How many apple/black walnut seedlings to start?

selenareneephillipsMarch 27, 2014

Hello everyone,

This is my first post on garden web! I am planning to start some black walnut and apple trees from seed in containers. I figured that I would have some fun growing my own rootstock use them to learn how to care for the trees and how to do grafts. So, my wild idea is to grow them in containers until they get too big for them and later transplant the trees into the ground. Or give them as gifts to friends and family who have land where they can thrive.

I am a total novice and I will be leaving the trees in containers for approximately 4 years. Ideally, I want at least 2-5 apples and 2-5 black walnut trees to survive transplantation into their final destination at that point. I plant to multi-graft the apple trees with a variety of apples.

I know that I am going to be getting a mix of genetic heritage from these seeds because they will not be commercially grown rootstock of known origin. Therefore, I fully expect many of my initial batch of seedlings to die because they are not strong enough to survive and numerous others will die due to my inexperience and difficulty of growing non-dwarfing trees in containers. And then transplanting them from containers to the ground will be challenging and I may lose yet more trees doing that.

So, how many seedlings should I start of each type to have the best chance of getting enough good, healthy plants that win the genetic lottery and to have the best chance of having some still standing after I subject them to my inexperienced care?

-Selena

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
toronado3800 Zone 6 StLouis(6)

Neat project.

I ordered some Cornus florida (dogwood) seedlings from our state department of conservation. They were quite affordable and I killed a few trying to graft buds and scions from my mature pink dogwoods onto them. Can't remember if it was ten or twenty five but the more the merrier.

The walnuts.....If you order generic native Juglans nigra black walnuts you will get vigorous trees which have a very difficult nut to crack. I own a bunch. They grow faster than you would think and in my thicket / woodline have attractive irregular branching patterns. Juglans regia is the English, Persian or Carpathian walnut. It is supposed to have a easier nut to crack. I know next to nothing about it.

The apples...... They will probably be a bit less useful if your grafts don't take. I understand we are pretty spoiled in what we expect our apples to look and taste like!

BTW, Walnuts release a substance called Juglone which inhibits the growth of some plants. I can't speak personally for apples but I know there are tons of lists out there which are somewhat contradictory.

Here is a link that might be useful: Google Juglone toxicity

    Bookmark   March 27, 2014 at 11:39AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
selenareneephillips

I plan to try grafting black walnut cultivars bred for nut production onto the walnut seedlings, so if they live through the experience, the nuts produced should have meaty, tasty and have thinner shells than wild walnuts. I grew up in KY near a large wild sown tree and I've had experience with the labor of harvesting these things, but they are so tasty that it was well worth it.

I know about the toxicity of the black walnut tree, but that shouldn't be a problem since they will be in containers for a few years and they will be transplanted to a location where they won't affect other desirable plants/trees.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2014 at 12:13PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

lets go basic here ...

have you ever grown a tree in a pot???

if not.. then order about 5 for every one you wish in 4 years ... not unlike me.. lets presume you will have a high mortality rate ... on the learning curve

if i were you ... i would learn about potting media... pot sizing ... watering.. etc ... all specific to trees in pots ...

then i would buy some seedling trees and pot them up ... timing is imperative ... we deal in this circumstance with dormant stock

and finally.. do understand.. that if you are going from tree seed to grafting... you might be talking more along 5 years... before you get to proper size... see link ..

you might want to try the fruit forum in regard to apples.. and the availability of ready to go root stock ...

for a minimal investment upfront.. will save you upwards of 3 to 5 years IMHO ...

i hope you spend many hours researching all this ....

ken

Here is a link that might be useful: link

    Bookmark   March 27, 2014 at 12:37PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
canadianplant

Nothing wrong with growing apples from seed as long as you realize the odds you getting a desierable apple are slim to none. You did say that they will be rootstock, which is a good idea as well if you know that they will be quite large trees (unless you just so happen to get a smaller one through the seeds, which again the chances are slim). It is however a great way to practice grafting.

One more piece of history that may help.... The vast majority of apples types were found as chance seedlings, most of which were directly related to the seedlings jonny appleseed planted across the midwest.

My apple seedling was ready to graft last year, this is its third year.

The one thing I dont get is grafting walnuts. Im sure there are some great named varieties but arent most walnuts good to eat seed grown or not?

One thing I would highly suggest is look up plants that arent harmed by jugalone. You can actually get away with planting some plants that are usually harmed by it by making a buffer "hedge" with plants which do tolerate it. I believe one of them is black locust, which will also help the trees grow`. Hostas can as well... google it there is a good list

    Bookmark   March 27, 2014 at 1:32PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
selenareneephillips

ken:

I've been doing tons of research on this subject for weeks now. I know there are lots of issues to keep in mind for potted trees -- nutrition, frequent watering, protecting them from root freeze during the winter and using special pots for the walnuts so that the taproot doesn't get all curled up in the pot, etc. I know all about how apples don't breed true and will need to be grated to get good apples.

I know that seed-grown trees will be huge at full size. When my husband and I move to our rural paradise in a few years, I want to plant these trees and have them grow into enormous giants that our children and their children can enjoy all their lives. Dwarf trees are cute, but I want majestic towering beauties.

