planting an apple tree- decisions and advice wanted

arylkin(5b, south of Chicago)March 14, 2013

We're thinking of planting an apple tree. I love apples and we wanted to add a tree to our front yard, so an apple tree seemed like a nice choice.

I've been looking for self-pollinating varieties since we only have room for 1 tree, as well as those with superior disease resistance. In my search it seems the Liberty apple is the best. I thought we'd go with the semi-dwarf size since I'd like it to be on the smaller size but not need to be staked permanently.

Are there other choices I've missed? The Arkansas Black and Winston both seemed like contenders, but from what I've read the Liberty seems like it needs less care and has better disease resistance. I'm primarily looking for apples that can be eaten fresh but will also store decently.

Is planing an apple tree a good idea for someone who isn't looking to become an apple tree expert, or for someone who would just like some apples? I really like the idea but am also a bit worried about getting in over my head.

We also have a lot of squirrels, are apples eaten by squirrels just part of the game? Since the tree would be in our front yard I wouldn't want to put a net around it or anything.

Is it crazy for someone to plant an apple tree who knows little to nothing about them just because they'd like some apples?

I'd appreciate any advice or wisdom you may have. Thanks!!

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dmtaylor(5a (WI))

Liberty is very good for fresh eating, but it does not store very well at all... just sayin'. I'm not sure what all varieties are self-pollinating, but if Arkansas Black is, then I would definitely give that one a high rating for both flavor and storability. It also makes a great juice. Another thing you can try is to graft a second (or three or four!) variety onto your tree. That way, you can get whatever kinds you like and they will pollinate each other, so you would not be limited to just one self-pollinating variety. Get a gardener friend to help you with the grafting if you need to. If you are interested in growing your own fruit, an apple tree is definitely a great idea. I agree with getting a semi-dwarf size, which is big enough without becoming a monster. It is not at all a crazy idea, regardless of your level of experience. Go for it! You'll love growing your own fruit tree.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2013 at 6:46PM
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I love Liberty, and have found that with care one can keep them fairly well into spring, but it's a challenge. (I just ate one yesterday that was stashed in a plastic bucket that wintered over in the garage. It was OK, not great.) But when it's good, it's very, very good.

The big problem with Liberty is that it's one of the hardest varieties to prune well. The saving grace is that even if you prune it badly you'll get a lot of good, versatile apples.

Other than that, dmtaylor offers a good suggestion. Grafting is fun and doable. Don't be afraid of it.

Good luck,


    Bookmark   March 14, 2013 at 9:22PM
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yukkuri_kame(Sunset 19 / USDA 9)

Multi-variety grafted trees may be available, even at big box stores. It especially makes sense with apples, given the pollination issues.

But really, learn to graft. It's quite simple.

But beware, it is addicting.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2013 at 9:46PM
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These apple varieties are considered more disease resistance (than most), Enterprise, Freedom, Liberty, Pristine and William's Pride.

I don't know if any of these are self pollinating. However, if you see crab apple trees in your neighborhood, there is a good chance that your one tree will be pollinated.

I like my William's Pride so much, I planted a second one. On semi-dwarf rootstock, it fruits in 3 yrs. It tastes good and is easy to grow. I don't know it's storage life. I never have enough because I also give them to friends and neighbors. In my climate, WP is resistant to Cedar Apple rust, apple scab and powderly mildew. I don't have to spray for any of these diseases.

However, I don't think any apple variety is immune to insects such as apple maggot flies or coddling moths. I don't spray, I use a bagging method and hanging red spheres smeared with tangle foot glue to trap flies.

You stated that you'll plant your tree in the front yard. If you don't want your neighbors to question why you put ziplock bags on your apples, you will need to learn to spray. Otherwise, it's diificult to get undamaged apples.

Oh, after you do all that, squirrels will take your apples. They love fruit. The only effective way is to kill them. I have not had the guts to kill any (yet) and had many fruit taken away, at times, right in front of my eyes.

Many of us here started growing fruit trees with little to no knowledge about it. At least you asked first before planting. I planted a few and faced a number of problems before I found this forum . Keep reading,and asking, you'll be successful.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2013 at 9:53PM
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arylkin(5b, south of Chicago)

Thanks everyone! A grafted tree is something I hadn't thought of, though I wish I could buy one already grafted in the varieties I'd like (there seems to be a very limited selection of grafted trees online).

Maybe I can squeeze in 2 trees to have more variety and not have to worry about pollination, I guess the only trouble would be sun availability.

I saw a post (somewhere, on a different forum) that the person said instead of grafting they just planted 2 different trees in the same hole. Is that even possible?

    Bookmark   March 15, 2013 at 9:23PM
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My experience with my (now deceased) multi-grafted tree was that the most vigorous graft took over, the less vigorous ones were left stunted. This was particularly true for me since I didn't have a clue how to prune to keep them balanced at the time.

I have never come across a multi-grafted tree that has all the varieties I want.

It is possible to plant 2 or 3 trees in the hole. I haven't done it myself nor am I interested in doing it. People often cite Dave Wilson Nursery's Backyard Orchard Culture/Multi planting method. You can check DWN website to learn about it.

A couple of things about multi-planting are that competing trees are less likely to give you their full fruit production and that the trees should have similar vigor to avoid one taking over the rest. Others with more experience could help you with this.

I plant most of my tree anywhere from 6-10 ft a part. All are on semi-dwarf rootstocks. I am learning how to prune them.

Two other matters you should keep in mind when growing fruit trees are the amount of sun and tree hardiness for your zone. Less sun will result in poor tree's growth, health and fruit production.Full sun is best. Planting trees on a wrong zone, they may not thrive or survive.

Where are you in zone 5 a?

    Bookmark   March 15, 2013 at 10:34PM
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I planted 2 apple trees 2 years ago and grafted 4 different varieties of apples onto each immediately after they were planted. All the grafts took off well and I hope to get a couple apples on each this year. I know they arent strong yet so I wont let them fruit heavily. Grafting is really quite easy if you do a little research. EVERY branch I grafted on took off. If you would like some tips just let me know and I will try to help.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2013 at 2:00PM
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