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)