I met with a young man this afternoon who wants to plant 100 apple trees on his acreage. I invited him to our property this afternoon to go over some basics.
I knew I could pass onto him in 30 minutes what has taken me years of trial and error to learn. These tips are not necessarily in order of priority AND not necessarily what another orchardist would tell you..these are just things that I would suggest. 😉 DM
The following are my notes:
#1 priority keeping the deer away from the trees…(for at least the first ten years). In hind-site, I would have installed an 8 ft metal deer fence around the whole area, even before planting the trees. You are welcome to put individual fences around each tree, and if you had 20 or less, that may be the route to go. In my case, I had 75 trees to protect. The first year we planted 50 trees, and in 2 nights, the deer came in and completely stripped all of the new growth on 80% of our trees. It was sickening.
#2 You will need to plan for regular watering the first 3 to 5 years until trees are established (consider drip irrigation if practical) (we did and it was…drip irrigation). Farmtek is a good place to purchase that system
#3 Need to decide what size tree you want to end up with (dwarf, semi dwarf, full size) This will determine which root-stock you order. I chose semi dwarf because the trees do not have to be staked long-term. Rootstock we went with was called EMLA7
#4 You will need to decide which varieties of apple trees you plant. (Also called Cultivars.) I would suggest a mixture, various maturity dates, as well as for eating, cooking, dual purpose… and disease resistance. That way you are not picking 100 trees at the same time, rather spread out over a 3 month period.
#5 While there are dozens of potential diseases and insects to protect against, Scab and Apple Cedar Rust are the most common diseases I’ve run into. Apple Coddling moth, and Japanese beetles are the two insects I fight the most. I wish I would have ordered more varieties that have a built-in resistance to scab (there are a handful that are genetically resistant)
#6 Pruning…The first 3 to 5 years are the most important in terms of pruning…because you are laying the foundation for the shape of the tree. I used the “Central Leader” model of pruning.. there are others out there. This is the one I’m most familiar with.
#7 The biggest enemy to my trees were #1 the deer, followed closely by rabbits….which love the soft tasty bark of young trees.
#8 Do a soil test before planting trees to determine the proper PH . Your local county extension office is a great resource to talk to.
#9 Mulching around trees (especially the first 5 years) is important…so your tree does not have to compete with grass… I would lay down a weed barrier and use washed river rock for mulch…vs. wood chips which attract mice/ voles, which also love the sweet tasty bark of your young trees.
#10 You may need to get your private applicator spraying license if you don’t already have it, to have access to certain restricted chemicals. I order all of my chemicals from Crop Production Services out of Galesville WI. Phone: 608-539-2090. They have been great if I have questions as far as which chemical to spray, etc. I have chosen not to spray any more than absolutely necessarily. Yes, I do end up some spots, but they are not drenched in toxic chemicals. You will have to make that call.
Here are some random pictures: