first time apple growing

kbh913August 6, 2014

I am new to the forum and would like to grow a few apple trees in our backyard. I am new to this and totally overwhelmed about the types of apple trees etc and could use some expert advise on where to start.

We live in coastal CT in zone 6B. I am looking for 1-3 trees that will produce delicious apples for fresh eating as soon as possible and fruit that can last after harvest for a while. The apples could be smaller sized or larger is fine too.

I would like something that is closer to bearing fruit than waiting for years if possible. What type do you recommend? Could I plant something now or do I have to wait until next spring? Any advice on prepping the soil or things I need to do to get the best crop the first year?

Thank you so much!!!

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Buy your trees as bare root from a reputable nursury. (raintree, Adams county, Stark bros, Cummins).

Gold rush on M26 rootstalk is known to produce very young. however you have to limit that early production by picking off the extra or you will stunt the trees growth. Honeycrisp can take some extra years to produce and can be a pain to grow.

Find the you-pick orchards in your area and go every 2weeks and try them, there are 2 things to try. pick and eat from the tree but also take some home and put in the fridge and try 2 weeks later. Jonathan is so-so right off the tree but very good after 2 weeks in the fridge. Jonagold is my all around favorite, but not what I would choose for an organic operation.

In the long run you will probably be most happy with semi dwarf rather then dwarf. (like M111) that gives a larger tree with a strong root system, but not the fastest way to fruit. I would much rather wait an extra year or two but then get loads of fruit from then on.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 9:29AM
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In addition to cckw's advice, I'd suggest that you consider growling disease resistant apple varieties. It'll make it easier for you to care for your trees.

You may want to plant an early, a mid- and a late season varieties to extend your harvesting season.

Check Adam County Nursery webpage under Ordering Fruit Trees, it has a list of Disease Resistant fruit trees, many are apple trees. One early season apple I really like but is not on that list is William's Pride. I'd recommend it as an early apple that you should consider.

Rootstock plays a role in how early your trees will bear fruit (and in a few other things, too). I attached a link here about rootstock info. My apple trees are on M7. I like my trees shorter but not dwarf.

Burntridge Nursery is another good nursery that offers reasonable price fruit trees. Good luck.

Here is a link that might be useful: Apple rootstocks

    Bookmark   August 7, 2014 at 9:59PM
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Thanks so much! Any recommendations on best time to plant in zone 6b?

    Bookmark   August 8, 2014 at 9:34AM
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Planting time is not that big of a deal. If you plant early it won't do much. you may not have a lot of choice, just based on the shipping schedule of the nursury. Get you trees ordered in January so you can get what you want. before they sell out.

Plant your trees in your own dirt. Do not get caught up in mixing whatever else with your soil. That commonly makes the hole you planted in softer then the surrounding soil, therefor makes it hold water like a bucket and drown your trees. Don't fertilize either. Commercial fertilizers are made from petroleum. Trees grow fine without petroleum. Adding compost on top of the ground throughout the trees life is a good natural way to replace used nutrients.

keep reading this forum for things like pruning and pest management. Both subjects require a lot of time to get your mind around.

Growing fruit is a great hobby. It's fun to learn these things, it is rewarding to see your trees grow out in nice shapes and even better to eat properly ripened fruit!!

    Bookmark   August 8, 2014 at 9:56AM
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I think for your zone, early April will be fine. I usually plant mine mid April. You should order bareroot trees from reputable nurseries late this year for a spring delivery.

If you are not sure if a certain nursery is any good, google Scoop on....... Such as Scoop on Cummins nursery. Reviews of that nursery will be there for you to read.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2014 at 10:02AM
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kbh: mamuang and cckw offered very good suggestions in my opinion as well. Mamuang gets a vote of support from me on the disease resistant varieties. Goldrush and William's Pride are both DR varieties from the PRI program and both have good reputations, particularly Goldrush. If I hadn't read cckw's or mamuangs posts my suggestions would have been:

1) William's Pride: this would satisfy your early apple requirement and has received good reviews, though ScottSmith reports some issues with water coring. I do not have, nor have tasted WP...just going on what I've read.

2)Honeycrisp: easily the highest rated tasting apple there is, AND is a good producer, grower and no significant downsides. cckw said they can be a pain to grow, I've not heard of this and have had zero issues myself. The early reports on them as far as disease resistance etc were less favorable initially than what they have since become. So much so that actually lists them as a DR apple now. Suggest this tree on M111, just like cckw suggested. Mine fruited year 1, fruited better year 2 and now in year 3 is loaded heavily. This tree is a must in my opinion.

