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Advice on apple & pear varieties

Posted by jenniferg76 6a MA (My Page) on
Thu, Sep 13, 12 at 23:40

Hi all,

I'm hoping I can get some suggestions for apple and pear varieties (and rootstock for them).

First, the background: my husband and I just got married this year and moved into a new home in Bedford, MA. It has a huge backyard (in our eyes, at least - the lot is .56 acres) and is pretty much a blank slate. The property lines are edged with tall white pines and a few deciduous trees (including maples, but I haven't identified them all). So that means we probably get a bit less sun than is ideal for fruit trees, but enough to make me want to try anyway. We're not concerned with high yield, since these will just be backyard fruit trees and we'll probably have to give away what we can't eat ourselves. The soil is very acidic (5.2 average in back yard) and seems to be moist (patches of moss in the shade, jewelweed growing under the trees in the back, and there's a creek behind the houses across the street). I plan on adding lime soon to bring the pH up a bit.

So that's the environment. I would like to plant a mini-orchard, with two apple trees, two pears (or one self-fertile pear if we could get away with that), and maybe one of the Saskatchewan dwarf cherry trees (Juliet sounded interesting, but I haven't found it for sale online in the U.S.). I would also like to avoid spraying with chemicals as much as possible. The idea of bagging apples sounds like something I might be interested in doing as one way to cut down on chemicals, for example.

I'm a little overwhelmed with trying to figure out both varieties and rootstock. For rootstock, I would like small trees, but not so small that they need staking their whole lives (a few years being staked is ok). Given the conditions described above, and preferring smaller trees, what rootstock seems to make the most sense? For apples, maybe G202, M116, or EMLA 7? For pears, maybe OHxF333?

As far as varieties go, for apples, I think we'd like one tree to have McIntosh-like fruit, since my husband likes those and loves applesauce made from them. For the other, something tasting like a Ginger Gold or Golden Delicious would be great. We also like Gala. I'm not a fan of Red Delicious. I imagine it might be a good idea to try disease-resistant varieties since I want to avoid lots of chemicals. Are there any disease-resistant varieties similar to those named above?

For pears, we both like soft, kind of mushy, juicy, flavorful European pears. He refuses to try Bosc pears because they have brown skin (he's weird), so a brown-skinned pear probably wouldn't be the way to go if we were able to get a self-fertile tree (but would be fine if we got two trees). Any suggestions?

Thanks so much for anyone that reads all that and replies! :)


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Advice on apple & pear varieties

Im also a budding grower, I've done a lot of reading over the past couple of years and accumulated a lot of literature on apple growing, and here is my advice.

Medium height rootstocks, 12-15 feet:
M7, G202, G30, M26

Apples, make sure you get pollinators that are compatible.
Since you have only 2 apple trees, no triploid apples, since you would need at least 3 trees (2 diploids and a triploid) for all to get fruit with a triploid.

If you want to try something different (and better) than MacIntosh (CrapUntosh once you taste other apples), give Jonamac a hard look. IMO its better than both its parents (Mac and Jonathan). If you like Gala, try Kidd's Orange Red, they're better than the best Gala you've ever had based on the ones im eating this year. So much flavor, and umami! Amazing!

Food for thought, if you have space for 2 medium trees, why not 3 smaller trees? (B9, G11, M9) Then you could get a triploid if it comes down to it.

You will probably have to spray (dont fear) to get good quality apples, otherwise scab and insects may leave your fruit inedible. Look at Spectracide Immunox and Triazicide, you can buy them at Lowes. Harvestman has a minimal spray program with these products that involves a month to 6 weeks and 3 sprays for most situations.

Good luck!


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In New England you don't have to worry much about compatibility unless last years early spring is the new normal. Usually there's enough bloom overlap in our short blooming period to assure pollination- even between early and late bloomers. Also if there's nearby crab apples they can pollinate apples just fine.

Pears need full sun to do at all well at shady sites in my experience. They don't get up enough sugar. If you want pears you can probably get decent fruit from Seckel because of it's high sugar. They often bear without a pollinator as well.

