Apple varieties in Zone 4

subiej(4)October 3, 2011

Hi there-

We are currently *agonizing* over the process of selecting 3 apple trees for planting this month. We are in Zone 4 (central Vermont).

I've done a lot of Googling on these varieties, but would really like to get some thoughts from people who have grown any of the types we're considering. We're planning to buy them from Elmore Roots (, a local nursery that has an excellent reputation. Here are the ones we're thinking about from that nursery (these are all supposed to do well in zone 4):


Connel Red

Hadlock Reinette




Northwest Greening

Red Burke

Scott Winter

Sweet Sixteen

We are thinking maybe Liberty, for apple scab resistance and fresh eating and Northwest Greening for tartness and storage ability. Any thoughts on those two? I'd also like one other, preferably with decent fresh eating and good keeping qualities, and good disease resistance. A tall order! Thinking Does anyone have any recommendations from this list or experience with these varieties?

One other, important question, i think- the nursery offers 3 sizes of potted trees: 5-foot, 6-foot and 7-foot. I am as impatient as the next person, and don't mind paying extra for a more mature tree, but is a 7-foot tree already too big/established to transplant? Does anyone have any thoughts on/experience with this? Again, these are not bare root- they're potted.

I am posting a very similar question about tree size for the pear trees we're planning to plant, so I apologize for the duplication.

Thanks in advance for any advice!


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franktank232(z5 WI)

You should really know what kind of rootstock the apples are on so you can have an idea of how large the tree will get (from dwarf to a full sized tree). Right now you can get a good idea of some of the varieties you are asking about at a local orchard, if you have any near by.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2011 at 6:48PM
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Although the disease resistant varieties are nice, they seem to me less useful if only 1 of 3. You will still need to spray the other 2 for scab. One more is almost no additional time.
Choosing varieties is also about personal taste. Honeycrisp is a pretty consistent winner, and it's easy to get rid of extras.

I would think carefully about what sort of storage conditions you can provide before loading up on keepers. I would also try to bear in mind harvest dates. It is nice to spread the season out.

I don't want to badmouth Elmore roots, and I haven't purchased from them in several years, but their prices are quite high for stock that is average at best. They are very nice folks, and I really wanted to support them. We tried two years in a row...but there are other nice folks providing better value. They (elmore roots) do carry a nice selection targeted for our short growing season and cold winters.

It used to be that everything they had was on seedling rootstock. Which was one of the reason we used them.

I don't think buying a pottted tree serves you well. I did it for the same reasons when we started planting, and most the bare root stuff has caught up or blew past those trees in a few years.

If you are really in a rush for a bearing or mature landscape/yard tree you should talk with Nick Cowles at SHelburne orchard. He sells field dug balled and burlapped trees and charges by the caliper inch. It is quite pricy, but if you want a big tree come spring,the trees are beautiful.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2011 at 8:14PM
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Good advice from Rob, but it is only 3 trees. Here, storing apples against the house wall in an unheated garage (plus covered with a tarp and in good contact with the ground) will keep them in prime condition until about March 15. And by then apples from 3 trees, even seedlings, will be eaten. He could also go through the effort of making a root cellar, but this is the Q&D root cellar arrangement. The garage freezes, but the apples do not. A crawlspace will perform similarly, of course with some protection against rodents (boxes lined with hardware cloth, etc.).

    Bookmark   October 3, 2011 at 10:47PM
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Thanks for the information. Storage is definitely of concern. Quick and dirty sounds good to me- thanks.

Also, a great point about the spraying. Will have to think about that.

The trees that ER sells are all on standard rootstock. We have a gift certificate there, and I've heard good things about them, which is why we want to buy the trees from them. I do want to plant this fall, thus the potted plants.

Just hypothetically, if all of the sizes (5-, 6- and 7-foot) were the same price, would you get the 7-footers? Or smaller? Could 7-foot trees be too big? Wondering if the smaller trees might actually do better in the long run...

Thanks again- any other thoughts are most welcome.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2011 at 1:03PM
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Glib, I envy you if you can pull off 6 months of "prime" storage with that set up...sounds great you can't ask for more than that. We are not so lucky. Working on better cellering but can only get 2-3 months as is before texture starts to really slide downhill.

Elmore roots is a fine place. I would buy the tree that has been in the pot for the least time. I just don't think a big root bound tree establishes well. But there are others here who can speak to that with more experience.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2011 at 3:18PM
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I also live in zone 4 in North Dakota.I planted 3 apple trees 2 years ago.I went with 1 that ripens in early Sept,second in mid Sept,and 3rd in late Sept.Didn't want them all ripe at the same time.

