Cutting Down Family Apple Orchard

midwestfarmwife(5)February 4, 2014

My 85 yr. old father is in the nursing home and says that he wants to cut down his 1,800 tree apple orchard since he can no longer care for it and doesn't want to rent it. All the dwarf trees are in full production, and I am very sad that after about 70 yrs., it will no longer be in our family.
I was wondering if anyone knows of a source that purchases scion wood? I have seen some online sites that are selling it for $3.00/12" stick. I have considered using a grafting service and starting an orchard on our farm, but nobody here has the time or desire to keep up a spraying routine.
Some of the varieties are Cortland, Mutsu ( favorite), Winesap, etc. None are the low-spray kinds like Freedom or Liberty.

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Cutting down 1800 producing apple trees makes me want to cry.
Would it make sense to sell the place rather than cut it down? Or talking him into leasing the property for a try? I would think that an apple orchard of that size would be pretty valuable

    Bookmark   February 4, 2014 at 1:04PM
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Yes, it makes me very sad too. My father's home, which his father built and he has lived in most of his life, is right in the middle of the orchard. He doesn't trust anyone else to spray the trees around him or want others working around his home continually. According to what I have read, an organic apple orchard in Ohio isn't very feasible. Weekly spraying is the norm. 10 acres of apple trees is a valuable enterprise, and people come from several counties away just to purchase his cider.
I am hoping when he feels better that he might change his mind and decide to rent the orchard to someone responsible.
Advice to anyone thinking of going into the orchard business: Locate your home away from the trees so that you could sell off your orchard and still maintain the privacy of your home when you retire.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2014 at 5:12PM
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milehighgirl(CO USDA 5B/Sunset 2B)

This idea just came to me: Contact the amish or mennonite farmers in Ohio and see if anyone would be interested. I don't know how far you are from a community but hey, it's worth a (oops, I was gonna say "call") letter.

I hope your dad starts feeling better soon.

If you are interested in custom grafting I would suggest Cummins.

Also, post your message on the Ohio Valley forum:

Here is a link that might be useful: Amish Country Locations in Ohio

    Bookmark   February 4, 2014 at 5:26PM
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Suzi AKA DesertDance

The above is a good answer! I think everyone on this forum who has read this thread feels sad, both for your family and the orchard.

Keep us posted! I'm praying for your father.


    Bookmark   February 4, 2014 at 5:36PM
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That's a good idea!

I imagine his emotions about the orchard are complex and involved, and circumventing them would be disrespectful. It might be that he just wouldn't be comfortable, for multiple reasons, having anybody else work on his baby. But he may, given time, come to a better solution.

"If only" someone could persuade an interested team of volunteers to catalog and market the scions- and in the process keep the cider flowing ... that would be lovely.

Good luck, and best wishes to your father. It sounds like he's had a good life.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2014 at 6:18PM
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Thank you very much milehighgirl and desertdance.
My dad has employed Amish workers for several years now to pick and sort apples. He was worried the horse and buggy would tear up his black top driveway, but it held up fine.
I'll check out Cummins cutom grafting. I spoke to Mr. Moser whose nursery does custom grafting. He said that you get the rooted tree back the following year. Dwarf trees start producing very quickly.
We farm around 1,000 acres of corn and soybeans, so don't think we have time for an orchard business here but could work in 20 or so trees for ourselves and family members.
I pray also that my dad can walk again and return home. Maybe he will have a change of heart. I know that someday when my husband retires from farming that we will rent our land to a local farmer who will maintain good farming practices and care for the land as we have.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2014 at 6:18PM
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marknmt, you are very intuitive. We can all be emotional about our life's work. I know there are many aspects that come into play when making a life changing decision.
I thought about suggesting that the trees just be left to go 'feral', but the insects would probably be horrible, not to mention blight of all kinds.
If we cut scions from all the trees before the end of March, and if my dad did change his mind about cutting down the trees, we would probably ruin this year's apple production.
Oh well, I guess sometimes we need to bite the bullet and let things go.
Wishing all of you a bountiful harvest and happy gardening for 2014. It has been a nasty, cold winter here in Ohio. Thank goodness for seed trades and gardening catalogs.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2014 at 6:45PM
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I wish (and these are my feelings speaking) that he might see his massive accomplishment too precious to the world to be destroyed.