I would choose my apples based on what does reasonably well on shady sites. I disagree that Macintosh is crap- in a few more years it will probably be a highly regarded antique with it's perfumed bouquet and unique crunch off the tree. It's not one of my favorites and stores poorly but to some it is the ultimate apple and it can produce in partial sun- so can Stayman, and Baldwin. Other varieties that might work are Zestar, Ashmead's Kernel and Honeycrisp although I don't pretend to have thorough knowledge on what will do well on a sun challenged site.

What may make your endeavor more frustrating than satisfying is squirrels. If you don't have a plan to keep them off your trees and they are a serious presence in your neighborhood it may not be much fun. They may not leave you a single piece of fruit.


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You should do a sun survey of your yard to get a better handle of how much sun it is getting. Depending on how tall the existing trees are and how wide vs narrow the yard is you can get from 4 to 8 hours in the situation you describe. Either check the yard at various times of the day or stand in one spot and imagine the track of the sun. 4 hours is bad, and 8 is fine. It also will dictate where you can plant things, avoid the more shady spots. My back yard is similar to your description (big oaks on either side) and I have areas from 2 to 8 hours of sun and with the bulk in the 7 hour range. Many apples are in 6 hour sun spots, that is not so great but I do get fruit. Gala did well in that spot; I took it out because Kidds was nearby and I prefer it. I am not growing the other apples you mention. Most fruits will sweeten up fine in 6 hours, it is more the lack of productivity and greater problems with diseases due to less sun burning off the water and less vigorous growth. I am now adding trees to the front yard and thinning the ones in the back, there is 8-9 hours of sun in the front.

Scott


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RE: Advice on apple & pear varieties

With that soil, think about growing blueberries.


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RE: Advice on apple & pear varieties

For pears, the guy at the nursery I buy from told me they much prefer OHxF 87 to 333. I'm just starting with pears myself but thought I would pass that along.


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RE: Advice on apple & pear varieties

You can use this handy tool to estimate your sun at different times of the year. Its pretty accurate, uses google maps, I used it for my yard at planning time.

Good luck!

Here is a link that might be useful: Sun Earth Tools - Sun Angle Calculator


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RE: Advice on apple & pear varieties

I second the blueberry recommendation. No spraying required, very minimal bug issues, lovely in every season. You just need to net them at harvest time to keep the birds off.

I planted a Crimson Passion cherry bush this spring, from St. Lawrence Nursery. No fruit yet, but it isn't supposed to get bigger than 6' tall and wide. I got a Gerardi Dwarf mulberry bush, 6' tall and wide at maturity. Delicious fruits that resemble blackberries (in its first year, no less) and no insect or disease problems for me. The birds love those fruits, as well.

Also, consider a 2-in-1 or 3-in-1 grafted tree for the pears or apples. You have to carefully consider the varieties, but I've been happy with Raintree's selection and prices. (Though their shipping is expensive, it's worth it!)

I just ordered a 2-in-1 espaliered pear tree with two of the varieties Rescue, Orcas, and Ubileen (cheaper since the varieties are uncertain, but they all seem like they'd work in my area.). Definitely research disease resistant varieties, I know Ubileen is resistant. It's no fun to lose a tree before it fruits!

If you like McIntosh type apples, consider Liberty. It's disease resistant to apple scab, cedar-apple rust, fire blight, and powdery mildew. You might have extra disease issues with less than optimal sunlight.

Honestly, you might want to look into berries a bit more, since they're lower maintenance, earlier producing, and perhaps more shade tolerant than most fruit trees.


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RE: Advice on apple & pear varieties

I've often touted Liberty here. It ain't a great keeper but I have managed to have pretty decent Liberty apples months after harvest. They are, I think, better than Macs- and we are in Mac country here. But oh dear, do the codling moth ever love 'em!

My yellow delicious (not golden, but the predecessor that is superior in many minds) appear to not attract codling moth at all, and are very very good indeed.

Gold Spice pears do well here. They are small, crisp, sweet, perfumed, easy to ripen on or off the tree and keep reasonably in the fridge.

Multi-grafted pears or apples can work well, but they introduce a level of complexity to pruning that might challenge one. I've certainly had a lot to learn about it. You don't need to start with a multi-graft pear or apple, as they are straightforward to graft to and you could do it yourself if you chose.

