Small Commercial Apple Orchard

uglyapple(7)September 17, 2013

I posted this question on the Orchard Forum, but I thougt this may be a better area.

I'm two years and 400 trees into a new 1 acre apple orchard project. Most trees are 3 or 4 feet in row spacing on BUD9, with expected density of about 800 trees per acre. We selected about 20 varieties, some of which we never tasted! Becuase we have a good PYO Blueberry and Blackberry business about 25% of the trees are "summer apples" that ripen with our berries. Growing the trees is easy but getting quality fruit is about 100 times more difficult than producing quality blackberries and blueberries, even with drip and an airblast sprayer. The spray schedule for Apples is almost overwhelming compared to the berries
Anybody else headed in the same direction?

Any good advice for a novice Apple grower?

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I'm not in the orchard business, but I do sell fruit. I have noticed that especially this year, summer ripening apples don't sell as well as the later apples. In my market, this season, one vendor had apples from early to later. He had to throw many of the early apples away, but after the season started to have some cool night, he started to sell out.

Just a point of view from a vendor that buys and sells fruit.

    Bookmark   September 17, 2013 at 9:49AM
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Not sure where in NC you are but we're the NW corner (our farm sits in the mountains at 4,000ft). We have a very old (aprox. 40yrs) apple orchard that we are in the process of restoring but are planting new along the way. 175 trees went in this year (40 were apple, the others soft fruit).

We are attempting to transition to organic however, it's been very difficult with the apples. Organic sprays (ie. Serenade) has been great for peaches, but finding something to keep apples in good shape is difficult. Granted, the weather has been terrible here this year (rain rain rain!).

Are you planning to pick and resell at a farmers market, or do PYO? Early apples have done very well for us (Striper Junes for example). Unfortunately, if it's not organic (in my area anyway) there is very little interest at the farmers market. PYO and our other retail location have done well and organic does not seem as important.

Would love to hear anyone's thoughts on organic sprays/practices for apples!

    Bookmark   September 19, 2013 at 8:09PM
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have you read the Apple Grower by Michael Phillips? It's great book on Organic orcharding. It seems to me you have to be obsessed with apples to do this well.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2013 at 6:01AM
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Thank you for the replies.

I live in a lousy location for apples even with a good spray program (just outside Greensboro, NC). I love Phillips book and found it very useful, but I have no plans for organic. Hope to sell the Apples off the farm both pre-picked and PYO and also at a local farmer's market just like the Blueberries and Blackberries. Looks like the USDA may cancel organic certification for Agrimycin. If they do most organic apple growers will drop out of the program.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2013 at 10:31AM
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The fact that I've started to respond to this post 3 times and deleted must indicate my indecision to the question. i only have 50 assorted trees that are still quite young, and I have a love/hate relationship with them. At this point, I really don't see me making any money from them. I would be much better off utilizing the time and space for very profitable perennials like the berries or even asparagus. I get every disease and insect out there, and if a crop comes close to maturity, something gets it before I do. However, I like the challenge, I've learned a lot, and I enjoy getting the fruit at least for myself. The public is conditioned to buying perfect fruit, and mine just isn't that. I have friends who dehydrate a lot, and that sells somewhat. You can always get your ugly fruit pressed into juice. Then again, when it's all tallied up, I still imagine little profit. I may be very wrong. Because of severe deer pressure, I opted for standard size trees. I even have to cage all of mine, or they get destroyed every October. Your smaller trees will be much easier to manage in every way, and they'll probably bear sooner.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2013 at 3:56PM
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Brookw Thanks for posting. 50 standard trees will be a lot of Apples. I understand your love/hate relationship with Apples! One one hand Apples are the most interesting thing I have ever tried to grow. Also the most frustrating. We have made very mistake possible but we learn a lot every year. Before I made the commitment to the orchard, I thought a lot about the many sprays that would be required along with the cost of a 8 foot deer fence. I still see a lot of potential if I can sell an acre of high density apples for a retail price. Most of the orchard budgets I could find are based on selling at wholesale prices for much larger operations perhaps 50-100 acres.. I'm hoping for 30K pounds at around a $1/pound on my one acre. We learned how to grow the trees, now we have to learn how to grow fruit that is not too ugly.

We also grow Blueberries and Blackberries. They grow well in my area, are easy to sell and are profitable. We also tried Asparagus, but the picking labor was huge. Some weeks we had to pick it every single day. We loved the April/May picking season, but the returns were just too low for the amount of time.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2013 at 11:03AM
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I concur with boulderbelt's post. Michael Phillips' books The Apple Grower and The Holistic Orchard are great. However, he focuses on root health--and dwarfing stocks just don't have the root system.
We've got 550 trees on Bud.118--all premium cider varieties. Big trees and who cares about cosmetics is the idea. Less spraying but there are major trade offs obviously.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2014 at 4:57PM
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In another forum i've posted some results using milk, in conjunction with lime-sulfur, and flaming, on my organic plum trees for control of Brown Rot.

As to my apple orchard (about 225 trees total) I've found four very beneficial organic steps for assisting with the bug/disease issues. 1) spraying with a high concentration of Bordeaux mix in the late fall seems to knock back most of the rust and scab issues, 2) hanging the red balls with Tanglefoot really knocks down the apple maggots. Instead of the expensive commercial red traps I bought, from Amazon, "250 Children's Ball Pit Play Area Balls RED", a tub of Tanglefoot, and using a disposable glove to coat and insert a cheap tee-cup hook, I hung 1-2 per tree depending on my previous years losses (now coated with dozens and dozens of maggott flies), 3) a spray program (4 times) of Spinosad, and 4) a weekly pickup of any blemished fruits (also used for thinning the apples for bigger final fruits).

So far, unbelievable results.

We're in West-Central Wisconsin for reference.

Here is a link that might be useful: Milk as an antifungal

    Bookmark   August 14, 2014 at 10:23PM
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