It takes a huge effort, a good history, and a fair amount of luck to be in his position. I wish he could see it as something that the world needs.

Too many of us do not take our day-to-day labors to be important or honored. That's sad. But where would we be without people like your father? (My father's family has some roots in Ohio farm country and my mother's family in Illinois, so I hope I can relate!)

Best to you.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2014 at 7:03PM
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milehighgirl(CO USDA 5B/Sunset 2B)

If we cut scions from all the trees before the end of March, and if my dad did change his mind about cutting down the trees, we would probably ruin this year's apple production.

Taking scion would not mean ruining your crop, I don't imagine. How many cultivars does he have?

The thought also came to me that if a low spray orchard would be easier then at least some of the trees could be top-worked in the newer disease resistant cultivars.

I'll pray for your dad also. If he's a hard-working man, the way it seems, he is probably just going nuts not being able to work. My dad was in the hospital for 3 weeks a few years ago and he didn't think he'd ever regain his strength. But he's just about to turn 76 and he's still crawling under cars and no one has a stronger grip. At the time he was thinking he'd have to sell his shop because he didn't want to be a burden on everyone.

Have you gotten an estimate on how much it would cost to chop them down?

    Bookmark   February 4, 2014 at 8:10PM
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I'm a member of a new community orchard at the Farley Center. Gene and Linda Farley had a few dozen fruit trees that needed care, and 87-year-old Gene couldn't keep it up after Linda passed away. He died this past Thanksgiving, but set up a wonderful group to care for their precious land. We've been pruning, mulching, organic spraying, harvesting, and held a cider-pressing party for the neighborhood. We fill out a short application and pay $30/person/year for supplies, etc. For perspective, 10-15 of us take care of a few dozen trees, and spend less than 40 hrs per year each on all the work. In return, I've picked as many apple and grapes and mulberries as I wanted, and have shelves full of applesauce and grape jam. Not to mention, the wonderful cider.

I'm grateful he decided not to cut all his trees down and instead has shared the bounty.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2014 at 8:18PM
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milehighgirl(CO USDA 5B/Sunset 2B)


What a lovely story!

    Bookmark   February 5, 2014 at 12:44AM
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My wife and I decided to put our land in a trust when we die. Instead of selling it off and people breaking it up in smaller lots we will have it set aside for wildlife and remain together.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2014 at 10:12AM
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I appreciate all the great feedback from everyone. It helps to bounce ideas around with people who have common interests. I think milehighgirl is right about scion wood. I researched online, and it seems that apples actually grow from spurs, or old wood. What an inspirational story about your dad. He must be pretty tough to do that type of work at his age. My parents were divorced when I was just a baby, so we didn't grow up learning everything about the orchard business. I had always hoped that someday I could retain the orchard and even open a little bakery and gift shop, possibly renting to the local Amish.
My grandfather started the orchard in the 40's when he retired as a veterinarian, and my father took it over in the late 50's, eventually replacing all the older trees with dwarf stock and adding an apple house for cold storage. There are 10 acres of trees, but I'm not sure of all the cultivars. Some have come and gone through the years. I recall Yellow Delicious, Red Delicious, Gala, Galia Beauty, Granny Smith, Cortland, Winesap, Mutsu, and Rome. He also has a few peach trees. If I ever have the opportunity to own the orchard someday I could replant the trees, but that would be a substantial cost.
He asked us to check with someone we know who owns a trackhoe. A trackhoe operator around here makes $200/hr., and the owner estimated that he could take down about 5 trees an hr., including using the thumb attachment to pull up all the stakes in the ground. At that rate, it would take a couple of months just to take out the trees (leaving no stumps) and clear them all away. The cost would be monumental. My dad is in such poor health, that we have not discussed it yet. He said that he would not want to start such a project until he gets back home, which will not be at least until March.
I'm just hoping that he will rethink his plan when that time comes, but my dad is used to calling all the shots. He is a Korean War vet who was shot in the chest with a burp gun and had a compound fracture of the leg at the same time, and survived.
I love the community orchard concept. What type of organic sprays do you use and in what state? I read about the Japanese practice of bagging apples as they form. If I had only a few trees, I would try it. I think that drawstring bags made from row cover cloth that let light penetrate would be better than paper bags which prevent the apple from turning red unless removed later, or plastic which retains moisture.
Insteng, many farmers here have placed their land in a trust also, including my husband and I. Several years ago we put a portion of our farm in the trust which means that it will remain farmland in perpetuity and can't be chopped up for building lots. Most people don't realize just how valuable agricultural land has become. Only 2% of the population nationwide are farmers now...guess we're a dying breed.
Our son will never sell the farms. Part of the land has been in his family for well over 100 years. Soil here is very black and fertile. My dad's orchard is 50 miles south of us, and the soil is a bit different with more clay content. However, it seems to grow fruit and vegetables with no trouble.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2014 at 12:19PM
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I'm in southern WI, so we get a bit colder winters than Ohio, but still the Midwest summer heat and humidity.

