Garden Geekery

Fruit Tree Diversion

A switch to gardening for a bit. I finally bit the bullet and ordered some fruit trees. Choosing was a bit complicated.

First, the water table on our property is pretty high, so it’s not really ideal for fruit trees. But I wanted some anyway. So I’m going to plant them in raised beds, which will hopefully keep them from getting too waterlogged. Hubby doesn’t exactly want a ton of wooden beds all over the yard, but if you just put soil in a pile, it’s likely to erode away pretty quickly. My plan at the moment is to build temporary beds and remove the wood at some point, once the trees are established and the soil has compacted naturally. Hopefully that will work.

There are also a ton of different rootstocks you can get, particularly for apples. Some are much more tolerant of wet feet than others, and they all have different levels of disease resistance, as well. Since I’m planning to go as chemical free as possible, I needed a rootstock that’s wet tolerant and disease resistant, available on varieties that we’d actually enjoy eating and that will pollinate each other, since most apples aren’t self-pollinating. Oh, and they also had to be dwarf, because I don’t want ginormous trees, nor do we need that much fruit. Whew. That’s a lot of requirements.

It took me forever to decide. I finally decided on a Goldrush and a Honeycrisp on Geneva 16 rootstock. The Geneva rootstocks are supposedly fairly tolerant of wet conditions and pretty disease resistant. The Goldrush variety is apparently super-easy to grow and also disease resistant. Also supposed to have a good flavor and keep a long time. I’m not 100% sure the Honeycrisp was a good choice, but I was pretty limited, what with all my requirements. I love the apples, but I’ve read that growing them can be a little tricky; they also bloom fairly early, which makes them susceptible to spring frosts. So we’ll see. I’m hoping that with the small number of trees I’ll have, I’ll be able to protect them from frost if need be. The Goldrush blooms a little later (but still at the right time to cross-pollinate the Honeycrisp) so should be less of a worry.  (Incidentally, Orange Pippin is a great site for comparing apple varieties.)

My choices weren’t particularly easy to find, since a lot of nurseries don’t even know what root stocks they sell, let alone actually tell you what they are. I also wanted to buy from a very reputable place, so I checked Dave’s Garden Watchdog for reviews. (I pretty much never buy from a place without checking the Watchdog first—I’m done with “inexpensive” but crappy plant sources.) I found what I wanted at Cummins Nursery. They’re also in Ithaca, so I’m guessing whatever they can grow I can grow here in Albany. They were super helpful and patient with all my questions, too.

I also ordered a couple of peach trees and a sour cherry (and some horseradish for the hubster). I didn’t spend nearly as much time deliberating on these. I probably should have—wet feet is a problem for them, too. But one of the reasons I spent so much effort on the apples is because you need at least two to cross-pollinate. So I wanted to make sure I did all I could to get two trees that I could keep alive. The peaches and the cherry are self-pollinating, so at least with the peaches, if one dies, I should still get fruit from the other one. (I’d be out of luck with the cherry, but I just couldn’t figure out what we’d do with all the cherries from two trees. Mounds of peaches and apples won’t be a problem.)

I ordered an Intrepid and a Red Haven peach, and a Stark Surecrop sour cherry, from Stark Brothers. The Intrepid is supposed to bloom late and therefore be good for spring frosts. Guess we’ll see. Can’t wait to hopefully have fresh fruit from the backyard in a couple of years! I should at least have fantastic pollination, with the beehives so close.

Now I just need to order some soil and hope it stops snowing by the time my trees get here!

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