Questions for orchard enthusiasts

gardengalrn(5KS)January 18, 2010

I've read here that several of you maintain orchards. I plan to finally order some trees this spring. What kind of orchards do you have and what do you do with the produce (home and/or market)? I plan to start small and see how I do and mainly the produce would be for my own use and family/friends. I understand that I need to take care when ordering to make sure the variety is suitable for my area. Where do you order from? I have catalogs from Miller's and Starks, as we don't have any local nurseries that carry fruit trees. I plan for 3 or so apple trees of different varieties, a couple sweet cherry, a peach and probably an apricot or plum. So, probably just 8-10 trees this year. Are the peach trees suitable to this zone 5 (Reliance, etc) quality peaches? Any thoughts or ideas on varieties, plan, and management would be appreciated. Lori

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eric_wa(San Juan, z8 WA)


Wow! where to start.

Nursery catalogs: I like Raintree, Burnt Ridge, One Green world. These are all fairly close to where I live. Cuts down on the food miles. The last couple of years our local hardware has had great deals.

Puget Gold Appricot, Frost Peach, Methley Pum, Discovery Apple, Shinseiki and Dan Bae asian pear, Orcas (european) pear, and Quince. These are just a few of my trees that have produced very well over the years.
These are some of the smaller tree / bushes I like: Viking Ariona berry, Sea Buckthorn, Sweet Scarlet Goumi,Captivator gooseberry, and Goji berry.

You should not only be carefull on variety for you zone, but root stock for you soil.

Pears and quince were popular at the Market last year 2009.


    Bookmark   January 18, 2010 at 11:32PM
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What does one do with quince? I think I've seen posts over on the harvest forum so maybe I need to look there as well. I think I get Raintree (or have in the past, don't think I have this year yet) and One Green World which I haven't looked at enough to see they have trees and not just seeds. I like pears as well, mostly as sauce because I don't like the texture of some for fresh eating. People made fun of me in years past for putting up peach and pear sauce, saying it was baby food. Well, so what if it is? Apple sauce is the exact same type of product, right? Lori

    Bookmark   January 18, 2010 at 11:52PM
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eric_wa(San Juan, z8 WA)



I've canned peaches and apricots, and made sauce out of them later. Freeze them too.

I make a mean pear - quince cider, if I don't say so myself. :~)

I sold most of my quince to a local restaurant. He reduces them down into a sauce for salmon. I believe he wants my whole harvest this year. Two trees.


    Bookmark   January 19, 2010 at 12:12AM
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brendan_of_bonsai(4b AK)

A few tart cherries in with the sweet would be a good idea. Sweet cherries are said to be fussy (too cold for em here) and tart cherries make wonderful pies and wonderful additions to sauces and a variety of recipes.

You might also consider cross posting in the Fruit and Orchards forum which has almost as much traffic as the harvest forum.

    Bookmark   January 19, 2010 at 5:53AM
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Sounds like a good idea, Brendan. I actually love the tart type cherries for eating fresh as well...I love all sour/sweet things. I will check out the Fruit and Orchard forum when I have a little more time, seems logical ;) Lori

    Bookmark   January 20, 2010 at 8:29PM
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Planting the trees is the easy part. Proper pruning and spraying on schedule and other maintenance is the real work. I have to admit I was a failure in this regard.

    Bookmark   January 20, 2010 at 10:37PM
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dethride(7a / 6b GA)

Welcome to Fruitdom! I have a small orchard and have learned much about what to do and not to do.

Here's some suggestions:
Ditch the idea of sweet cherries. Too demending, then you lose a whole year to a late frost or birds. Tart cherries are great and taste wonderful when you reallllly let them ripen. Birds love them, though.

Find out what does well in your area (just reinforcing you here) and get at least half of your trees in that group. Unless you can change the weather at your place, it can be disheartening to NEVER get a crop after a decade of trying.

