22 years of experience to share to new tree plotters

WTNUT

5 year old buck +
I have some time today, so thought I would give back. I learned so very much from experts (I am not an expert just a guy who has a ton of trees and has learned a lot over the years) early on while on the old forum and then this one. The following are some things that you need to really think hard about and consider doing when you are learning and starting out. Again, dang I was hard headed early on and wish I had listened more and not said “well I and just planting trees for deer I don’t need to worry about THAT”.

1. If you are in an area that has risks for fireblight, do NOT plant trees that are highly susceptible to fireblight. It is a bad deal and you can’t beat it.
2. Plant more trees that are disease resistant and less of the old heirlooms UNLESS you are truly ready to commit a lot of time to caring for them. For example, a Liberty apple may be the best apple out there for someone who wants to plant an apple tree for deer.
3. If planting for deer, pears that are fireblight resistant are the easiest tree to plant, and my favorite pears are the Asian Pears. They are the easiest to grow and they hang on the tree forever.
4. Training your apple tree to a central leader and Christmas Tree shape the first 5-6 years will save you time over the long run and make pruning much easier.
5. When training just use wire to pull you laters down. Run wire between the lateral and your cage.
6. Buy a roll of livestock fencing with 6 inch squares and make your cages. Count 24 squares and cut the fencing and you have about the right size cage. Make sure the fencing is 5 feet tall.
7. Use electrical conduit to stake your cages. Weave it though the squares three pieces to a cage.
8. Always used conduit to stake your new trees up. They grow much better and straighter staked than not.
9. You are growing fruit not firewood. That means don’t be afraid to prune your trees. Pruning is good for them it stimulates growth and production.
10. As trees mature and produce more fruit, if things are in balance you will need less and less pruning. If you spend more than 5 minutes pruning a 10 year old tree something is out of balance. You didn’t prune any last year, there was poor fruit production, there was too much fertilizer -something is off.
11. Adopt some type of spraying program you can keep up with year to year. Mine is a mix of copper and oil pre bud break. Captain and Imidan AFTER blooming is complete. I spray once a month for three months. Many spray more, but this works for me.
12. If you have deer, do not waste your time leaving a first row of laterals lower than at least 5.5 feet above the ground. Any lower and the deer are going to rob you of apples long before they are ready to be picked or fall.
13. If you need a lateral on the central leader score (cut into the central leader) right above a bud.
14. For wildlife in a food plot or anything you want to mow around plant trees at least 21 feet apart within a row. Pay attention to the words “at least” because 28 is better when you are trying to mow around them.
15. Get the right rootstock for your soil. For me, M7, M111 and B118 are all great for wildlife when planting apples.
16. Here is a controversial one, but there is a place for big box fruit trees. At times you can find some really good trees at Rural King for example. I bought 6 this week. Just get the right variety don’t buy a bad variety because the tree looks good. Remember container trees can be root bound so bust the crap out of that root ball when you plant it.
17. You can’t did too big of a hole when planting trees, just make sure you compact your lifts when your put soil back in and avoid dead air space.
18. Another good one if you plant a tree especially bare root and don’t get at least 4 feet of growth the first year, cut the central leader back a good bit at the end of the first year and watch for year two. If it does not jump up light a rocket year two, dig it up at the end of season and plant another tree there that fall.
19. On bare root trees, keep the lateral sprouts picked off nest to the top of the central leader as it grows the first couple years. Really promotes vertical growth.
20. Don’t be afraid to move a good size tree if you need to. As long as they are dormant, you can transplant with ease. I have moved 12-15 feet tall trees that were 8-10 year olds by hand (not my first choice I prefer the excavator). Essential they are just a big bare root tree at that point. When you plant them use fence post, wire and old garden hose to stake and secure them really well.


That is not an all inclusive list but a good list of things I have learned.


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chummer

5 year old buck +
Very good list. I will add my biggest mistake, especially for northern guys. Do not push the zone just because you want the apple. It has failed me almost every time and even if they live they struggle and I end up replacing them.
 

Maddog66

5 year old buck +
I’m in Northern WI too. Just bought my place 2 years ago. This spring And last I spent some time releasing and pruning the 70+ wild and grafted apple trees that pre-date me.

