Archive for January, 2009

January 26, 2009


Most apple trees are not grown on their own roots.  Varieties are grafted onto rootstocks, apple trees grown specifically for their roots.  They will produce edible apples on their own that aren’t half bad, but that is inconsequential as the top part of the tree is cut off and shredded.

Most rootstocks in America are grown in stoolbeds, where the trees are planted sideways and the branches grow upright.  Sawdust is layered around the branch bases and the branches will root into the sawdust.  In the fall the sawdust is raked away and the rooted branches cut off, which become the base for a new tree.

The above stoolbed is at Cameron Nurseryin Washington state, who sells apple trees mostly to commercial growers.  My rootstock supplier in Oregon harvests about 4 million rootstocks and seedlings a year, and I’m surprised they even bother with my puny 1000-tree order.  But they do their best to accommodate me, even ordering in from other suppliers when they’re out of what I need. 

This ordering is done in September the year before (they’re sold out by October) and is based on previous sales, always a wild guess.  I’ll be out of stock on some rootstocks and then an order will cancel or change to a different variety, so it will become available again. 

As of today I still have lots of Bud. 9, but only a few M7 and M111 left.  I order the best grade I can get, and then while grafting I pick through those and toss out 10 to 20% of them so that I’m using the best of the best.  I’ve learned it doesn’t pay to mess with anything else.


Lady Williams
January 24, 2009


All our trees are bare of leaves now exept for one conspicuous standout; Lady Williams. Bred as an offspring of Granny Smith in Australia in 1935, Lady Williams also has a famous offspring; Cripp’s Pink aka Pink Lady.

There are still a half-dozen deep red apples with a distinctive white vertical stripe on one side hanging on the tree. If you pick them before they’re fully ripe, they are very tart, but still flavorful. But if you are very, very patient you will be rewarded with a nice sweet/tart combination that you can enjoy in February. So far it has outproduced Pink Lady here and joined our “Favorites” list as a great apple to grow in Southern California.

Classes and more rootstocks!
January 17, 2009


Riley’s Farm kindly hosted our apple class where we prepared two ladies from Apples For Africa to receive a shipment of apple benchgrafts in Rwanda, East Africa. I was wondering if they would have any problems getting them into the country, but they already challenged the skeptical government bureaucracy there and got the support of the agriculture inspectors. They were quick studies and we sent them away with a thick binder that contains the world body of knowledge for growing apples in a tropical climate.

On the rootstock front, we got more Bud. 9 rootstocks and are taking orders again, and still have some M111 left. Sorry, still out of M7, the reverse of most years where we run out of Bud. 9 first and end up tossing a bunch of M7. If you’re thinking of ordering, do it quickly as first come, first served.

Nittany Apple
January 11, 2009


I picked the last Nittany apple this afternoon. The young tree bore several this year, but I picked the others too soon, as they develop their color before they are ripe (endearing them to commercial growers, who pick them early to ship and store better). But waiting until mid-January to pick it rewarded me with a nice cinnamon-spice flavor to this crisp, juicy apple. I hope I get a bunch next year.

Apple Trees Going Fast
January 3, 2009


Above: 1 season’s growth of benchgrafts in pots

Last year we were about ready to hang up the apple nursery business, as it didn’t seem worth the effort or expense necessary to carry 100 varieties of apples and sell to individuals.  But this year we decided to give it one more shot and raised the shipping price and instituted a 10-tree minimum, and let the public vote with their pocketbook.

Well, its only January 3rd but just from pre-orders we’re already sold out of M7 and Bud 9 rootstocks, and only have about 200 M111 and 70 seedling rootstocks left.  I guess that’s a resounding WE WANT APPLES from the pome-starved folks in warm climates.  And so I’m to be sequestered another year in the basement grafting my heart out.  But at least we’ll break even this year, and hopefully find more efficiencies so that I’m able to increase our yearly output to accommodate all the folks that didn’t order early enough.

Tropic Apple Training
January 2, 2009


Saturday,  January 17th I’m going to be at Rileys Farm in Oak Glen training some folks from Rwanda on how to grow apples in the tropics.  This is part of the ministry Apples For Africa, who is importing the trees.  The morning session will be on varieties and culture for the tropics, and the afternoon session will be the orchard tour and hands-on grafting workshop.  It will be from 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM, and admission is free. 

Riley’s has a 18th-century tavern that serves a killer lunch, so I would plan on eating there on the farm.  Dress warm, as it can be quite cold up there.  For more details click on