I want to grow from seed to get the full experience from start to finish in caring for trees. It all looks like a really fun process to me which is why I'm doing it the slow way. There's something really exciting about throwing a bunch of seeds in pots and just being surprised with what grows. I know I could get predictable results from nursery raising seedling in less time, but there's less adventure and discovery in that process.

canadianplant:

There are indeed named cultivars for black walnuts which were selected for superior nut production -- size, taste, meatiness and thinner shells. I might keep a couple of wild ones, but I want to practice grafting too. There are named cultivars that were selected for superior timber production too.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2014 at 3:43PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
lucky_p

selenarenee,
Email me off list to discuss the BW thing.
KY nutgrower here.

    Bookmark   March 27, 2014 at 6:19PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
brandon7 TN_zone(7)

Selena,

It sounds like you've done a lot of your "homework" on this subject, but I want to throw a couple of things out for thought. Growing seedling apples for rootstocks is fine for a learning tool, but these seedling rootstocks are likely be inferior to commercially available rootstock cultivars for a number of reason, not just size. Even size may be something to rethink. You are much much much more likely to get more edible fruit from smaller trees than larger trees. Larger trees are very hard to spray and maintain and there are multiple harvest issues. I haven't gone into all the details, because there are many, but just wanted to throw out a red flag in case there are things you're overlooking.

The second thing I wanted to throw out is that, in many areas of the country, Thousand Cankers Disease is taking it's toll on black walnuts. I will link a distribution map below.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   March 27, 2014 at 10:37PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
selenareneephillips

brandon7:

I didn't want to buy seedlings from commercial rootstock for a couple of reasons:

1. Expense. I'm a novice and will likely kill a lot of trees in my learning process. So, it's really cheap to growing from seed and work with those trees. I have a few things I wanted to learn along the way -- how to grow trees in containers and have them survive. How to graft and how to properly prune trees.

2. The element of surprise, even if it's not pleasant and the rootstock ultimately fails. There's a lot to learn in failure too.

3. I hate monoculture.

When my husband and I move to a rural area, we can always buy older trees from nurseries and dwarf trees that have a quick payoff in terms of fruit production. By that time, I will know a few things from doing this experiment and hopefully I will be better prepared to care for those trees.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 11:57AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
brandon7 TN_zone(7)

I understand. Your first two reasons make perfect sense, and I kind of figured that was your thinking that, BUT I also noticed that you wanted to use the seedlings for "gifts" and to "have them grow into enormous giants that (your) children and their children can enjoy all their lives." The seedlings might work great for learning, but I don't see them (at least the apple seedlings) as working well for the other uses.

I just wanted you to go into this endeavor with as much info as possible. It seems that you've done at least twice as much research as the average person would, but there's always more to learn. I learn plant stuff every day. Most of the time, it's the day right after I really needed to know.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 1:37PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

I've been doing tons of research on this subject for weeks now. I know there are lots of issues to keep in mind for potted trees

==>>>> great.. too many peeps shoot into GW ... on a whim.. and want us to provide a doctoral thesis with little or no research on their own ...

and i always prod them to find that out ...

i like the idea of you playing with seed ... but understand.. if you get them to go .... you might have a 6 inch tree by fall .. 12 inches by next fall ...

i still suggest.. you try at least a few from a mail order source ... even a 10 to 15 dollar investment.. will make a difference ...

keep us posted ...

ken

    Bookmark   March 29, 2014 at 6:37AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Campanula UK Z8

don't listen to the nay-sayers - I am doing exactly the same thing. Yes, there are tons of things to consider (rootstock size, precocity of crop production, different cultivars, soil mixes)....but you are embarking on a process, an adventure. Plough you own furrow, have some fun and learn as you go along on the job.

Use deep pots, at least 5 litres. The seedlings (half a dozen or so to each pot) can stay there for a full year after germination before splitting and transplanting. I planted 126 x 5 litres pots with around 40 different tree species- my biggest investment was the loamy mix (John Innes, flint grit, moss peat). Mostly, the seeds were locally found and the pots were old rose pots.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2014 at 6:53AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
brandon7 TN_zone(7)

Campanula, who are the "nay-sayers"? I don't see Selenareneephillips mention anyone saying not to grow the seeds, nor do I see any such recommendation here. Did you take some of the information above as a recommendation not to grow the seeds?

    Bookmark   March 29, 2014 at 12:03PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
selenareneephillips

"I understand. Your first two reasons make perfect sense, and I kind of figured that was your thinking that, BUT I also noticed that you wanted to use the seedlings for "gifts" and to "have them grow into enormous giants that (your) children and their children can enjoy all their lives." The seedlings might work great for learning, but I don't see them (at least the apple seedlings) as working well for the other uses."

They will be grafted with good varieties of apples. The seedlings themselves are just for rootstock. Our families own some rural land where large apple trees have room to grow. We also plan to buy some acreage for ourselves within a few years, and we hope to take some trees in pots to plant on that land.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2014 at 10:06AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
brandon7 TN_zone(7)

They'll grow to be large pretty additions to the landscape even if you don't get much edible fruit from them. Even fruit that most people wouldn't eat (buggy, damaged, etc) can be appreciated by wildlife.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2014 at 12:00PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Alder tree has bark curling, cracking, and falling off
One of the Alder trees on our property in northern...
rocko_54
500 ft Privacy Fence/Screen trees advise
I have a very large property line that I would like...
zrodimel
Growing Hickory and Hican for Nut Production (3)
Continuing from part 1 and 2 (maximum posts reached) Good...
gardener365
Indoor Dogwood Tree
Hi, I'm looking to grow a dogwood tree indoors in our...
timandpao
Tree Removal Plan
Hi, I have a 100ft Silver Maple in my front lawn. It...
ACharles
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™