I planted Hazen,Prairie Magic,and Honeycrisp.I see both Hazen and Honeycrisp are available.

I would also look at a variety that bears at a young age.Hazen does that.In fact it had apples already this year.It is also about as winter hardy is they get.....developed at No.Dak.State Un.

If you like Yellow Delicious.....You should look at Honeygold.....ripens the first week of Oct.Developed by Un. of Minn.

We like crisp sweet apples.....both Honeycrisp and Honeygold fit that description.And both are hardy in zone 4.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2011 at 6:20PM
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subeij - Good thoughts for your consideration from all here. I will now add the following in regards to a couple of z-4 worthy apple varieties mentioned within this thread.

I see that you have listed Connel Red as one of your prospects. This is a more colorful version of the U of Minnesota's Fireside as I understand it. Fireside is one of my absolute faves for a hardy z-4 variety. Especially if allowed to get nipped by a light frost or two before harvesting. Sweet and pleasantly zesty as well. A decent keeper too. Well colored fruit is better tasting overall in my opinion. So hopefully the CR would be a nice surprise in the flavor dept in a side by side comparison. I'm thinking of grafting some of it onto my Firesides so as to equally compare the two.

I have this to say in regards to the Honeygold variety. Probably the best tasting self-grown apple I have ever tasted. I like a good dose of sweet in my apples. Again, if left on the tree to fully finish off the ripening process is the way to go on these. Once they get a little bit of an almost trasnslucent look to their skin, that is where the full 'Honey' part of their namesake comes into play. The biggest problem I have had with this though, is the crop does not ripen off together very evenly. Especially the fruit that does not get its fair share of sunlight. A center open canopy is a good way to help to alleviate some of this.

U of Minnesota varieties in general are quite hardy. My trees don't drop most of their foliage until Jan or Feb. This aspect interferes some with any late Fall dormant sprays such as a Fall copper application. That was just one other thing worth mentioning I thought. I have recently added Zestar and Sweet 16, so will continue to evaluate these selections. The Zestar is reported to be a worthwhile early variety that will keep.

Best Wishes on your upcoming fruit projects.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2011 at 12:21AM
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alan haigh

Another method of apple storage is to bury something like a garbage pail so it is a few inches above ground and cover the exposed top with pine needles or something that will insulate without freezing solid. Instant root cellar- but you have to occasionally go through the apples and remove rotters.

Unless the container is real tight you also have to bait out mice.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2011 at 5:58AM
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Hmmmm- thanks for the info on varieties. Will have to take a look at Hazen and Connell Red. Honeycrisp sounds great, of course, but I'd read that it's not the greatest storer.

For some reason, I didn't have in on my original list, but it looks like they actually do offer Fireside this year. Since it gets such rave reviews, I will definitely check that out. :)

Thanks again for all the great advice!

    Bookmark   October 7, 2011 at 11:33AM
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Honeycrisp stores quite well.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2011 at 12:24PM
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franktank232(z5 WI)

I tried Sweetango at the orchard near here... Its good, but somewhat reminds me of the texture/taste of Fuji? The price was way too high for me. Pretty crazy the wide range of texture/flavors with apples. I still prefer a McIntosh. Honeycrisp is a very good apple.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2011 at 12:32PM
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Let me qualify my comments re: storage. First, we start relatively late, with Northern Spys bought around Nov. 1. The garage is already cold though not really freezing. I can keep them uncovered near the colder outer wall initially, then move them closer to the house and cover once the weather freezes most nights.

Also, I add 5 gallon buckets of water under the tarp, 20 gallons total, and they will keep the "cellar" right at freezing for days (apples freeze at 27F or so) in really cold weather, about 10F above the real temperature elsewhere in the garage. I can also empty them if they start freezing and refill with more water if the weather stays too cold. One bucket gives off 7,000 BTU while keeping the temperature at 32F (it is really an ideal refrigerator under the circumstances). This year we had a cold March, it was 14F on March 31, and that kept the cellar cold for longer than usual. Deterioration is quick once the weather warms.