Most of the apple trees at the Farley Center weren't sprayed at all, just pruned yearly. (Actually, they'd been neglected for 5 or so years, as the Farleys couldn't keep up for a while. The apples were still producing well enough for a yearly cider-pressing party.) This past June half the trees got one spray of horticultural oil and the apples on those trees were almost perfect. Only the occasional bug/blemish. There are many varieties.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2014 at 12:33PM
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Wow! That sounds encouraging. Perhaps the info online from Ohio State University concerning apple tree spraying is painting a much bleaker picture than necessary. I recall seeing huge piles of dead Japanese Beetles at my dad's orchard where he had sprayed them. Do you ever have problems with them in your area?
How did the other half do that got no spray? Would you say that insects are more of an issue, or disease more an issue with non conventional spraying methods, and are your apples considered organic with just the use of horticultural oil? Maybe most people could overlook an occasional blemish in exchange for organic produce.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2014 at 2:07PM
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Horticultural oil is organic, as is Surround spray (which we purchased but never had time to apply).

The other half of the trees had more bugs in the apples, but still not bad. We still picked those apples for cider. The sprayed trees were better for fresh eating and excellent for applesauce and pies. I canned the extra cider in quart jars, too.

We get plenty of Japanese beetles, though they prefer the grapevines. They're not worth worrying about!! They eat leaves but they don't bother the fruit and I've never seen them kill a tree. Even the one Bradford pear on our street that they completely defoliated in July came back last spring.

We have fireblight and cedar apple rust, mainly. The fireblight has killed a few trees, but since they were Red Delicious, it wasn't much of a loss. The rust prefers my Honeycrisp but it produces and grows well enough anyway. In my yard and at the Farley Center, pruning for good light and air flow takes care of the majority of our disease issues.

People pay $6/qt for organic applesauce, and you can't tell that the apples had a few blemishes. The past two years I've gathered completely wild apples (one place is a 100-yr old former monastery turned dog park) and made applesauce. I toss halved, skin-on, non-rotten, one or two wormhole apples into a roasting pan with a little water, bake in the oven until they're cooked and exploding out of their skins, then put it through my top-loading hand-cranked food strainer. The applesauce is lovely, pink if they're deep red apples. I made 16 gallons last year in one day.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2014 at 2:27PM
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Here's my canning shelf. It's more than half applesauce.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2014 at 2:29PM
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Yummy! I know lots of work and love went into canning that harvest. I would like to expand my pantry space. I have canned green beans, tomatoes, and pickles, but lately have just frozen produce such as sweet corn, applesauce, tomato juice, winter squash, and berries My Grandma would scoff at my fear of the pressure cooker...guess I need more practice.
Have you ever tried cooking and freezing winter squash? I froze so many packs of banana squash one year that I'm still using it to make 'pumpkin bread.' One squash was so big that it yielded enough to make 32 loaves of bread. Our son had to cut it for me and said he needed a log splitter. It is very bright orange when frozen, and a pt. bag (2 cups) is just enough for my recipe which makes 2 large loaves and 2 small ones. I like to add raisins and sometimes pecans. People who have tasted it say it has a flavor much better than canned pumpkin.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2014 at 3:20PM
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Is the property arranged in such a way that you could sell the surrounding property but keep the area around the house/road and clear those as your father wishes? That might be a happier medium.