Good luck,

Mark


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RE: Advice on apple & pear varieties

Hi Jennifer,

I live next to Worcester, an hour away from you to the west. I think your zone might even be 6b considering it's closer to Boston and the bay.

I started growing fruit tree in my backyard for the past four years. There is so much to learn. Like you, I want minimal spraying of fungicide and pesticide but I am also realistic.

Apples: you can get by with a spray or two of Spectracide/Immunox (not Immunox Plus) against cedar apple rust. Most apple trees around here get them. You can try growing apple varieties that are resistant to rust like William's Pride, Liberty. I have WP and really like it. I may try Zestar next year. Bagging is very effective for me. No need to spray pesticides at all. My WP have fruited within 2-3 years on a semi-dwarf rootstock.

Pears: I have good success with Asian pears. They are easy to grow (no spray, nothing) and fruit in 3 years. I just planted Euro pears this year (Blake's Pride and Harrow Sweet). I've heard Euro pears take at least 7-8 years to fruit. Pears also need cross pollination.

To me,blueberries seem to tolerate more shade than fruit trees. my fruit trees get sun anywhere from 6-8 hrs. Some of my blueberries get only 4-5 hrs of sun and still do well.

Identifying sunny spot will help you to be successful. I did not pay attention to the sun location until a few trees were planted.

You've got a lot of good advice from others on this forum. I wish you the best.


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RE: Advice on apple & pear varieties

megamav - Thanks for the recommendations! I didn't really want the full dwarf rootstock because of the requirement that they have to be staked their whole life.

harvestman - That's great to hear that compatibility shouldn't be too much of an issue here. I'm not sure if there are any crabapples in the neighborhood - I haven't noticed any, but I haven't been looking very hard either. About the pears - I didn't realize that less sun meant less sweetness. I'll have to check out the Seckel, thanks. As far as the Macs go, they're not my top pick, but my husband likes them. I'm sure I can win him over to something better, if it's at least somewhat McIntosh-like. I'll definitely check out the varieties you suggested. I have seen squirrels a couple of times, but I've seen lots more birds and rabbits than squirrels. I'm ok if they eat some fruit, just not all of it!

scottfsmith - I've been trying to keep an eye on the sun we get. I think we get about 4 hours of unimpeded sun in the middle of the day, with a few hours of dappled sun in the morning, and a little more dappled sun in the evening. The pines are bare most of their length, so even though they're tall, they don't block as much light as they might otherwise. If I don't get lots of fruit, that's fine. Diseases don't sound like fun, but I figure it's worth a try at least.

ltilton - Oh, definitely I'm planning on planting some blueberries, I just wanted to get the bigger stuff taken care of first. :)

Sam_NY - Thanks for the info. I think I wrote down OHxF 333 mostly because it was a little smaller.

fruitmaven - Nice to hear from someone who is growing a Saskatchewan dwarf cherry. I liked the idea of a dwarf cherry because I don't really eat many fresh cherries, it's just my husband who would. :) The grafted trees sound interesting, but while I want smaller trees, I do probably have enough room to do a couple of each, and I figured it was probably safer just to go with "normal" trees. I'd read about Liberty some already - it does sound like a good possibility.

marknmt - Another vote for Liberty. I will have to see if I can find somewhere to actually taste some. I do like Golden Delicious a lot - I didn't even realize there was a separate Yellow Delicious - I just thought they were mislabeled.

I'm attaching a pic of the backyard.


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RE: Advice on apple & pear varieties

Shade, what shade? You've got twice as much yard as I have and I've got 50 trees planted! This is what our orchard started out like.


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RE: Advice on apple & pear varieties

  • Posted by bob_z6 6b/7a SW CT (My Page) on
    Fri, Sep 14, 12 at 23:30

Like Fruitmaven, I've got a Geraldi dwarf mulberry. I missed out on fruit last year (when I planted it) to the birds and this year to the late frost. Next year, I'll net it and hopefully sample some. I've seen conflicting reports on the taste, so I'm looking forward to trying it.

I've also got 2 types from the Romance series of dwarf sour cherries- Carmine Jewel and Crimson Passion. I got them last spring as very tiny plants. The 2 Crimson Passion have both grown into nice bushes, while the 2 Carmine Jewel are both clinging to life. I'm not sure why, as they are planted right next to each other and the CJ are reputed to be more vigorous growers. If you see any of the other ones on sale in the US, please let me know.