I have 2 main orchard areas plus random trees and small groupings throughout 270 acres. One is ancient orchard out near the access point to the property where I have water (14 mature trees + 6 new hires). This is our “eating apple” orchard nearest the house and consists of mostly heirloom varieties. It’s where I’m going to slowly replace the old with new……and the source of my first question.

How do you know when to give up on a old tree? They are all zone 3 warriors that have withstood deer, bears, coons, and sometimes so many grouse they look alive……and I’m fine with some faults. But almost all of them have something real ugly going on. Mostly large rotten areas where neglect allowed it over the decades. They all bear fruit to one degree or another…..a couple are rock stars in spite of the rot.

My other problem area is in my biggest deer plot. There are about 20 twelve year old apple trees of various types. Most of them in the 4-6” stump range and all are caged with 6’ high 2x4” wire fence enclosures about 8’ diameter. All of them look pretty healthy and most head good to great crops last year without being touched by me. I gave them all a much needed pruning this spring and found a few with issues…..some I think I can fix…..others are tough.

The owner never pruned and allowed most to form a dual leader starting about 18-36” off the ground. A great big “Y” at about knee height or so. When pruning, I noticed some of them are already cracked like a chicken wishbone at that terrible crotch angle, but still seem to be thriving. The big cages I think have protected those narrow angle leaders from bears.

However, with the big cages almost no apples fall outside the enclosures - trapping grouse and inviting bears to mangle the fences.

If I take down the big enclosures and protect the double / triple trunks so deer can get the apples this fall, bears are going to walk up and treat my trees just like the chicken wishbone. If I leave the fences up, what good are the productive age trees?

Should I go all logger on my trees and just cut off 1/2 of each “Y” and protect the trunks?
 

Prof.Kent

5 year old buck +
My recommendation is to "Go all logger" on them. I've tried to save those double-trunked trees. The bigger they get, the greater disappointment when they're split...either by animals or by heavy fruit loads. A vigorous grower will make up for the "loss". You probably will have to prune back the remaining tree to balance it.
I'm glad I don't have bears. Just one.
 

Maddog66

5 year old buck +
That’s what I was afraid of Kent. Thanks for confirming. If there is already a crack between the double trunks and I cut one of them off, is there anything I should do to the remaining trunk at the point of the crack?

What about the 50+ year old orchard trees with rot here and there? I’ve already pruned out as much of it as I can safely, but the next cuts would have to be pretty radical to get rid of it completely. In one or 2 cases I’d have to take the tree down.

Should I just take care of them as best I can and let whatever is going to happen, happen?

Or, are these trees a disease reservoir in the orchard?
 

sandbur

5 year old buck +
That’s what I was afraid of Kent. Thanks for confirming. If there is already a crack between the double trunks and I cut one of them off, is there anything I should do to the remaining trunk at the point of the crack?

What about the 50+ year old orchard trees with rot here and there? I’ve already pruned out as much of it as I can safely, but the next cuts would have to be pretty radical to get rid of it completely. In one or 2 cases I’d have to take the tree down.

Should I just take care of them as best I can and let whatever is going to happen, happen?

Or, are these trees a disease reservoir in the orchard?

I am not an expert, but one of my 30 plus year old trees has severe sunscauld. It happened before I knew what it was.

I have taken part of the tree down, but it produces a surprising amount of apples every other year and is relatively disease free. It is Red Baron.


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4wanderingeyes

5 year old buck +
My thought is, if the trees are producing, dont fix what isnt broken. Cutting down a tree, just because it isnt in perfect shape, but is producing apples, seems just silly to me. I would just trim the dead stuff, and maybe trim some of the excess weight from the outsides of the trees, that would add most of the weight to make the cracks worse. Those old trees have lived this long, why cut them down to save them?

It kinda sounds like the whole CWD thing, we need to kill all the deer to save them. If they die on their own in 10 years, you got 10 more years from them.
 

sandbur

5 year old buck +
Just a bit of differences in opinions here. I planted my first fruit tree(chestnut crab) here about 30 years ago. My soils and climate are different here on the edge of the northern plains. I was in zone 3b then and am now in zone 4A per the experts.


I prefer dolgo seedling rootstock above all others. It gets off to a faster start than Antanovka. I have a tree or two on m111 that has done ok on a wetter location. I guess there are some compatibility issues with some apples on dolgo. I just think it competes better with less care on these lighter soils with droughts hitting in many years.

Don’t expect 4 foot of growth and yank a tree out when it doesn’t grow that much. Many of my trees would be gone if I did that. We have shorter growing seasons and this last summer was a real struggle just to keep them alive.