I use HM's method for things other than apples, though I should perhaps make me one for apples alone. I have a hardware cloth lined box, about 50 inches by 16 by 75 (two people are needed to move it around). I place it in a pit that doubles as composting pit in the summer. It gets filled to the brim because I preserve about some 25 cardoons, whole plant, for the winter, and they occupy a lot of room. There are also whole plant cabbages, turnip and rutabaga roots, and if I grew more, potatoes.

This box, in the pit and covered with 1.5 feet of leaves, preserves vegetables incredibly well (and, my guess, apples too). It never freezes. Moving the leaves and the snow is a major pain. Last winter the snow and leaves crushed the door, and I have now made two much stronger doors, so I only have to clear half the leaves on any given entry.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2011 at 1:43PM
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alan haigh

How Honeycrisp will store is quite variable, I suppose depending at least in part on ripening conditions and wetness of the soil at that time. Waterlogged trees will produce very poor storage Honeycrisp apples and even in the best conditions commercial growers consider Honeycrip problematic in storage. "Properly" stored, they can hold their texture for a long time if they don't suffer from core break down.

I've read that unlike other apples they breakdown quickly at freezing and should be kept a few degrees above that. I suspect that for some home growers it stores very well, but I wouldn't call it a great storage apple as grown in the Northeast. Certainly nothing like Fuji and Goldrush or even heirlooms like Roxbury Russet. I can't speak for Z4, however, where they'd probably store better just because they ripen later.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2011 at 1:46PM
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I grow or have tasted many of the varieties you list.

Honeycrisp - excellent all around apple. great taste. long storage time (7 months?). mid season. You can't go wrong with this one.

Connel Red - great fresh eating apple. late season. very large fruit. I love these.

Sweet Sixteen - nice balanced flavor without any one overpowering flavor. mid season. overall very good.

Haralson - very popular apple in MN. late season. I think these are only OK for fresh eating because of the tartness. They are excellent if cooked. If you just want fresh fruit, I don't recommend it.

Two other apples you should consider are:

Zestar - This is one of the best early season apples I've had.

SnowSweet - Very few people are growing these, but they are killer apples. I had a box of a dozen apple varieties sitting in the kitchen. My kids polished the snowsweet off well before anything else. It is a terrific late season apple. I think they are at least as good as honeycrisp.

    Bookmark   October 31, 2011 at 1:33PM
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franktank232(z5 WI)

After eating a bag of Honeycrisp over the weekend, I've determined its my favorite apple. The texture is just perfect. The ones I had were from New York (they were so much cheaper then local ones!).

    Bookmark   October 31, 2011 at 1:58PM
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You may want to consult my friend at Walden Heights Nursery in Walden, VT.

He has a nice selection of Zone 4 apples.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2011 at 11:11PM
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kansasapple(KS 5/6)

I have 2,000 trees in our pick your own orchard and 2,500 in our nursery - over 1,000 varieties and we've been actively planting since the 90s. One thing that has proved true almost every time - once a tree goes past year 2 in a pot it seems to get root-bound or stunted and it never recovers. New bench-grafted trees will outperform a 7 foot potted tree. I'd go bareroot from a reputable nursery before I'd buy a 3 year potted tree. I've purchased from Walden Heights before - great trees. Big Horse Creek Farm is another great source - they got my collection started. We don't supply less than 10 benchgrafts in a shipment - but if you really can't find what you need give us a shout and maybe we could do a trade or something.

Here is a link that might be useful: Ricks bio at Mother Earth News

    Bookmark   November 4, 2011 at 5:11PM
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franktank232(z5 WI)

About Honeycrisp:

Sensory evaluations and instrumental texture measurements showed that `Honeycrisp' maintained a crisp texture from harvest through 6 months of cold storage, whereas its parents, `Macoun' and `Honeygold', softened over the same time period. Turgor potential, cell wall composition, and ultrastructural comparisons of the fruit were made. Cell turgor potentials of `Honeycrisp' and `Delicious' were similar and greater than those of `Macoun' and `Honeygold', and clearly correlated with firmness. There were no differences in cell wall neutral sugar composition, except for arabinose, which was not highly correlated with crispness. `Honeycrisp' fruit maintained cell wall integrity after 6 months of storage, while cell walls of `Macoun' and `Honeygold' deteriorated. These data show that it is important to compare more than one cultivar when studying crispness. Honeycrisp is a cultivar that maintains its crispness through long storage without controlled atmosphere conditions. After 6 months of storage, this crispness can be attributed to a maintenance of high turgor potential and cell wall integrity.

Sounds like they store for a long time.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2011 at 12:52PM
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