3) Goldrush: This satisfies better than anything else your late season requirement and has some of the best keeping/storage qualities of any apple you can get. It always rates very high in any taste test I've seen (I've seen a lot of them) and is another DR offering from PRI. I have this apple on M26. If you have room you may consider M111 or some other semi dwarf rootstock for the reasons cckw suggested. Goldrush does have susceptibility to Cedar Apple Rust.

Given your requirements, these are three very good choices in my opinion and apparently cckw and mamuang feel the same.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2014 at 11:26AM
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I've not experienced water core in WP (yet) but I've only harvested the apples for 3 years. I also do not mind water core fruit. In fact, I like it.

I have both WP and HC. Both can to become biennial if not thin enough. It's happened to me this year on both.

On WP, I thought I had thinned enough last year but obviously not enough.

My HC is on an unknown rootstock. It took about 7-8 years to bear fruit (first time last year). It had only 6-7 fruit last year. Somehow, it decided not to bear any this year. Some people on this forum have had no issue with HC. Others including I do.

The issues with HC I have encountered are very slow to bear, not prolific, becoming biennial easily and the leaves looking ratty and yellowing (its characteristic) by the end of summer.

WP apple is a good size but HC is very large. Both taste very good, worth growing esp. if you get a known rootstock so you know what to expect.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2014 at 11:07AM
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mamuang: Do you also have Liberty? I've been considering whether to get a Liberty or a William's Pride. Everything I've read indicates Liberty is a superior apple to WP. Do you have an opinion on it?
What rootstock is you WP on mamuang?
Adams county did offer WP the year before last, but when I called to order it, they were sold out. For some reason, they haven't offered it since.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2014 at 11:57PM
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bob_z6(6b/7a SW CT)

I have both Liberty and William's Pride, though both trees are relatively young. The best Liberty have been a bit better than WP, but it is also a month later. As Mamuang said, an early-mid-late combo would be nice.

For mid-season, I've gotten very tasty apples from Kidds Orange Red, Sweet Sixteen (related to Honeycrisp), and Ashmead's Kernel. All are at least somewhat disease resistant and produce better tasting apples than Liberty (for me).

You may also want to consider russets- in the last few years, Golden Russet has edged out Goldrush as my favorite apple. Regrettably my tree hasn't fruited yet (though I only planted it last year), so I've had to get most of them from semi-local orchards. I picked 30+ pounds of them from one PYO and it wasn't enough.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2014 at 12:42AM
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alan haigh

You may find GRusset somewhat challenging to grow. They attract coddling moth and wasps like crazy and are difficult to train. And they are prone to summer rots. You may end up switching back to Rush as they are much more grower friendly trees and fruit, and taste a lot better than GRusset after each has been in storage a couple of months.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2014 at 5:35AM
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I don't have Liberty. It seems somewhat similar to WP. To me, there are other more interesting mid-season apples. I am interested in hearing Bob's reviews since he has tons of apples.

I got my two WP from either Burnt Ridge or Schlabach nursery. They are on M7. I have limited space and have planted my trees very close to one another. If you have space, many people recommend M111. Most nurseries also carry it.

If you have not known about a nursery called Schlabach, run by Amish people, in upstate New York, you should check it out. they offers a lot of fruit tree varieties at a very fair price.

The only downside is that they don't have a website. Orders or communication need to be done by phone and/or in writing but it's worth it. They are good, honest people and do call and write back. The phone is 585-798-6198 or 866 600 5203. If you leave a voice message, someone will call you back. I can't find their address at the moment.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2014 at 8:15AM
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I would like to submit that if you can get trees for fall planting,and get them in the ground, you will probably gain about 1/2 a season root growth, and the trees will be less stressed next year.
Fall is the best time for planting hardy things in zone 6 and south. Apples tend to be pretty hardy!

    Bookmark   August 10, 2014 at 8:18AM
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mamuang: thanks for the info. I think I'm leaning towards William's Pride mainly due to it's early harvest time. I've read many times it's about the best early apple there is. I guess when coupled with it's very good disease resistance that makes it a pretty attractive offering. I'll look into Schlabach, but I generally like to stick to those with websites. I like to see what's available before I call and definitely don't want to wait on return phone calls. Seems a goofy way to run a business in this modern age to me.

dbarron: I've been giving fall planting some thought, but am thinking I'm not going to do that. Seems it would just give the voles a head start on root destruction. If it wasn't for that I'd probably do it for the reason you mentioned.

harvestman: Do you have WP? What is your opinion of it? Any big unreported downsides you know of (in the context of early apples)?