Don’t try and transplant this older trees unless you can frequently water them and you have the right soils. I would just forget it and leave them where they are. Light soils, frequent August dry spells, and I just wouldn’t attempt it.

I don’t mean to offend anyone, but recommendations are region specific.

I have had neighbors whose propane tanks froze during the winter. I believe that is about -46. Cold winters and hot summers with frequent dry periods are common here.
Different location and I have somewhat different views. And I sure have a lot to learn.


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sandbur

5 year old buck +
Just a bit of differences in opinions here. I planted my first fruit tree(chestnut crab) here about 30 years ago. My soils and climate are different here on the edge of the northern plains. I was in zone 3b then and am now in zone 4A per the experts.


I prefer dolgo seedling rootstock above all others. It gets off to a faster start than Antanovka. I have a tree or two on m111 that has done ok on a wetter location. I guess there are some compatibility issues with some apples on dolgo. I just think it competes better with less care on these lighter soils with droughts hitting in many years.

Don’t expect 4 foot of growth and yank a tree out when it doesn’t grow that much. Many of my trees would be gone if I did that. We have shorter growing seasons and this last summer was a real struggle just to keep them alive.

Don’t try and transplant this older trees unless you can frequently water them and you have the right soils. I would just forget it and leave them where they are. Light soils, frequent August dry spells, and I just wouldn’t attempt it.

I don’t mean to offend anyone, but recommendations are region specific.

I have had neighbors whose propane tanks froze during the winter. I believe that is about -46. Cold winters and hot summers with frequent dry periods are common here.
Different location and I have somewhat different views. And I sure have a lot to learn.


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Just one more thought. Soils tend to be acid here. My buddy at 35 miles to the west tends to have better pH’s. Perhaps we need information on rootstock choices based on pH. My buddy finds some wild apples. I find nearly all wild crabs.

I have read that crabs can tolerate .5 lower pH. I would like experts opinion on this.

My buddy also tends to be in a hilly environment. I am in an exposed flat area that was short grass prairie 150 years ago. I suspect this exposed environment favored crabs. And yup, there are red cedars here in areas that didn’t get fire. Think cedar apple rust. Lots of factors to consider.

No hard fast rules, but tendencies.


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sandbur

5 year old buck +
Another observation on rootstock. I have an acquaintance who grows apples 150 miles NW of me. I don’t know his soil type, but he has had trees die on dolgo rootstock during test winters. He favors Siberian rootstock as do many of those in western Canada. Are the Manchurian crabs I planted 30 plus years ago similar to Siberian? They have done well for me with little care, but are really just bird sized crabs.


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S.T.Fanatic

5 year old buck +
Can't you just throw a chain around those Y type trees to hold them more Upright? When I was a kid we had a tall tree in our yard that got a major split in it. My dad just wrapped a chain around it and the tree grew around the chain like it wasn't even there.
 

wooduck

5 year old buck +
My thought is, if the trees are producing, dont fix what isnt broken. Cutting down a tree, just because it isnt in perfect shape, but is producing apples, seems just silly to me. I would just trim the dead stuff, and maybe trim some of the excess weight from the outsides of the trees, that would add most of the weight to make the cracks worse. Those old trees have lived this long, why cut them down to save them?

It kinda sounds like the whole CWD thing, we need to kill all the deer to save them. If they die on their own in 10 years, you got 10 more years from them.
Talk to enough old orchard guys from all over north America ,, the talk always turns to the trees themselves you have to remember we are growing fruit not trees ,, in other words the ugly trees have apples too never seen a pretty and old tree ,, but have seen some ugly ones pack out the fruit year in and year out ,, years ago drove thru michigan orchard country these are maintained commercial orchards the old planting had plenty of character , also a heavy fruit load
 

4wanderingeyes

5 year old buck +
Another thing you can do, If the crack is fresh, I would add some sort of sealer to it, to prevent any diseases from starting, if they are old cracks, I dont think I would even bother with that.
 

4wanderingeyes

5 year old buck +
I have seen where people will drill a hole through the tree, in both sides of the Y, and run a piece of ready rod through it, with washers and nuts, and you can tighten the nuts to where you need the Y split to be secured. An ugly tree doesnt require you to give up on it.
 