Alternatively maybe if you got some actual estimates of how much the property is worth that might persuade your father to keep it as is or sell it. Sometimes having hard numbers are comforting in terms of making difficult decisions.

Lastly, we buy organic apple sauce for my kid here in SF and stock up when it is on sale at about $6-8/quart. Regular price is more like $12/quart for us.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2014 at 5:16PM
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The house is centered among the trees. It was built first and the trees were added later to fill up the 10 acres.
I had no idea organic applesauce was so expensive. Anyone out there bagging their apple trees successfully? It seems as if it would be a good idea if dealing with only a few trees. I want to try it on our plum tree this year. It had loads of plums which all turned brown and mushy and dropped off. My dad said it was Brown Rot. We had a very wet spring last year. Our Bosque pear tree had fruit for the first time - 15 clustered together in one spot. They were as hard as rocks and never did get soft. Usually our tart cherry trees are loaded, but last year there were not very many. They require no spraying and very seldom have worms in the cherries. It's hard to beat the birds to the ripe ones though. We often have small trees to trade since they self-seed everywhere.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2014 at 5:46PM
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bob_z6(6b/7a SW CT)

>> Anyone out there bagging their apple trees successfully? It seems as if it would be a good idea if dealing with only a few trees.

I've been using zip-locks and bagged about 250 apples this year. Yes, it is quite a bit of work and I don't think I can continue bagging most of the apples (this was only the 2nd to 3rd year for most of my trees). I'm currently thinking that I'll bag 5-10 apples per variety, to make sure I get at least a taste. Then, I'll do a bit of surround spraying at petal fall (when PC hits). I'm not sure exactly how much I'll need and will err on the low side (not continuing with additional sprays in later weeks). Even if I get badly hit by bugs, I know I'll have some of each type to taste.

>> I want to try it on our plum tree this year.
With plums, I don't think zip locks would work. You would need cloth bags. I did some this year on plums and peaches and they were more of a pain to put on than the zip-locks on apples. I found myself accidentally knocking off the small fruitlets.

>> It had loads of plums which all turned brown and mushy and dropped off. My dad said it was Brown Rot. We had a very wet spring last year.

I'm not sure the bags would help with brown rot. They may, as zip-locks seem to help with Black rot on grapes. But I'm not sure how cloth bags would work with brown rot. You may need some fungicide. Or prune the tree a bit more open and hope for less rain...

>> Our Bosque pear tree had fruit for the first time - 15 clustered together in one spot. They were as hard as rocks and never did get soft.

If there are 15 pears in a cluster, they need to be thinned. The trees often can't ripen as many fruit as it tries to set. It's hard to make yourself do it the first time, but it gets easier after seeing a few inedible crops. My mother thinks I'm a barbarian for being cruel enough to thin any fruit. But, I'm pretty sure I still often leave too much on. This past summer, I left 20 peaches on a tiny potted tree. Surprisingly, it ripened all of them, but they weren't even as good as grocery store peaches. The trees with 2-4 fruit were much much better.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2014 at 7:31PM
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olpea(zone 6 KS)

"He asked us to check with someone we know who owns a trackhoe. A trackhoe operator around here makes $200/hr., and the owner estimated that he could take down about 5 trees an hr., including using the thumb attachment to pull up all the stakes in the ground."


I hope you don't have to pull up all the trees. However, if you are forced to, don't use the trackhoe. In terms of size of machinery, a trackhoe is over-the-top overkill. Dwarf trees don't have much of a root (that's why they have to be staked). You could easily pull out 15 tree/hr. (stakes and all) with one of your tractors. If you wanted to hire it done, about $40-50/hr is a fair fee for a medium sized tractor w/ operator.

