Critique my fruit tree selection please!

ozzz(5b AZ)April 23, 2012

Hey everyone, hope your all doing well!

I recently purchased a new property and while I dont have a ton of room, I do have a half acre backyard that is all fenced in. Ive measured and walked it off and due to the shape of the lot Ive got a great area that I can put about 5 fruit trees in.

My climate has some quirks though. Im in Flagstaff, AZ up in the mountains at 7,000 feet. We have very intense AZ sun as you would expect, but we get late frosts into early/mid april. Also, our growing season is short... with typical first snow fall being around Halloween/end of Oct.

I have selected (and planted) two peach trees. Veteran and Contender. Ive heard both these are very cold hardy and the contender especially Ive read is good at handling late frosts.

I also planted a Stella self-pollinating cherry tree.

My problem is with my apples. I have a honey crip apple tree and a braeburn apple tree. Recently I discovered the braeburn probably will never ripen in my area since it very late to ripen. So I need to pull the tree.

I know braeburns are reliably self fertile, but the honey crisp is NOT. So can anyone recommend to me another type of apple tree that will handle my climate, late frosts, and not be quit so late to ripen, that will be a good pollinater for the honey crip??

Also, what do you think about my peach and cherry selections? They are already in the ground so for better or worse I suppose, but I did just put them all in within this month so if there was something really wrong with my selections I could yank them too I suppose.

Any suggestions are GREATLY appreciated. I need to get an apple tree that fits the above criteria ordered and in the ground ASAP.


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I'm in southern WI, which is 5a and has a shorter growing season than your area. I just planted a Zestar! Apple tree, it's quite crisp and tasty like a Honeycrisp, and people rate Zestar! as having better flavor. It ripens earlier, but only keeps a few months. It can be used for applesauce and baking, unlike the Honeycrisp. I think it'd be a good choice for you. Both trees are mid-season bloomers, they'd be fine pollination partners.

I haven't heard of a Veteran peach, but I know some people have Contenders around here. I planted a McKay peach from WI, and I have heard that the white peach Polly is very hardy and excellent quality. Several people have planted Reliance here, but the flavor and quality is quite variable from year to year.

Sweet cherries are quite iffy here, but I can't comment on your area. The people here with sweet cherries have Lapins, White Gold, or Black Gold.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2012 at 11:40AM
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ozzz(5b AZ)

Great, thanks for the recommendation! I should mention Ild prefer a tree with a mature height and spread of around 15', no more then 20' if possible. Ill look into the Zestar and see if it meets that.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2012 at 1:18PM
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ozzz(5b AZ)

Im not getting much info on the Zestar as far as mature height goes (in the standard variety), anyone have any info on this?

Also, Gurneys has the honeycrip that I ordered listed as a late season bloomer. Will that cause any pollination problems since the Zestar is mid-season?

    Bookmark   April 27, 2012 at 10:58AM
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franktank232(z5 WI)

Flagstaff is an interesting climate. Gorgeous summer weather (warm days/cool nights) and winter can be snowy, but not really extremely cold like Wisconsin. I suppose your biggest worries would be spring frost/freezes.

I would guess apples, pears, peaches (hardy varieties), cherries (sweet and sour) should all do well...given they bloom late enough and you avoid sub 28F readings once they do.

If anything you can escape to Phoenix and grow mangoes :) Although looking at your July weather, I don't think you can do much better then 70Fs/low 80Fs for highs and 30Fs/40Fs/50Fs for lows... I bet the city dwellers over run your area in summer?

    Bookmark   April 27, 2012 at 11:35AM
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ozzz(5b AZ)

Thats exactly what happens, we get swarms from Phoenix. Temps are usually in the high 80's low 90's during summer and around 50-60's for the low though. At least last summer thats how it was. We do get snow, sometimes quite a bit ... but the sun is so intense we can get 18" and its 60 degrees the next day and all the snow is gone in a day, two TOPS.

So my main concern now is, I have a honeycrip apple tree... a standard. I need a pollination partner for it that is not too large (15'-18' approx would be perfect), something that is a mid to late season bloomer, but that ripens early.

Any suggestions???

    Bookmark   April 27, 2012 at 12:21PM
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ozzz(5b AZ)

Also, what about a dwarf variety? Will they still be fine as a pollination partner? I really dont NEED two apple trees, but I need a pollinator. Dwarf might be the ticket. I still would need to know what variety though, that blooms late (at the same time as honeycrips) and ripens early.


    Bookmark   April 27, 2012 at 12:25PM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

This is the best apple pollination chart I could find. It suggests bloom period and compatibility. Relative bloom date can vary with climate and weather. Zestar was very early blooming for me this year.

Gala might be a good pollinator for you and it's a good early maturing apple.

Here is a link that might be useful: ACN apple bloom chart

    Bookmark   April 27, 2012 at 1:56PM
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carolync1(z8/9 CA inland)

Concerning fruit tree height: Try "summer pruning" to maintain your desired shape and height. Produces less new growth than dormant pruning. Pick your apple rootstock for adaptation to your climate. If you're only wanting another variety for pollination, you could also consider grafting a branch of a pollinator (or two) onto your desired variety.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2012 at 2:13PM
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tedgrowsit(6b PA)

My honeycrisp and zestar bloomed pretty much together. They both just dropped petals. Many excellent apples will pollinate your honeycrisp. You have a tricky decision on your hands. William's pride produces a great early apple and has a very long bloom period. Even Liberty would be an excellent choice, so would . . .

    Bookmark   April 27, 2012 at 10:23PM
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Axel(12b/Sunset H2)

Braeburn isn't going to ripen for you? Where did you get that notion? Given the latitude you are at, you can expect most apples to be about a month ahead from the usual ripening times. I grow Braeburn here in Santa Cruz and even with Summer fog it's ripe by the end of September. Given the amount of chill you get and the fact that you still have a decent warm growing season, you are probably safe with any apples that "officially" ripen by mid to end of October in higher latitudes.

In fact, looking at the Flagstaff weather averages, I'd say you are going to get high quality October ripening apples that will keep well. With an average high of 62F in October and an average low of 32F, your apples will get nicely frosted, which makes them much higher quality. A good Winter apple can handle a dip down into the lower 20's without going bad. Braeburn fits that category.

What worries me more about braeburns for you is you not getting any crop at all because braebrun is relatively low chill and may bloom too early for you. With an average low of 29F in April but an average high already at 58F, your braeburn blossoms will fry.

Based on what I've seen for Flagstaff averages, I'd recommend you stick with really late blooming apples as long as they stil ripen before November. Check out Southern apples, many of them bloom late and are resistant to early season heat spells, i.e. won't bloom. But stop worrying about your Fall temperatures, because they're excellent for ripening apples, since apples like a good chill in the Fall.

For example, Hollow log is a Summer apple that blooms late, that one would work well for you. Make sure also to pick high chill varieties that won't bloom too early.

I recommend you ask around locally to find out what apple varieties work the best.You are not going to get valuable advice from other geographical locations that have little in common with your conditions.

    Bookmark   April 28, 2012 at 12:15AM
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