You may want to check into interstems for apples, such as G11/MM111- the roots are MM111, a pretty vigorous grower, while there is a section of trunk from G11 (dwarfing) which keeps the tree from getting too big. The large root system from the MM111 should reduce (eliminate?) the need to provide permanent support. I don't think there are too many places which offer this though. Cummins is one place which has quite a few trees on it. ACNursery also has a few. Other examples would be B9/B118 or M9/MM111.

My apple planting is still young and only a few trees are bearing this year. But, so far, no-spray (so far) bagging has worked pretty well, though the trees aren't real pretty with the cedar apple rust. Last year, a coworker was starting out with apples and I suggested William's Pride, Ashmead's Kernel, and Goldrush, based mostly on reading. Other factors were their disease resistance, strong flavors (at least for the latter 2), and spacing out the harvest (August, late Sep, and late Oct).


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RE: Advice on apple & pear varieties

Looks like I'm entering the conversation a few minutes too late, but I'll go ahead and say what I was going to say anyway, which is pretty similar to what others have said. Consider this not as a jumping on the bandwagon type thing, but rather I came up with this on my own and it just so happens to agree with most everyone else...

Liberty is a really good way to go. It's very similar to McIntosh, but better tasting, a better tree, and more disease resistant. I was also going to suggest Jonamac and Cortland -- also really good options that I think are both better than Mac. Cummins Nursery (no affiliation) will sell Liberty to you on G.16 dwarfing rootstock, or whatever size rootstock you want. Cortland and Jonamac are on M.26 at Maple Valley (again - no affiliation).

If you want a Golden style apple, then why not try Goldrush, which is another disease resistant variety, derived from Golden Delicious, with excellent flavor. Cummins has them on G.11 or G.30 dwarfing rootstocks that would require permanent staking, if that matters a lot to you. Or you could look into Grimes Golden instead, which is the parent of Golden Delicious -- you might be able to get that one on M.26 from Maple Valley Orchards which would require temporary staking only.

I would agree with the recommendations on Kidd's Orange Red. Great apple with good disease resistance. Cummins has got it on G.11/MM.111 interstem that would require no staking, and Maple Valley has it on M.26.

So you've got lots of options for apples, and infinite more options if you are willing to explore other varieties.

Sadly I don't know anything about pears. I love pears but just haven't learned enough to grow my own or to make recommendations, not yet.

As for berries, in addition to the usual suspects (yes, blueberries!), you might want to look into gooseberries. I just tasted some for the first time a couple of months ago, and the experience was mind-blowing -- sweet in the middle, very tart in the skin, with a unique flavor that might be described as sort of like raspberry, but not quite. The texture is also odd -- you'd expect something like a table grape, but it's much softer and not so crunchy. I'm going to get me some Hinnomaki Red from Raintree next spring, which is supposed to be one of the sweetest and best tasting.

Happy orcharding!


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RE: Advice on apple & pear varieties

FYI, my parents have a Liberty tree and it is an UGLY tree just like Macoun.

-Eric
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RE: Advice on apple & pear varieties

I hate to dampen your enthusiasm, but when a potential client presents me with a site with only 4 hours of direct sunlight I decline the business. You can get a few apples, forget pears- especially Asians, and consider any apple trees you plant to be ornamentals that provide a few fruit. I do manage a couple of Baldwin apple trees that do reasonably well in similar light. Very light crops but tasty fruit.


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RE: Advice on apple & pear varieties

Aw, Eric, I'll bet your parents Liberty is not really ugly, just rugged!

OK, maybe a little ugly. But, as Harvestman put it once, a real fruit machine (once you learn how to manage the unwieldy habit, anyway.)

;-)M


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RE: Advice on apple & pear varieties

Jennifer, I would consider changing from fruit trees to fruits that are somewhat better in the amount of sun you have. Currants and raspberries are the most shade-tolerant things I have found. Pawpaws also do well. If you do decide to put in apples put them in the very sunniest spot. I had some apples in four hours of sun and in eight years I got 3-4 fruits total from three trees before I dug them up. Your spot is somewhat better than mine because it is getting the strongest mid-day sun, my guys were getting morning sun only. I would also go with disease-resistant varieties only if you do put in apples, diseases are worse with less sun. Outstanding disease-resistant varieties include Williams Pride and GoldRush.