If they are truly dwarf (not semi-dwarf) you could pull them out with a pick-up, or possibly even a lawn mower, and haul them away in a pickup.

If these trees are semi-dwarf (15-20' tall), you'd need a tractor and a good chain (like 1/2" grade 70 chain, so it doesn't snap and kill somebody). You'd also want to do it when the ground is a little soft.

If the trees were that big, it's would probably be easier to go through and pull all the stakes with a pickup. Then hire a bulldozer to push the trees out into piles. You could either leave the piles to slowly decompose on their own (good for wildlife) or throw some diesel fuel and a match on them. You might even be able to sell some of the wood to folks who barbeque professionally. I've had several people contact me wanting peach wood.

A good size dozer still costs about $200 per hour, but he should be able to clear 10 acres of apple trees in a couple days.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2014 at 9:45AM
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Did you use staples to fasten the ends of the ziplock bags? I wonder if drawstring row cover fabric bags would be any quicker? Sounds like a great way to have some very nice apples if it just weren't so time consuming.
You are right about the little plums dropping off easily, and maybe bags wouldn't help with brown rot...will just have to experiment. When we use fungicide on our crops, it boosts the yields. I wonder if it has the same effect on fruit? It's fun to see the crop duster come with his small yellow airplane and fly so low over the fields. It's like having our own air show. Those guys are very daring!
I never thought about the pears being hard from lack of thinning. I remember seeing piles and piles of tiny apples that my dad always thinned from his trees. It is hard to pick them off when you're expecting your first crop, but I'll do it this year.
Wow! 20 peaches on a potted tree is amazing. I bought a potted lemon and lime tree at Lowe's on sale last summer for about $5 ea., marked down from about $30 ea. They are overwintering in our farm shop. I'm anxious to see if they produce any fruit this year.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2014 at 9:50AM
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If you have to take the trees down I would use a bulldozer. You could take all them down in a hurry and if there are any roots left in the ground you could use a root plow on the dozer to get them up. A trackhoe is good if you are taking down a very large tree but for ones like that a dozer should be good.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2014 at 10:31AM
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olpea, I agree, a large trackhoe seems like overkill. The operator used that huge machine to take out a stand of cottonwood trees on our farm. It's a monster!
I was thinking that if it came down to tearing out the trees for my dad's peace of mind, my husband could use his backhoe. He has laid field tile for about 40 yrs. in addition to farming, and is a skilled operator. We would only need to buy an attachment to pull up the stakes. I am almost certain that all the trees are dwarf. We also have a couple of dozers, but we can't leave stumps or stakes.
I don't want to do it, but maybe that is being selfish. I want my dad to have peace of mind. I keep thinking of his loss of income and devaluation of property. On the other hand, I don't think he could ever tolerate anyone else working his orchard. It's a dilemma, and something anyone should keep in mind if they are thinking of going into the orchard business. It has been a lucrative business and a good one for those who have the desire, but please have a good retirement plan in place.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2014 at 10:35AM
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olpea(zone 6 KS)

"I don't want to do it, but maybe that is being selfish."

No, I understand that. Sounds like you have plenty to do already.

If you do remove the trees, whoever does it, I still think the best way is a dozer. It's not hard to push the root out with a dozer and pile the trees up. The dozer can smooth things out as he goes, but of course your husband knows all this.

You'd still have to pull the stakes before hand, but you could hire that done too and it would go fast.

Mostly when people quit an orchard business, they abandon the trees and mow around them. I assume your dad wants the place cleared for aesthetics?

    Bookmark   February 6, 2014 at 11:49AM
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Keep the orchard for privacy and just don't have it in production for a couple of years. You can graze cows and horses on it.

The idea of a community "tree-share" orchard sounds wonderful.

