During the dark mornings of January and February here in New York, I am up early reading.
I make do with a pretend kitchen fireplace. 😉
I’m up early throughout the year, but January and February seem to lend themselves to study. Right now the topic is fruiting trees.
This is the year we are hoping to plant our fruit trees. Finally! One, we have wanted to have a better understanding of the property around our house (we moved here autumn 2017), and two, buying the trees and other accoutrements are not cheap. It won’t just be the trees, but also: fencing (that cost is significant); additional compost; stakes; maybe hard cloth and wood chips; and deer netting. All of this is in addition to the garden compost and new fencing for what we plan for be the “third garden” – a space separate from the orchard. So, budget is a consideration. Still, it will be at least three years until the trees start to bear fruit, so we have got to get going on this.
I have been corresponding via email with one Finger Lakes nursery. We may source our apple, pear, apricot, and peach trees from there, but we’re still vetting places. We are going to purchase “rootstock” trees to plant. I’m learning about M.9 vs. M.26 apple rootstock, self-fruiting, and pest control. I’m also slightly concerned about our “western wind” here, so want to make sure the trees will stand up to it. (I so know that they will end up growing at an angle…)
What’s This M.9 Versus M.26 Thing You Speak Of?
From New York State’s Cornell Cooperative Extension:
Common apple rootstocks include:
M.9—A strongly dwarfing rootstock that produces a very short, 8- to 10-foot-tall tree… It needs a soil with high water-holding capacity and good drainage. Plants should be staked or trellised, and they are very susceptible to the disease fire blight. Trees grown on M.9 rootstock can bear fruit the second or third year after planting and reach full production in six years.
M.26—Produces slightly larger, 11- to 14-foot-tall trees that tend to be poorly anchored in the ground. Trees must be planted in well-drained soil but cannot tolerate very dry conditions. Trees grown on M.26 rootstock can bear fruit the second or third year after planting and reach full production in six years.
M.7—Produces 15- to 18-foot-tall trees with deep roots. But if for any reason the soil has a restrictive layer, trees will be poorly anchored. Roots also are susceptible to root rot and crown gall diseases. Trees will take at least one year longer to fruit than those grown on M.9 or M.26 rootstocks…
– Cornell Guide to Growing Fruit at Home, pages 15 and 16.
- Apple (Honeycrisp and Gala? Liberty – supposedly scab resistant?)
- Apricot (Goldcot)
- Peach (maybe Madison and Reliance?)
- Bosc Pear
As mentioned before in a previous post, we’re in planting Zone 6a (surrounded by Zone 5b) here in NY. Our property lies at the bottom of a sloping valley, so our property is very wet – especially from now into early summer. In our region, the soil is also quite clay-like. We do cultivate vegetable gardens successfully, but we use raised beds and plant directly in compost. We also practice no-till gardening. We’re convinced that this “planting on top” is the reason for our growing success. We’ll have to plant the trees on raised beds as well.
We get a lot of direct, full sun here as there are very few trees on our property. That will be a good thing. The west wind is pretty intense here. I have some concern. But, hopefully by choosing trees that will not grow as tall, this will be less of an issue.
Today, I walked around the property and considered three different “orchard locations” for our 6 to 8 fruit trees. I not only considered the placement… but the current state of our sponge-like soaked property.
By the Lower Garden: Here’s a shot of about 40 paces out heading west of the Lower Garden.
Very wet. You can see how saturated the ground in this section of the property is by looking at my footprint.
We could run the orchard to the north or west of the Upper Garden. It’s definitely less wet, but I’m not as crazy about this placement.
Footprints below indicate it’s not as wet by the Upper Garden, but it is closer to the road – which means closer to salt truck activity in winter. I don’t know how much of a difference that will make, but I try to think of everything that could impact the tree growth and fruit production.
We keep revisiting an idea of placing the orchard to the north of the house. Our concern is space and fencing. And even if we have enough space there, do we want the tall fencing so close to the house AND the orchard close to the property line?
So much to consider – and that’s not even the half of it. I do have some concerns that perhaps we should have planted a cover crop in the fall to over-winter and help prepare the soil. However, if we were to wait and do that now, we won’t have fruit growing for four years versus a possible three. There’s no guarantee that we will have any more success.
I’m still learning and the permanent decisions have not yet been made. We still have some time. But the planning has begun, the questions are being asked, and the ideas are being mulled over.
It’s a good time to do it.
What about you?
Have you successfully planted and grown your own fruit trees? What varieties are you growing? Or, what do you plan to grow? I’d love to learn from you – please share in a comment below!
A couple of resources:
- UMaine’s CCE: Rootstocks and Dwarf Fruit Trees (concise article)
- New York State, Cornell Co-op Extension: Cornell Guide to Growing Fruit at Home
Before you go, enjoy a couple of photos – totally unrelated! 😀
Photos taken with my Canon PowerShot SX530 HS Camera.