Scott


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RE: Advice on apple & pear varieties

Goldrush may not properly ripen there in a shady spot in an "average" season. In my experience, apple diseases can be controlled as easily in shade as full sun- it is brown rot on stone fruit as well as black-knot on plums that I find difficult to control when trees get morning shade. Also peach leaf curl.

The Baldwin trees I mentioned get the same low-spray treatment as trees in full sun. What you do get is a lot more summer fungus- fly speck and sooty blotch, which do not cause anything more than cosmetic damage except in storage- summer fungus covered apples seem to rot sooner.

Immunox and Spectracide's Triazide, Once and Done applied in the same tank at petal fall and 10 days to 2 weeks later would probably take care of any disease and insect issues. The only advantage of the Liberty and other DRs would be you wouldn't have to include the Immunox. It probably wouldn't have a lot of flavor in that shade.

I'd try a Baldwin and a Zestar if I was determined to give it a shot, but I agree with Scott that you probably would get much better production from species that function better in the shade. Blueberries aren't bad in the shade either.


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RE: Advice on apple & pear varieties

milehighgirl - We do have lots of yard, which is great, but the trees around us are really tall - see the pic below (taken at 9:30am in May). How's your orchard doing now? It would be cool to see a picture. :)

bob_z6 - Strange the differences in your cherries. I haven't found any but those two varieties available to buy online for the U.S. unfortunately. Thanks for the interstem suggestion.

dmtaylor - Thanks a lot for the suggestions, and for even telling me where I can find them! And gooseberries are an interesting possiblity. I'll have to see if I can get a taste somewhere.

harvestman - It's fine, this way my expectations won't be too high, and I'll know this is an experiment that might not work out so well. Thanks for the Baldwin and Zestar suggestions. I do plan on trying some blueberries, too, but since we have such a big yard, I figure it doesn't hurt to try some fruit trees, too.

scottfsmith - I've thought about currants in the past, so maybe I'll give them a try at some point. I think Massachusetts has restrictions on some currents (black, I think). We already have some wild blackberries in the very back, but I only found a few tiny berries on it this year. There were a ton of new canes this year, so I'm curious to see how they do next year.


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RE: Advice on apple & pear varieties

No doubt, you do have a lot of shade.


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RE: Advice on apple & pear varieties

You posted that pic around noon... eesh.
Give pawpaws a shot, unless you can get those south side trees removed.

That can get pricey, trust me, I know, I've taken out 10 decaying white pines in 2 years.

Better for the fruit trees, hard on my wallet.


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RE: Advice on apple & pear varieties

I have drastically cleared out my land and every tree I remove a tree the better the land looks because there is forest beyond my land. Houses under trees are nice in S. CA where I came from but not so much in the northeast.

My Dad didn't have many country skills but he did teach me how to accurately fell a tree and how to split wood. Half my fire wood comes from fruit trees I prune, the rest comes from my land. Fire creates about 80% of my heat.


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RE: Advice on apple & pear varieties

  • Posted by glib 5.5 (My Page) on
    Sat, Sep 15, 12 at 22:10

I agree with others, this is not a site for stone fruits or pomes. It is not difficult to cut trees, but if trees will not be cut, I would recommend blueberries, grapes, hazelnuts, currants, mulberries and pawpaws. These all tolerate or prefer acid soil. Persimmons might make it.
I hesitate to suggest juneberries since they are more trouble to pick than the other berries. Hardy kiwis might stand a chance.

I note that such a lineup offers fruits continuously from June 15 to mid-november, and if you are willing to freeze blueberries or dry persimmons, you will have fruits all year. This list is completely no-spray (except perhaps for a bit of sulfur for the grapes), so cheer up, you are getting something if you go with the minor fruits.


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RE: Advice on apple & pear varieties

megamav - I posted that picture around noon today, but it was taken at 9:30am in May. In noon the whole yard is in sun. :-P


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RE: Advice on apple & pear varieties

I live in Northern VA and this past Spring I planted two varieties of Asian Pear. I am considering grafting a European pear onto each in order to have one limb that produces European pears. Any advice?


