 20, 2011 11:25 pm

Re: Help! - I'm planting an orchard

Post by Chuck Rhode » Sun Apr 08, 2012 9:41 am

Hugh wrote:I would like to test several varieties and want the ones that will, of course, sell.
Ah, yes -- the commercial imperative. Have you considered doing your own processing? Apple varieties for sauce, jelly, and cider in craft-size batches will be different from those needed for produce sales.

48° — Wind WNW 17 mph

Hugh
Posts: 26
Joined: Sat Apr 07, 2012 8:21 pm

Re: Help! - I'm planting an orchard

Post by Hugh » Sun Apr 08, 2012 10:35 am

Thanks Chuck. My wife has mentioned sauce, cider, etc. Seems like this adds another layer of complexity and expense. I love to watch things grow but not so much cook or ferment.

Greyt.Chase
Posts: 77
Joined: Tue Jan 31, 2012 12:29 pm
Location: Mid Michigan

Re: Help! - I'm planting an orchard

Post by Greyt.Chase » Sun Apr 08, 2012 8:37 pm

You could always look at apples grown by the University of Minnesota. They have produced many varities and the climate zone is lower than 5a. I'm from Mid-Michigan and zone 5b (maybe 6 if you look at the new maps) and many orchards around here grow Northern Spy apples. Jonathon is another good one...slightly tart and more on the firm side.

This website has a ton of info if you dig into it. Lots of info on varieties, rootstocks, and just about everything else. I just planted my first trees a few weeks ago on MM111. It's a good rootstock for northern climates.

dmtaylor
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Joined: Thu Mar 15, 2012 8:12 pm

Re: Help! - I'm planting an orchard

Post by dmtaylor » Sun Apr 08, 2012 10:43 pm

You really can't go wrong with Honeycrisp. It's the huge name in apples right now, is easy to grow in 5a, and sells for a high price. And it's so juicy, it is also ideal for making cider (sweet or hard) if you are so inclined.

Two others you should look into:

SweeTango. This is another Honeycrisp style apple, actually a blend of Honeycrisp and Zestar. There's so few of them around at the moment that if you can plant a big orchard of them right away, they might be the next big thing and fetch a premium price for years to come.

Opal. Not sure if these are good to Zone 5a but it's worth looking into. These are bright yellow apples that actually have Golden Delicious as a parent, but they taste far better than the best Golden Delicious you have ever eaten. I think they should become the new standard yellow apple. They also have a taste and crunch that is very similar to Honeycrisp. I think this apple could become the next big thing. Another similar yellow apple to the Opal and another Golden derivative is the Sinta apple. These are definitely good to 5a, and again, taste far better than Golden. Bottom line is I think some people (especially Americans) have some certain hankering for beautiful yellow apples that also taste good, and if they ever figure out that Golden is a mediocre one, they might easily switch over to something like Opal or Sinta or even Grimes Golden (an older variety).

Americans shop with their eyes. These days we/they are indeed getting smarter, but they will always and forever continue to shop with their eyes more than anything else. Remember that. I'm not saying you should plant 4 acres of Red Delicious. I'm saying you really need to get something that looks great but tastes great too, in order to be successful now in the 21st century.

Best of luck to you in all of your endeavors.

Hugh
Posts: 26
Joined: Sat Apr 07, 2012 8:21 pm

Re: Help! - I'm planting an orchard

Post by Hugh » Sun Apr 08, 2012 11:18 pm

Grey and dm,
I have spent the last 16 of the previous 24 hours on the net searching. The U of Mn does have a lot of good varieties for my area. I have ordered about 25 Honeycrisp and have a few Zestar coming. So far, I have 16 varieties, about 4-5 of them from the U of Mn. Sweet tango is not available to just anyone, their is some special license involved. dm, I will hunt down those varieties you spoke of. Thanks you guys...