If he has the trees removed, he's destroying much of the value ... and what about his kids and grandkids.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2014 at 12:00PM
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I'll mention the dozer idea to my husband. He has a large Dresser dozer and a smaller one. If the dwarf tree roots come out fairly easily, the dozer might be quicker.
I don't think I could be there to see it happen, especially if the trees are in bloom or have little apples forming on them. I don't think my dad cares that much about aesthetics. It would probably drive him crazy to see the trees and not get out there and take care of them, but I like the idea of just letting them go. At least sometime in the future they could become viable again.
There is no fencing around the orchard, so animal grazing wouldn't work, and they would chew on the trees. There is a doe that gave birth to a fawn in the orchard and has taken up residence there.
If the decision were mine, my first choice would be to rent it out, second choice would be to just let the trees go and keep them in place if it wouldn't cause a huge insect and disease infestation.
I'm probably overly sentimental when it comes to trees and plants. As an artist, I see great beauty in them. I have around 100 little Japanese Maple trees growing in my flowerbed that I started from seeds. There are many more germinating in the fridge right now, way ahead of schedule. I'm hoping they will be O.K. until spring comes so I can pot them outside. I fell in love with the Acer palmatum after seeing a picture of one online that was bright orange in the fall with graceful, curling branches.
It takes about 4 hrs. to trim our yard because I've planted so many trees, shrubs, and flowers in it. My husband and son cringe when I bring home more plants and start more seedlings. At least we have a zero turn mower - LOL!

    Bookmark   February 6, 2014 at 3:28PM
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they can be removed any time, but once gone will take 10 years and a ton of cash to bring them back. I would employ any stall tactics possible to keep it from happening

    Bookmark   February 6, 2014 at 10:44PM
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bob_z6(6b/7a SW CT)

>> Did you use staples to fasten the ends of the ziplock bags?

Nope- I just cut off 2 corners (the ones not near the zip) for water drainage and zipped them on. There is a tiny gap around the stem and some people on the forum make a cut in the bag to go around it. I just left it as is. I lost a few to sun-scald and a few to cracking (due to some heavy rains- those not in bags also cracked) but most came through and looked pristine.

>> I wonder if drawstring row cover fabric bags would be any quicker?

I'll have to check into this. Ideally, it would be big enough to cover the tree (along with the stake). Even for dwarfs, that is pretty good sized. But, it would probably be faster than bagging each apple.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2014 at 2:22AM
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Yes, it would be expensive to replace all the trees when each one costs at least $20. Custom grafted ones can be purchased from Moser's for $10 ea. from your own scions. Mr. Moser said to allow for 20% potential loss. Grafting properly must require lots of practice and some luck.
Dwarf trees are supposed to start producing the following year after planting, but I imagine it would take them several years to realize their full potential. I thought about bagging an entire dwarf tree with row cover cloth to let in sunlight and air circulation, but I am guessing that would cost as much as $50/tree. I bought some row cover cloth last year that was in about 3' or 4' strips, so several strips would have to be stitched together to make a whole 'tree bag.' If you have just a few trees, it might be feasible. I think it would be great to keep off bugs, but what about blight?
If it were up to me, I would try to rent to the Amish or someone else with the stipulation that they take all the harvest away and market it elsewhere. That way the traffic and customers near the house would not be an issue. I hope that when the time comes, we can have some influence in that direction.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2014 at 11:46AM
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Prepare the zipock bags at your diningroom table before taking them to the orchard. Use a paper punch to punch a hole in the center of the zipper for the stem. Slits cut there tend to make the bag rip. Then barely nip the two bottom corners. The cheapest brands with the least material above the zipper work best. However, it is still very time-consuming to bag apples. Then, the worst part for me is that about 3/4 of the apples (even though I thin as I bag) fall off and blow around and make a mess on the ground. Maybe I need to spray with Surround for curculios at blossom fall. Anyone else have this problem? Last year I bagged 2000 apples when 1/4 to 3/4 inch diameter, which took me the better part of a week. I can't imagine bagging a whole orchard! You would need a huge crew of people. On the other hand, that is a lot of apples to let go to waste. Cutting the trees would be a worse tragedy. At least let the deer enjoy them!

    Bookmark   February 7, 2014 at 2:49PM
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It takes a lot of work and expense to build an orchard like that. The loss in food alone every year would be in the thousands of bushels . The loss of scion wood a lone would be in the thousands of dollars. When fruit trees are trimmed the wood can be sold for meat smoking. Even if the orchard is not kept up please don't bulldoze it not just because of the lost $'s or food value but also because it's his life's work. Makes me very sad to think about it.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2014 at 8:27AM
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It is a sad thing to think about for sure. I really never thought my dad would consider tearing it out, even though he has said before that he would not trust anyone else to spray around his house. I don't know if he would think about just removing the trees closest to his house and leaving the rest to rent out.
I have thought about the value of scion wood, but don't know who would buy it. I didn't know people wanted apple wood for smoking. Can it be used green, or does it need to be cured?
He has taken such good care of all those trees for so many years, way beyond retirement age for most people. Since the orchard has been there for several decades, I'm sure it would be missed by many regular customers. I have been surprised through the years to have people from 50-100 miles away tell me they always go there for cider and apples, and that his cider is better than any other they have ever tried.
My dad has had so much to deal with, trying to regain strength to walk again, recovering from pancreatitis, renal failure, pneumonia, gout, and diabetes, that we have avoided the topic for now. I am praying that he will reconsider and work out another option.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2014 at 11:51AM
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milehighgirl(CO USDA 5B/Sunset 2B)

Are they any updates? How is your dad doing?

    Bookmark   April 12, 2014 at 3:11PM
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Update: My Dad is home now, although still using a walker. He decided to have all the trees dug up. It is sad after 83 years of being an orchard. My grandfather planted the first trees in 1931. Thank you for asking.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2014 at 3:53PM
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What a sad decision for the trees, who themselves are living beings that have given their best for him. Can he find no buyer that would allow him to enter a supported living arrangement or home not surrounded with his apple trees?

Of course, if many of the trees would need to be replaced soon, his decision might be a rational one.

IMO otherwise this is almost like an act of murder. I don't see how he could be happy after doing it. It is almost like a parent killing a child rather than allowing anyone else to raise it.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2014 at 4:20PM
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Personally I just let them go fend for themselves. Oh, it would be mass slaughter at first but eventually an equilibrium would be reached and the survivors would be hardy. Then you'd call it an organic orchard with no maintenance.

Also consider a UPick Orchard; very profitable here. You can sell scions on the side in early spring. Though I have to admit some of that profitability is also selling in Farmer's Markets, Gourmet restaurant contracts and CSA contracts. Then whatever is left over and it is usually a lot is UPick.

If your dad is no longer living at the house I'd try to see if he'd rent it to someone interested in running the orchard as a CSA/UPick. That way your dad gets income and if the renter can make a go of it he may buy the property outright with a bank loan showing the business is profitable.

Your dad's scorched earth policy doesn't seem very rational to me. If someone wants the property they will decide to clear it or not without your dad spending money clearing the property. If he is lucky someone will see the apple trees as assets rather than debris needing clearance.

This post was edited by Fascist_Nation on Sat, Apr 12, 14 at 18:51

    Bookmark   April 12, 2014 at 6:36PM
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Konrad___far_north(3..just outside of Edmonton)

>>He decided to have all the trees dug upWhat's the hurry, of land for new building site??

    Bookmark   April 12, 2014 at 7:07PM
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What a great time your dad and grandpa must have had. You should take some pictures. Gather some more of his stories then frame your walls with heritage.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2014 at 7:10PM
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In CA, they're uprooting orchards wholesale because of the drought. It's nothing extraordinary.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2014 at 7:37PM
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I grew up in SW Ohio (still live in the middle of the state) and grieve at all the very good farmland that has gone under development as Cincinnati has continued to sprawl out. There was an orchard near my university, too, that had the best cider -- when I went home to visit for Thanksgiving I would always stop to get some, until the owners retired and closed up shop maybe 10 years ago. I haven't been by there since, but I hope the orchard is still living.
They had winesaps too, my favorite and a hard one to find.

I wish there was some way to dissuade your dad, if it is not too late. Couldn't you tell him that you want to save the trees, assuming you do? Would he not want to pass this on to you?