Stagger fruit harvests by choosing varieties with increasing ripening dates. WIth apples, get something that you can't buy at the grocery store like Red Delicious, etc., but, having said that many "store" varieties are better when home grown! Get a "russett" variety - wide range of tastes and tend to be less trouble. Lots of good heirlooms to choose from that are tough enough to stand up to diseases and offer a wider range of tastes and textures. Blemished fruit can be cut around!

The late an apple ripens, the longer it will store, generally. Don't be afraid to prune! You can't hurt the thing and it invigorates them. But learn when and how. Dwarf rootstocks get you fruit quicker, but need more care to stake up and some can't get their feet too wet. Semi-dwarf's take a year or two longer but give you a longer lasting tree that can be managable.

Learn how to bag fruit! Cuts down on spraying and protects from fungi and bugs. Easy and cheap!

too much to list here! my mind froze!

    Bookmark   January 21, 2010 at 11:53AM
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Very good info here, thanks a bunch. I think I will skip the sweet cherries and stick with the pie cherries for now. All the info I've gotten here and in my reading has said how fussy they are and we have had some really unpredictable weather this year. I can only hope it isn't a lasting trend but you can never tell. I also have a source in the spring for the sweet cherries which up until now, I have only eaten fresh and not put up in any way. So, seems logical to wait on those and see how I do. I prefer a tart apple but my family loves the sweet so I'm trying to pick a good variety. Has anyone tried the Cox Orange Pippin? Sounded kinda good. Lori

    Bookmark   January 21, 2010 at 9:53PM
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brendan_of_bonsai(4b AK)

If you have room and funds too you might not want to give up on sweet cherries entirely. Just don't put all your eggs in that basket. Home growers can get sweet cherries and they can be delicious.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2010 at 4:43AM
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luke_oh(zone 5 NE Ohio)

I'm with Brendan, don't be discouraged by another's opinion. My neighbor has a couple of sweet cherries and we look forward to them each year. Just like anything, some years are better than others. There's lots of info out there on a backyard orchard and I'd visit the fruit and orchard forum here at GW. there's people there from all phases of orcharding and very good advise from experience
I just got started last spring and they were an enormous help.


    Bookmark   January 22, 2010 at 1:47PM
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We have a small orchard,We have red delicious,yellow delicious,mac Intosh,my favorite,2 peach,apricot,sweet cherry,sour cherry,2 pear,then I have 3 of the the fruit trees tall no branches,forgot the names,we get apples from them,I have dwarfs in pots all over,Some of the best fruit I ever had.I had one tree wasnt much bigger than 18"was loaded with nectarines,my husband backed over it broke it off .It was loaded with fruit.
i even have a kiwi,but a chipmunk emptied my tree this year and deer ate all my pears,it was loaded,all gone.
I had an elderly lady near me sold fruit trees in Pa.Her family sold fruit trees for many years,many generations .she said her parents always said plant fruit trees on a hillside.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2010 at 9:19PM
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dethride(7a / 6b GA)

Hey, if you really want to try any fruit tree, I'd go for it!

Having said that, ten years ago when I first read gardenweb forums, someone suggested that I would have a lot of trouble getting sweet cherries and the much-touted Cox Orange Pippin apple to bear in my location, I went with my emotions (and tastebuds!) anyway and decided that I was going to be the exception and everything will be alright. 'Twas not to be!

GENERALLY speaking, sweet cherries do better in the west coast climate where the extremes of temp, humidity, and other factors are tempered by the big 'ol Pacific Ocean. And as much as I wanted a tasty Cox apple, my climate in no way resembles the cool, misty conditions in England. In ten years, I got ONE apple that tasted decent, but was turned mealy before I could throw the core into the compost pile. I'm overstating it a bit, but there's something to getting fruit trees that produce well for your efforts. I have a Methley Plum that has not produced a single plum in ten years due to early and erratic frosts, but maybe this is the year! I've covered it with tarps blankets, heat lamps, all to no avail. Maybe it's my micro-clime, but if ya can't stop a cold blast from the north about blossom time, you'll get zip.