Prof.Kent

5 year old buck +
That’s what I was afraid of Kent. Thanks for confirming. If there is already a crack between the double trunks and I cut one of them off, is there anything I should do to the remaining trunk at the point of the crack?

What about the 50+ year old orchard trees with rot here and there? I’ve already pruned out as much of it as I can safely, but the next cuts would have to be pretty radical to get rid of it completely. In one or 2 cases I’d have to take the tree down.

Should I just take care of them as best I can and let whatever is going to happen, happen?

Or, are these trees a disease reservoir in the orchard?
I would echo 4wanderingeyes. "Why cut them down to save them?" when they stop producing, cut them down. (Or graft them onto a new rootstock or tree.)

To answer the first question, the smaller the scar, the faster it will heal. So cut the twin trunk early rather than later. Paint or tree seal doesn't hurt but from what I've read it doesn't induce faster healing, either. I've used tree seal. I wasn't impressed. The 50+ year old trees are probably going to be a harbor for disease. But every tree that isn't immune is a carrier. C'est la vie.
I don't have any very old trees with open, rotting wounds. All you can do is keep the wound dry or let nature (death) take its course. It is the open wound getting wet and then rotting that is the problem. I've wondered if filling a cavity with spray-foam insulation and then sealing with a tar (Tree-seal spray) would keep the cavity dry.
 

Maddog66

5 year old buck +
Thanks again everyone!

I like the chain and threaded rod ideas!

I’m going up tomorrow for a few days of project work. Since I have several cracked trees, I might try all of your ideas!

As far as the old orchard, I’m going to stick with them as you suggest. There’s enough space to add a couple of new trees per year until the survivors can decide for themselves.

Last question(promise!)…….would those cracks ever heal over if I used threaded rod or chain to immobilize them? Would they heal over better if I just cut off one leader?
 

4wanderingeyes

5 year old buck +
They will scar over just like if you cut a limb off, as long as you can keep moisture and dirt out of it.
 

bigboreblr

5 year old buck +
MAddog,

Those old trees you can prune anytime. I got about 20 at my house that I am unsure if the limb is dead or still alive a bit. Really old trees are going downhill, so give it a shot. You can prune in the summer if there's any doubt.

When I finally condemn them, I replace it with a new one. I order 25 a year, replace the ones bad in my yard. Put a few at the hunting cabin up north. Give a few away as gifts.
 

H20fwler

5 year old buck +
Just a bit of differences in opinions here. I planted my first fruit tree(chestnut crab) here about 30 years ago. My soils and climate are different here on the edge of the northern plains. I was in zone 3b then and am now in zone 4A per the experts.


I prefer dolgo seedling rootstock above all others. It gets off to a faster start than Antanovka. I have a tree or two on m111 that has done ok on a wetter location. I guess there are some compatibility issues with some apples on dolgo. I just think it competes better with less care on these lighter soils with droughts hitting in many years.

Don’t expect 4 foot of growth and yank a tree out when it doesn’t grow that much. Many of my trees would be gone if I did that. We have shorter growing seasons and this last summer was a real struggle just to keep them alive.

Don’t try and transplant this older trees unless you can frequently water them and you have the right soils. I would just forget it and leave them where they are. Light soils, frequent August dry spells, and I just wouldn’t attempt it.

I don’t mean to offend anyone, but recommendations are region specific.

I have had neighbors whose propane tanks froze during the winter. I believe that is about -46. Cold winters and hot summers with frequent dry periods are common here.
Different location and I have somewhat different views. And I sure have a lot to learn.


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I agree with this.
I've planted close to 200 apple trees and don’t think I’ve ever relly gotten 4 foot of growth in one year and I'm in zone 6A with what I think is decent loamy clay soil, and I fertilize.
 

sandbur

5 year old buck +
I agree with this.
I've planted close to 200 apple trees and don’t think I’ve ever relly gotten 4 foot of growth in one year and I'm in zone 6A with what I think is decent loamy clay soil, and I fertilize.

If I get 4 foot of growth on apple trees, I fear they didn’t harden off properly in the fall and I get increased die back over the winter.

I see a little bit of die back this spring after a wet fall.Full evaluation will need to wait until leaf out.

Speaking of growth, while collecting scion this late winter, I found a few trees with two growth collars on what appeared to be last years growth. We had some moisture in the spring, a bad drought through the summer, and rains started in late August. I think this led to the two spurts of growth.


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