Or, if the trees can be dug in a viable state, perhaps some can be sold or given away to others in the community.

Best wishes to you.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2014 at 8:02PM
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olpea(zone 6 KS)


As I read back through your posts, I get the impression your Dad is worried about insect problems from the unmanaged trees, which is why he wants them removed. You mentioned his reason for removing them was not aesthetics.

If this is the case, I think he's made this a bigger issue in his mind than it really is.

Sure there will be more insects affecting the apples vs. if they were sprayed, but I don't think there would be more insects in an unsprayed apple orchard vs. an unsprayed pasture.

If you could at all talk him into it, I simply don't see any downside in just leaving the trees as they be, as an unmanaged orchard.

In fact, there could be plenty of upside benefits in leaving the trees. Potential increases sales value of the home and property. Potential part-time or full-time business opportunity for another family member, or potential buyer. Most people would recognize a quick turnaround to renovating an abandoned dwarf apple orchard, vs. planting one from scratch.

As much as I am reluctant to mention it, your father is nearing the end of his life (statistically speaking). The property will likely soon pass on to other family members. I believe it will be more valuable as it is, instead of bulldozing the trees.

He may be quite surprised how well some of the trees do without any care.

Below is a link Milehigh posted on another thread. It is a video of another pretty much abandoned orchard. There are still plenty of edible apples on the abandoned trees.

Perhaps your Dad could be inspired to keep his trees from watching this man's story. If you can't talk him into keeping his trees, at least go as slow as possible in helping him destroy his orchard. Give him the maximum amount of time to change his mind.

Here is a link that might be useful: PBS video of Nick Botner (86 yrs. old) and his apple orchard

    Bookmark   April 12, 2014 at 9:33PM
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Olpea makes excellent points. I think we all wish Dad could come to understand what a great gift he has created here, and to realize that others cherish (and need!) just such places. He might as well savage a great canvas or musical score, or destroy fine buildings, in my mind, as destroy this orchard. His life's work should not be so easily set aside.

I hope he finds some peace on this issue. Clearly he's distressed, and that has to be respected, but one hopes there is some way to save the better part of his efforts.

Good luck to you and your Dad.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2014 at 10:19PM
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The trees were already dug out the end of March. I think his decision was based upon not being able to deal with the public around all the time near his residence and perhaps other issues known only to him.
The orchard was started in 1931. Maybe the land deserves a period of rest, just as my Dad deserves to rest now. Not many people retire at age 85. I have gotten over my sadness at losing the trees so that I can think about his welfare.
Someday in the future, if I am able, the orchard may exist once again. I could plant apple and even a few peach trees since the facilities are still intact. I've researched apple tree sizes and kinds, thinking about what would sell best and what I personally like. There are some new low-spray varieties such as Liberty, Freedom, etc., but I have never tasted them. One of my favorites that my Dad grew was Mutsu. I am partial to the yellow sweet ones. My husband prefers Winesap or McIntosh...something firmer.
I read about Cox's Orange Pippin that is supposed to have an excellent taste but not too pretty. Has anyone tasted it? Does anyone have thoughts about dwarf vs. semi-dwarf? Dwarf are higher maintenance, but more profitable from what I have read. Maybe mostly dwarf with some semi-dwarf? Dwarf produce quicker which would be a good plan to redevelop an orchard. A bakery, greenhouse, and farmer's market could be started for income until trees are mature.
What are some of your favorite apple varieties? Grimes Golden is another one of mine. I like Cortland to cook with...haven't had much interest in Granny Smith, but I know others love it. My husband also likes Gala. Any interesting heirlooms with super taste?

    Bookmark   April 13, 2014 at 3:16PM
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milehighgirl(CO USDA 5B/Sunset 2B)

I am glad you and your dad have found some peace, and as you say, he deserves whatever he wants. It is his own land after all. It would be wonderful to replant it at some point. As you say, there are many new disease resistant cultivars the weren't available in the 30's.

I was able to get Empire at my local Kroger's this year and I thought they were very good.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2014 at 8:36PM
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