Hide and Seek with Birds
Bird on a Wire (Almost)
Sounds like a plan. Being raised on a farm, I enjoyed climbing trees and eating apples. We also had a pear tree, though I do not know what kind it was and also a peach tree that didn’t do really well. But there were quite a few of the apple trees, and I remember my mom making a lot of canned apple sauce for winter. My dad had purchased the farm on a Veteran’s loan after his being in the WWII and part of it at the time was she had to have at least 500 quarts canned of vegetables and fruit for the year. I don’t know the reason for that but remember the man coming to the farm to check. She also canned venison. She worked very hard doing it all but I don’t remember her complaining. She loved canning.
Hi Mom! That’s so interesting! I never knew about the “required canning” Grandma had to do! We’ll need to talk about that offline sometime soon.
We’re hoping that the trees do well here. Between the gardens and the trees, by the time Gordon retires, I hope we’ll be growing and putting up most of our “groceries.” 🙂
Bekah L Marten
I love to hear when people are doing their research about plant and site selection! It saves you so much heartache and stress in the long run, and it makes my Master Gardener heart sing 😉
I would imagine that your local county extension or Ag University has a list of disease resistant apples, pears and peaches that are recommended for growing in the area. I would highly recommend tasting the varieties you plan to grow. (that’s a lesson to not learn the hard way). Years ago I planted a Liberty apple in our backyard. Planted it in the right spot, pruned it, stripped the fruit the first two years to allow good root development, etc. And then on the third fruiting year, I could finally pick and eat my apples. Problem was, I didn’t like them. We don’t live on property, so I don’t have space to devote to fruit trees that produce apples I don’t like. So, I took the tree out and now our chicken run resides in that space. I did plant some columnar varieties (two types of Sentinel apples – red and yellow), near our grape vines, and I do like the taste of those 🙂
One more note, I know it can seem overwhelming when you are reading all of the publications about what needs to be done to prepare for and plant trees (and smaller plants as well). It feels like there’s almost too much to think about and that you can’ t find the right spot, sun, variety, nutrients, etc, etc. I always try to remind myself that the university publications are giving us ideal situations. But everyone’s growing situation is unique. And then there’s just plain old reality….we can’t do it all. So, determine what are the priorities for that particular plant (like you might not want to plant in a soggy winter area if you will be out there doing dormant season pruning? Or, at least incorporate some drainage into that area), and then make the best decisions you can from there. What do plants need most? Can the space you choose provide that?
Happy Learning and Planting!!
Hi Bekah! I read your post and about did a face palm… TASTE the variety first! I cannot believe I didn’t think of something so obvious. You have such a good point! We better plant fruit trees that we both like. I’ve never had a Liberty apple, and in truth, I’m not sure if I’ve seen them at the grocery store. I will look the next time, but the name doesn’t ring a bell. So thank you for pointing out something very important to think about – and something I missed!
I’m with you on picking the best location and knowing that the instructions laid out by a resource such as the Extension are talking about the ideal – not always the actuality. Mr. Gordon paused and wondered if we should wait another year and “prepare” the ground. I said I’m willing to take the risk and do everything else we can to support good health and good growth. We won’t need to buy anything until April. My neighbor hasn’t had a lot of luck with his because of the deer, so ground conditions aside, I think that will be our toughest challenge.
Thank you for stopping by! Will we see you this week over on Chicken Librarian’s blog site for book club? Link: https://chickenlibrarian.com/animal-vegetable-miracle-part-3/
Happy day to you!
Bekah L Marten
There are SO many varieties to choose from. Dozens of which I have never seen at the grocery store. It might be worth asking around at any of the farms near you who sell apples. Liberty apples are highly recommended for growing around me because they are resistant to so many issues (scab being the main one), unfortunately I didn’t like the actual apple! There is a Home Orchard Society group near us that has a tasting each fall for apples, just so that people can get a taste of what they possibly want to plant. Then in the early spring you can come back and purchase scions/rootstock based off of what you liked and the size of tree you wanted. There is an orchard near us (45 minutes away) that offers U-pick apples in the fall. They grow 120 different varieties of apples!!! It’s crazy. We walk up and down the rows just to look at all of the different apples. Have fun exploring your many choices!
I saw (and read) your post on Kristin’s blog. Very well written! I’m hoping to get over there today and leave my two cents 😉
I love a good plan (have I mentioned that before?!?!) but I do tend to wait until the last minute to decide something…like ‘I think I’ll have a garden this year. Oh, it’s May! Let’s just get things in the ground!”. But I admire your dedication to learning and thinking through the possible scenarios. When I read about the different rootstock that you presented to us, I thought M.9 was the way I would go.
As far as placement, I don’t have a clue about that either. We have a big field that is not being used and I was talking to the owner of the property about doing an orchard there. The only issue is that it is so close to the road that it might draw in illegal hunting (i.e. deer eat the fruit unaware that someone is on the road with a gun). So there’s that to think about for us. Our soil tends to be rocky. And acid. And more clay-like.
Anyway, I’ll be awaiting your final decision and why you chose that spot! Nicely done Tracy!