    Bookmark   August 10, 2014 at 12:35PM
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alan haigh

WP is a beautiful and reasonably tasty apple. Some find it really, really good but to my palate it is only fair except when you consider its earliness, very long picking period and reliable productivity. A couple weeks later and you can be eating something really good like Zestar.

But then, I don't really gravitate towards apples at peak of stonefruit season. Apples don't become important to me until Oct.- after all they will be the only fresh fruit from my orchard for months, so I'm in no rush. Also, I'm not that much drawn to Macintosh types- Cornell's holly grail of breeding disease resistant varieties. Macoun is the only Mac type I consider really worth growing and then only a branch or so because it keeps poorly.

Disease resistance doesn't simplify matters much when you are spraying for insect pests anyway and can simply throw some fungicide into the mix. Car and scab can be managed at the same time as plum curculio except with most susceptible varieties at worst sites.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2014 at 3:05PM
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bob_z6(6b/7a SW CT)

Harvestman, I'll keep an eye out for problems. But, from the PYO GRussets I've gotten, I know there is good upside potential in terms of flavor. Last year, I really enjoyed them through the end of December, at which point other apples (like Goldrush) would be needed. I still like Goldrush a lot and am growing it, but it lost its top spot in my heart.

I agree with you HM about WP- it isn't bad, but Zestar is better, though later.

I also tried my first Sansa today and even though it was probably 2 weeks early, it was pretty good (12.5 brix, nice sweet flavor). I would have left it for later, but the first 5 (of 6 total) apples were snagged by animals in the last week and I decided I'd rather have a taste of it early, than not at all...

If you are looking for a nursery which does fall shipping, I'd recommend Grandpas Orchard. I got a couple trees from them at the start of November 2 years ago, and they've done well. In fact, one of them is the Sansa tree I mentioned above. They should have their inventory up in the next few weeks to a month.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2014 at 9:37PM
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alan haigh

Bob, I'm not saying GR isn't worth growing if you are drawn to that deep, dry sugar- it is a great Russet. I just don't think it is a great staple apple but if I liked it as much as you do, I would. Once it begins producing its growth habit is fine.

I haven't cut down my Ashmead's Kernel and it has so far been awful in terms of production. I just like the apple so much that I'm determined to crack the code. Just hope the code isn't an English climate. I think it is simply excessively vegetative and needs specialized pruning to keep the spurs well lit.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2014 at 6:01AM
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I'm kind of in the same situation only I'm in Zone 5. I'll be planting my first fruit trees next spring and I keep tossing around varieties to best suit my needs. The only apple that I am 100% sure on is honeycrisp simply because it is my all time favorite. Other varieties are still up in the air. I'm thinking maybe goldrush for late harvest. I also plan on ordering a combination apple tree and a combination cherry tree. Another thing I'm considering is purchasing a few dwarf trees that I can grow out of pots on my patio. Maybe nectarine but I still need to do more research.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2014 at 7:59AM
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Honeycrisp is not a strong tree in my experience. Although this may be a regional thing as guys in the north east seems to think differently of it then us mid-west guys. My experience is that it likes to get fungal issues, doesn't like to grow very fast and bugs love to eat it's leaves. Pus it takes more years to produce fruit then other apples. If I were to do it over I would plant a Liberty, WP, Enterprise, etc and get the tree growing then graft Honeycrisp onto it. With my HC tree I did it the other way, grafted onto it to get some stronger foliage going, and that was the first posative step that tree had. this year fruited a little for the first time, and I think will be fine in the future.

Liberty has a more narrow window of greatness then many varieties. In my house once they aren't great they go to applesauce, that retains greatness. We don't settle for less. Enterprise is maybe a better choice then Liberty. But I'll take one of each over 2 of either.

If you plant these modern disease resistant trees you can graft weaker but varieties that have great apple onto these stronger trees. My best tree has 4 varieties, and will probably get a couple more.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2014 at 9:56AM
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bob_z6(6b/7a SW CT)

Speedster1, I'm not sure Goldrush will consistently ripen for you in zone 5, unless you have a longer season than most, or a warm micro-climate in your yard.

HM, I'm not sure if it was just that I was sent a well trained tree (nice crotch angles), or if Golden Russet is better behaved on dwarfing rootstocks, but I'm pretty happy with mine's form. I suppose some of the scaffolds are a bit long and un-branched- is that what you mean about the growth habit? Here's a pic.

AK is an interesting question...To better replicate England, could it be:
- Less sun (maybe some shade cloth)
- More water (easy to add)
- Milder winter (plant one in a sheltered spot)
- Something less obvious (a big category- soil, pollinator, etc)

Of course, it could be a combination of the above, which makes it even more complex/interesting.

edit: I forgot the pic earlier...