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RE: Advice on apple & pear varieties

jenniferg76,

Are the trees surrounding you yard on your property? Is it possible to remove a few?


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RE: Advice on apple & pear varieties

milehighgirl - The ones on the east side are not on our property. On the west side, I think some are, some aren't. I'm a little iffy on where exactly the property line is on that side. Guess I should really figure that out at some point. Not sure about the ones on the south side, either, but it's really the east and west trees that are shading the middle of the yard.


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Sorry for your sun troubles.
I went through the same thing where I am.
I live in a forest (literally), I have a south facing side lot where my apple trees are.

My south side neighbor is a tree hugger and planted these asinine white pines in her front lot, 15 years ago, too close together, about 5 feet apart, and too close to her house. They block sun for my trees for a couple of hours (10-12) after September 1st.

I feel your pain and hope you have some control over the situation. Fortunately I was able to clear dying trees out of my lot to get enough sun, 7 hours peak season.

There are 2 things that really tick me off, and thats people who let dead or dying trees rot on their property to fall on other people's houses and the other is planting gigantic 60 foot trees in a 25 x 25 space and block out the sun in a tight residential area.

I am afterall in a forest, but dont we have enough trees in our backyard? We need them in the front yard too?

Trees are beautiful to some extent, but the ones that kill your lawn and dump needles and sap all over are not a good choice.

OK, im done ranting, for now.

I suggest talking it out with your neighbors, maybe they share the same feelings you do about the south side trees.
Making it part of a casual conversation worked for me, the trees that were leaning over the property line were a split cost between us.

-Eric
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RE: Advice on apple & pear varieties

So after discussing it with my husband, we decided to drop the idea of growing pears - we both like them, but just don't eat enough of them, and if they'll have issues with not enough light, it's not worth it.

We're still going to try for the apples, though. Current thinking is first one McIntosh type: McIntosh, Liberty, Jonamac, (Macoun, Cortland?) for my husband and his applesauce. :) Now we just have to decide which one. I think we're going to head out to an orchard to try the different varieties firsthand.

Second, probably Zestar. I wish I knew more about how it tastes, though. I think it might be too late in the season to find any to try myself, though I did find a pick-your-own orchard that says they grow it on their website. Anyone have any personal impressions of it? Does it have a nice thin skin? I don't like tough skins (and that's a big reason I don't like Red Delicious).

I was thinking of maybe having a third tree now we've decided no pears, and having it be Baldwin, since harvestman has seen it do ok with some shade, but I just read that it has a thick skin, so maybe I won't go in that direction after all... I don't know.

I grabbed a bunch of apples from the grocery store to help me determine what we like the taste of best (since we haven't really tried many types), though many of them sound like they won't grow well here. Like I mentioned, we'll go apple picking soon to try some more. Of the ones we've tried so far, I really liked Braeburn, though it wasn't my husband's favorite. He thought it had a weird aftertaste. We both liked the flavor of the Fuji, but I thought the skin was a little too tough. He loved the McIntosh, of course, while I think the flavor is just so-so and wasn't a fan of the skin. I've changed my opinion on Ginger Gold and Golden Delicious. They're ok, but I think I prefer a crisper apple with a stronger flavor. My husband didn't even want to try any yellow or green apples, because he's weird.

So yeah, still trying to figure out varieties.

My friend said she's thinking of buying a pawpaw tree, so maybe I will have the chance to try some in a couple years.

As far as cutting down trees - I don't dislike the ones we have, and I don't know if I'd want to cut them all down, but maybe I will get an arborist to take a look and see if any of them need to come down for reasons of safety or health of the trees. I kind of like how impressively tall they are. If only more light made it through somehow...


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RE: Advice on apple & pear varieties

I still vote for Liberty, for disease resistance.

Zestar will be good for you, since it's an early ripening apple and should sweeten up ok in the part sun. I really enjoy the flavor, it's crisp like a Honeycrisp and the experts at Orangepippin.com rate it excellent for flavor (better than Honeycrisp). I'm not sure about the thickness of the skin.

Pawpaws take quite a while to fruit, so it'll be several years for your friend.

I understand that you like the tall trees, it does create a lot of privacy for your yard. It just makes fruit growing challenging.


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