It's still fun though! There are ways to adapt! I learned from the Fruit forum that instead of pulling up my Cox, I could "topwork" it by hacking off the limbs and grafting on a variety that does well in my area and it worked great!!! And I learned grafting! This year, I expect to get a lot of Ashmead's Kernel apples off of it.

Here's my opinion in a nutshell - try some varieties that you WANT, but like I said, do at least half of your trees in varieties that are proven for your area. Had I taken this advice ten years ago, I would have a more productive orchard. Not all that time was wasted, as in the Cox example, but my sweet cherry addiction has failed beyond words. But maybe, just maybe, THIS year will be different!!!

Good Luck! And go visit the Fruit and Orchard Forum, lots of great folks over there!

    Bookmark   January 23, 2010 at 9:17AM
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eric_wa(San Juan, z8 WA)


I'm not rubbing it in, but my Methley plum is so load every year, it tears branches off.

In this photo a major branch snapped.


    Bookmark   January 23, 2010 at 9:25PM
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dethride(7a / 6b GA)

Show off!

Man, I wish I could break a few branches around here.

Let's see, where do you live? Ah! WASHINGTON STATE!


    Bookmark   January 24, 2010 at 8:36AM
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colinade are type fruit trees with no limbs,neat.I have all kinds of dwarf,plum,peach,apricot,cherry.Theyre cute sitting on driveway,porch,especially with fruit.I use the fruit tree spikes for the fruit trees.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2010 at 9:41AM
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eric_wa(San Juan, z8 WA)

colonnade or columnar.


    Bookmark   January 24, 2010 at 1:47PM
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colonade,tall,dont have branches.I have 3 different kinds,

    Bookmark   January 28, 2010 at 9:48PM
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eric_wa(San Juan, z8 WA)

yes, I was just being over critical on spelling. sorry.

Many nursery call them columnar


    Bookmark   January 28, 2010 at 10:53PM
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There are several things you should consider. One of the most important is to get the right varieties for your area. Your county extension should have that information.

Find out what they need for a pollinator because if you limit yourself to just three apple trees, and pick them out just because you want that variety, then you need to be sure there is a tree close-by who can pollinate it.

If you're serious about fruit production, then you don't want to get smaller than semi-dwarf.

Consider frost dates and in Kansas I think that's especially important. Your early bloomers could have their buds frozen out. I lost all my peaches this year, and a good deal of my apples from a late freeze. This is the first time that has ever happened, but once in a while it just will..........nature is unpredictable. But, you hedge your bets as best you can.

I keep enough trees for our own purposes and I do a lot of baking, canning, juices and jelly making. Likewise I share with my family things like eggs and fruit and they share theirs with me. So, know your consumption to be sure you have enough.

I have four peach trees. Two established and just planted two more last year. Ten apple trees. Just one sour cherry, because the stock several years back when I was installing them, had something 'going on'. Prolly from the same supplier and it was bad. The birds get my cherries every year anyway. LOL. I plan on ordering a rip of them....about a dozen because they're beautiful trees anyway. The more you have, the better chance you have of getting enough left to harvest. And I have a lovely Medlar plum tree, three or four quince trees, and a persimmon. The apricot......well.......I suspect it wasn't true to type because the fruit never survives, gets frozen out.

That's not my fault, it was the supplier. The most important issue is finding a reputable source. I had two supposed sugar pear trees and when they fruited up the first time, I chain-sawed them down. They were bradford pears, labled wrong. Man was I peeved. Years wasted is the big thing and then two spaces taken up in my little orchard for crap trees. The same source also sent standard apple trees and charged me for semi-dwarf. You don't find these things out until they're established and in the ground and then it's too late. I'd have had to move my whole flipping orchard. I am fine with standard trees, I'm a professional gardener and have no qualms about ladder work, but that meant they're spaced closer than I'd like.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2010 at 5:48PM
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