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PA_Docent
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Location: Glen Rock, PA United States

Re: Help! - I'm planting an orchard

Post by PA_Docent » Mon Apr 09, 2012 2:12 am

Ginger Gold - sport of Golden Delicious but not so sweet, crisp, yellow apple with reddish blush. Should be easy to grow. Plan to add to my orchard on a one acre lot. I used this site and Trees of Antiquity to select the trees I grow. Mike
Calville Blc,Hewes,Nehou,Fearns P,Siberian,Cox OP,Spitz,Ananas Reinette,BdB,Kingston Blk,Tremlett's,Muscat de Bernay,Ashmead's,Rambo,Stayman,Macoun,Jefferis,Winesap,Red Berlepsch

dmtaylor
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Re: Help! - I'm planting an orchard

Post by dmtaylor » Mon Apr 09, 2012 7:30 am

It's definitely worthwhile looking at Maple Valley Orchards & Nursery for good varieties to grow in zone 5a. The owner, Tony Dembski, has a lot of experience with hundreds of varieties in zone 4b. I've been lucky enough to have tasted about 40 of them so far. Many are stinkers but a few are so good, I don't know why we can't buy them at every local market.

Greyt.Chase
Posts: 77
Joined: Tue Jan 31, 2012 12:29 pm
Location: Mid Michigan

Re: Help! - I'm planting an orchard

Post by Greyt.Chase » Mon Apr 09, 2012 10:07 am

I ordered my trees from http://www.TreesOfAntiquity.com. They have nice information on their site which tells what zones they grow, if they need pollination, a description the apple, and more. I don't know if you plan on going organic, but the trees they sell are organic. I like that many of their apples are heirloom varieties. That was something that appealed to me.

Unfortunately, much of their stock is already sold out. That might not be a bad thing. I've read that it's good to go slow at first. You don't need to plant the whole thing this year. Get some in the ground and take care of them. Over the next year, you can try to get your hands on multiple varieties to taste and figure out what you want to plant.

Hugh
Posts: 26
Joined: Sat Apr 07, 2012 8:21 pm

Re: Help! - I'm planting an orchard

Post by Hugh » Mon Apr 09, 2012 5:45 pm

I found a very helpful nursery, Cummin's Nursery and they put together an order of over a hundred trees for me; some Honeycrisp, Sansa, Macoun and several others. Very nice and knowledgeable people.

http://www.cumminsnursery.com/

I also found some Zestars at another nursery. I'm now in neck deep and hope I can learn it all!

Chuck Rhode
Posts: 51
Joined: Tue Dec 20, 2011 11:25 pm

Re: Help! - I'm planting an orchard

Post by Chuck Rhode » Mon Apr 09, 2012 10:55 pm

dmtaylor wrote:It's definitely worthwhile looking at Maple Valley Orchards & Nursery for good varieties to grow in zone 5a.
I've attended several of Tony's seminars and tastings, too. All 20 trees in my backyard are from his nursery. Most were bench grafts.

For yellow apples you might consider Honeygold.

Tony quotes Seed Savers Exchange (mostly):

"Hardy substitute for Golden Delicious developed especially for cold northern areas. Golden Delicious flavor - Haralson hardiness. Medium to large golden to greenish fruit with very smooth finish and reddish bronze blush. Flavor is sweeter and more bland than Golden Delicious. High quality. Superior storage qualities. Moderately vigorous tree. Crop is good. Susceptible to fire blight. Hardy to -50 degrees with occasional winter injury."

Tony spells it Honey Gold and claims an introduction back during the Great Depression.

Seed Savers spells it Honeygold and claims an introduction by University of Minnesota (#1595) in 1970.

37° — Wind NNW 12 mph

Hugh
Posts: 26
Joined: Sat Apr 07, 2012 8:21 pm

Re: Help! - I'm planting an orchard

Post by Hugh » Thu Apr 12, 2012 8:51 am

Thanks everyone. I have about 17 varieties on order now. I'll post observations from time to time as I become more knowledgeable about apples...

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