Starting a home orchard

birdboyhg(PA 6a)October 28, 2008

I am a college student who would eventually like to own a farm. On my farm I would like a small orchard. Next semester (my sr. year) I am going to do an independent study and learn plant propagation techniques. One technique is grafting and I decided to graft the fruit trees I would like for my orchard. I am having trouble deciding on cultivars of the various drupes and pomes. For apples, I am thinking... honeycrisp, ginger gold, gravenstein, McIntosh, melrose, spartan, winesap, macoun, granny smith, and an heirloom variety grown from seed by one of my professors. I found semi-dwarf rootstock for sale and plan to buy 75 rootstocks (5 for each variety of apple and the rest for pears). When it comes to pears, peaches(hoping for a mix of yellow and white flesh), plum, apricot,(50 semi dwarf rootstocks for the peaches, plums, and apricots) and cherry(15 semi dwarf rootstocks for sweet and sour cherries), I have no idea what to grow. Does anyone have any suggestions for good cultivars of apple, peach, plum, pear, and sweet cherry( I am thinking montmorency for pie cherry). I live in a zone 6a, but must be hardy to zone 5b just to be safe.

By the way, once I plan on the variety('s'), I am also looking for those cultivars' scion wood, so If you have some to trade or to sell, email me.

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austransplant(MD 7)

I can't speak to your specific apple choices, but applaud your general plan. You could speak to Adams County Nursery in Pennsylvania for information on varieties suitable to PA. Check out their web site, which you can easily find with Google.

No doubt some of those on Garden Web can supply scion wood once the trees become dormant, but I'd also strongly urge you to join NAFEX (North American Fruit Explorers), an organization of amateur fruit growers (and some explorers). Their members are a great source for scion wood and information.

Here is a link that might be useful: North American Fruit Explorers

    Bookmark   October 28, 2008 at 5:54PM
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I agree with the above, but I would also encourage you to try some of the less well known fruits, such as persimmons, paw paws, mulberries, quinces, as well as small fruits, the various berries, grapes, hardy kiwi, etc. There is a whole world of really nice fruit out there that isn't well known by the general public, for one reason or another, but which have many good qualities in both the garden and kitchen. And, along with fruit, don't forget about all of the nice hardy varieties of nuts which will grow well in Zone 5 or 6, including walnuts, butternuts, filberts, hickories and the hardy varieties of pecans, almonds, etc. I realize that you can't do all of this for your academic project, but you certainly should consider all of this for the future.

    Bookmark   October 28, 2008 at 6:31PM
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birdboyhg(PA 6a)

I have already started collecting many of those other fruit varieties you have listed. I have thorned and thornless blackberry cuttings starting, red fall bearing raspberries, golden raspberries, goji berries,cranberries, lingon berries,manchurian apricot seedlings, two kinds of elderberry, three kinds of strawberry, concord grapes, niagra grapes, pawpaw seedlings, persimmon seedlings, wild gooseberry, pixwell gooseberry, red currants, white currants, black currants, teaberries, wild blueberries, and am looking for blueberry cuttings(already rooted) and fruiting quince. Does quince graft to apple rootstock?

    Bookmark   October 29, 2008 at 8:53AM
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theaceofspades(7 Long Island)

college student, go to the Fruit tree nursery web sites to sign up for the spring catalogs. Latest catalogs get mailed out in November. Lots of free info. Same variety fruit quality varies greatly by region, soil and humidity. Many plums need low humidty and hot summers. Apples need cool autumn nights to flavor up. You could graft varieties to test for your orchard. You just need mature trees and scion wood.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2008 at 8:35PM
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I'm not sure if you want this many, but Hartmann's sells rooted blueberry cuttings (i.e., plugs) wholesale for about a $1 apiece if your total order is at least 100 plants (of any type). If you are putting in rows of raspberries or blackberries (also about $1 apiece), it isn't difficult to order 100 total plants. Although, the downside (?) is that I now have way too many blueberry plants...

Here is a link that might be useful: Hartmann's

    Bookmark   October 30, 2008 at 10:45AM
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birdboyhg: you say 'small orchard' but the list of seedlings sounds very extensive to me. How much land do you think you will need to have this orchard? I just started buying fruit trees,a montmorency cherry and a green gage plum, but don't have any sense yet how much I can fit onto my 1/3 acre.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2008 at 1:14PM
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birdboyhg(PA 6a)

Most of the trees I will graft will be given away. I only want mayby one tree of one variety of white peach, one tree of a yellow peach a few trees of a few apple species a pear or two, a plum or two... I would like a 3 to 5 acre orchard Eventually.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2008 at 1:32PM
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bonnan(6 & 5)

I would try Enterprize and Goldrush. These are relatively disease free and require minimal spraying. I bought 50 trees from Adams County Nursery; received special pricing because I let them select the varieties (sort of!). I'm in West Pa so if your ever over in Mercer county email me and I'll show you my fruit and berries.
BTW, Why the "bird" in your handle; our place with 141 acres is also a certified bird sanctuary.

    Bookmark   October 31, 2008 at 6:48AM
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billv(z6 WVA)

a living doing this or is it just a hobby?" If the former, you need to ask not only how to do this thing right but if you are doing the right thing. If you expect to make a living at this, my thought would be to forget grafting and variety selection until you run some income and expense numbers on your plans. It sounds like your best case scenario is to produce for a speciality market which you need to know how to develop and service. If you wind up selling for juice and sauce, your variety selections and grafting won't help you much and your planned acerage seems unlikely to keep you in business. Just my opinion, however.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2008 at 3:23PM
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birdboyhg(PA 6a)

Ok. Here is my ultimate plan. I would like to have a small farm with an organic orchard, goats for milk, honey bees, ostrich for meat, and a few other things. I plan to teach and use my farm to supply all or at least nearly all my caloric needs. As for the orchard I would like to have one or two trees of many different varieties of each type of fruit. Basically an apple, peach, cherry, plum, apricot...collection... all on small trees. To start, however, I would like practical, more common varieties of each with which I can learn and practice pruning, fertilizing...techniques. Although the orchard will mainly serve my personal needs, if there is fruit left over, my family and friends get the rest. Not a commercial fruit farm.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2008 at 7:05PM
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austransplant(MD 7)


Your plan sounds like a description of how I'd like to go with my retirement! With the major fruit trees the hardest part, I think, will be dealing with disease and insect pests, especially on an organic orchard. Here a few suggestions. First, you could start gently by growing a few of the new disease resistant apples -- some were mentioned above. There are no insect resistant apples, so you'll still have your hands busy dealing with insect problems. An excellent book on organic apple growing is Michael Phillips' The Apple Grower. I have found that in suburban Maryland the hardest things to grow so far have been stone fruit, due to the extreme insect problems, especially curculio and oriental fruit moth. So far my experience -- limited as it is -- has been that sour cherries are easier than plums or peaches. I have not been organic, but tried to keep down the pesticide use to a minimum by bagging fruit, with only mixed results.

Another thing you might be able to do is intern on an organic orchard on the East coast in your summers. You'll probably learn more this way than any other way.

Finally, get going with the bees. I started keeping bees this spring. It's both fascinating and quite a learning curve. Join your local beekeeping club. Its members have a wealth of knowledge they are eager to impart. Most clubs have beginners courses in late winter-early spring.

Good luck.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2008 at 8:20PM
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