This post was edited by bob_z6 on Tue, Aug 12, 14 at 1:28

    Bookmark   August 11, 2014 at 10:17AM
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speedster...cckw is a knowledgeable guy in every regard, but whatever you do, DON'T let him dissuade you from growing Honeycrisp. If it's your favorite apple (it's mine too) by all means plant it. I think his experience with Honeycrisp is not typical. He doesn't like the chlorotic leaves it develops (genetic issue) particularly late season...they all do it...mine does it. He's also right that it gets a bit (not bad at all) ratty looking by seasons end. That said however, for me, it is NOT bothered by insects any more than any other apple, is more resistant to fungal issues than the average apple, and IS a strong grower...not overly vigorous, but strong. Mine has fruited every year. There are concessions one must accept with every variety and Honeycrisp is no exception. Biennial tendency and chlorotic leaves are about it for Honeycrisp. That's it...those two things for what is widely considered one of, if not, the best eating apples in the world. Even the Brits rate it VERY high in taste panels and they always lean so heavily toward old heirloom English varieties. It stores pretty well, tastes awesome and is even somewhat attractive. actually lists Honeycrisp as a disease resistant variety.

Goldrush is another highly regarded apple and was bred for disease resistance. It's concession (and to me it's a big one) is it's high susceptibility to CAR) it is also a weaker growing apple than Honeycrisp. I think it is probably still an awesome variety because of it's DR and keeping qualities. When I taste mine here in a few months I'll know for sure. I expect it will not disappoint.

Honeycrisp?...definitely plant it.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2014 at 10:56AM
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I certainly appreciate everyones input and guidance. It's nearly impossible to have people agree on everything. I'd be remiss to not try planting honeycrisp considering how well everyone in my family loves it. I guess in the end if it grows a little slower or requires a little more maintenance I can live with that. My orchard will be small due to lack of space so it's not like I'll have to prune, train, and spray several hundred trees, just a couple. And by planting some other varieties that will give me something to fall back on if the honeycrisp doesn't take off like I'd like it to. Just need to decide what else to plant. Didn't realize goldrush wasn't suitable for zone 5.

This is all a huge learning curve for me. I plan on ordering from a reputable nursery and do as much reading as I possibly can to ensure success. YouTube has become my addiction but I can't always tell that what I'm watching is right or wrong. Live and learn I guess.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2014 at 11:23AM
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BTW speedster...ditto what Bob said regarding the Goldrush in your zone. I'm 6-6B depending on who's map (and which one) you are looking at and I'm not even sure I'll get consistent ripening here. Unless someone here in your zone has reliably had Goldrush ripen for them, I think I'd look to something else for a keeper apple. Since you are interested in dwarf varieties Improved Winesap might be worth looking at. It too is a good keeper and it's flavor well received also. It is also sold almost exclusively on dwarf root stock. I have one, but it will be a while yet till it fruits. They ripen a few weeks ahead of Goldrush.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2014 at 1:56PM
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alan haigh

Bob, if you are talking about M26 or smaller, then of course it would be much easier to train. Dwarf trees are never very challenging beyond the threat of them runting out or being girdled by voles (they seem drawn to dwarfs).

    Bookmark   August 11, 2014 at 6:33PM
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bob_z6(6b/7a SW CT)

Yes, mine is on B9, which seems just about right for my spacing. I haven't had any voles, but I have had some borer damage. In fact, 2 of the 3 in-ground trees to be hit have been Goldrush.

Here's a pic of the damage I just found this morning, which is about 6' off the ground (Goldrush on G11). During the dormant season, I'll probably just top the tree under the damage, which is what I did on the other Goldrush (on G11/MM111 interstem, also damaged pretty high- 4'+).

    Bookmark   August 12, 2014 at 1:38AM
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mamuang: just thought I'd mention I took your advice and contacted Schlabach and ordered a catalog. They sent me a little pamphlet and a letter saying the catalog would be sent out in February. I think I probably will order from them if the prices are good and they have all the varieties I want. Do you know if scion wood is available from them as well?

    Bookmark   August 24, 2014 at 1:14PM
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I usually receive Schlabach's catalog right after Christmas.

Unfortunately, I could not find my last year's one. I don't remember if they offer scion wood or not. I know they have a lot of pest control products, fungicide, etc, both organic and not.

I got my Gold Rush and William's Pride apples, Easternglo nectarine, Satsuma J. plum, Harrow Sweet E. pear and a few other varieties of fruit from them. They do have a good selection and good price.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2014 at 4:09PM
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