Our apple trees, like many fruit trees, are propagated by grafting: joining a scion (which becomes the fruiting part, or top of the tree) to a root stock (which becomes the root of the tree). This grafting allows the two parts to grow together and function as a single plant. Although the rootstock has an influence on the ultimate size and hardiness of the tree, the scion alone determines what kind of fruit the tree will yield. Therefore, when we produce fruit trees for norther climates, there are two things to consider:
- Which Rootstock to use.
- Which "cultivars" (cultivated varieties) to graft onto that rootstock.
Both must be hardy and vigorous enough to withstand the lowest winter temperatures and bear fruit during a short season.
The rootstock determines the ultimate size of the tree. Generally, there are "standard", "dwarf", and "semi-dwarf" rootstocks. Choosing one or the other of these rootstocks does not influence the type of fruit yielded by a tree, but for other growers it can have a huge effect on how winter-hardy the tree is, how well it grows, and weather it produces a crop. "Dwarf" trees are made by grafting onto rootstocks that are inherently weak growers; they stunt the growth of the tree. There is a popular notion that dwarf trees will produce fruit sooner, but in USDA Zone 3 or 4, the use of the dwarfing rootstock can cause even a hardy cultivar to winter kill or to simply linger season after season with minimal growth and no fruit. If you live in a Northern climate with a short growing season, dwarf trees will not work for you. You need a rootstock that will grow strongly for 2-3 months and then start hardening off for winter.
We do not grow or sell dwarf or semi-dwarf trees, because they do not have the hardiness, vigor, and disease resistance needed to thrive in our northern climate.
For our apple trees we use the Russian rootstock Antonovka, an extremely hardy and vigorous "standard" size rootstock which can produce strong growth during our limited growing season. "Standard" means the Antonovka is not a "dwarfing" rootstock; it will not limit the growth and thus the ultimate size of the tree, but rather will allow it to grow freely to full size, about 12-15 feet. For growers in Zones 3 and 4, an apple on Antonovka "standard" rootstock will be much hardier, grow more vigorously, and bear fruit sooner and in greater unity the the same apple on "dwarfing" rootstock. If you wish a smaller tree, this can be accomplished by pruning. A well-pruned apple tree on Antonovka rootstock, when grown in Zones 3-5, will be equivalent to a "semi-dwarf" tree in size (10-12 feet at maturity), and it will have many advantages. For instance, your tree will have the vigor to complete with grass that grows near the base of the tree, while a dwarf tree must have "clean culture" (no sod) to the drip line. It will not need to be guyed or staked, whereas dwarf trees tend to be shallow-rooted and usually require some support. Your tree might well be producing fruit for your great-grandchildren, while dwarf trees must be replanted every 10-20 years. Finally, the crop yielded by your mature standard tree will be many times greater than that of a dwarf or semi-dwarf tree.
We have over 170 varieties of apples that can be grown in our climate. The hardiness ratings (from hardiest to least hardy): E-V-M-P can help narrow the choices for those in colder areas.
Most of the apple cultivars that we offer are self-fruitful, i.e. they do not need to be planted near a different variety of apple to produce fruit. However, since even self-fruitful varieties can often produce better crops with cross-pollination, we recommend that the backyard gardener plant more than one apple variety in his/her orchard location.
The soil for good blueberry culture should be modified toward high acidity (pH 4.0-5.0). A heavy annual application of pine needle mulch will accomplish this, or, if more radical acidification is needed, plain sulfur will do the trick. Take time to test the pH of your soil; blueberry plants will be sickly if the soil is not acid enough. Since you will have to provide water and bird protection to the crop, plant a small bed or patch rather than a long row. A good continuous water supply is a must (drip irrigation or overhead), especially during fruit set, enlargement and ripening. Insufficient water results in small, poor quality berries. Screening for birds is also necessary. A tightly enclosed plastic or wire mesh should be used during the entire ripening period if you expect to get fruit.
Northsky and Putte may be set about 3 feet apart, Northblue, St. Cloud and Northcountry 4 feet, while Bluegold, Chippewa, Friendship, Patriot, Polaris and Superior require 4-5 feet between plants. Northland should be allowed 5-6 feet between plants. Spacing between rows should be 6 to 8 ft.
How long before they fruit?
Blueberries will bear some fruit the second year. They should be producing a good crop 4 years from planting if their cultural requirements are fulfilled.
We are proud to offer one of the widest selection of pear varieties for northern climates like ours, where the standard commercial varieties will not survive.
The rootstocks we use for our pear varieties are Pyrus communis and Pyrus ussuriensis. These are hardy and vigorous growers which produce a “standard” or full size tree.
Plant pear trees about 20 feet apart.
Most pear cultivars need to be cross-pollinated by a different variety in order to produce a crop, although a few, as noted in the descriptions, are self-fruitful.
How long before it fruits?
A pear tree from our nursery, if planted in good soil and maintained adequately by its new owner (rabbit protection, mulching with manure, attention to pests,) should yield its first fruits in 3-5 yrs.
Although there are no varieties of sweet cherries (like Bing, Black Tartarian, Royal Anne) hardy this far north, pie or “sour” cherries are much hardier and, with care, will flourish and fruit here. Not truly “sour”, these are the bright red cherries used for pies, cheesecake topping, etc. They are also delightful eaten fresh...just ask our nursery crew! (They like to blame it on the birds.)
Late Spring frosts may occasionally kill the blossoms on these early-blooming pie cherries, a problem which can be partially prevented by planting in a protected spot near a house or barn. Because cold air flows downhill, try to plant cherry trees on or near the top of hillsides. They grow best in rich, well-drained soils. They should be screened to prevent rabbit and rodent damage.
All of the varieties of pie cherries listed in the collection are self-fruitful, i.e. they do not require a second tree to bear fruit.
How long before it fruits?
A pie cherry will begin to bear fruit in 2 to 4 years if given good care and planted in a favorable location.
Plums are very hardy but blossom early, making the crop susceptible to late Spring frosts. They should be planted no more than 10-15 feet apart in an area with good air drainage (high spots where cold air flows away from the tree) and good soil drainage. Plum trees are attractive, require little pruning, and grow to a height of 12-15 ft.
We use Prunus americana as a rootstock for our plums.
Plant plum trees no more than 10 to 15 feet apart.
A grafted plum tree is not able to pollinate another tree of the same name unless it is marked “self-fertile.” To ensure that your grafted plum tree will give fruit, you should choose two different varieties from within the same pollen group, designated by the letter “A” or “B”.
How long before it fruits?
In good soil and with proper care (rabbit protection, mulching, attention to pest problems) plum trees will bear fruit in 3 to 5 years.
Grapes grow best in rich gravelly-loam soil. They should be supported on a 2-strand wire fence or on a trellis, and, in very cold regions, pruned to a low-headed double trunk, so that the tough woody part stays close to the ground and the more flexible canes can be bent down to be covered with mulch in winter. Although our Planting Guide gives some basic information on planting and caring for grape vines, a good book on grape culture is indispensable to the serious grower
Most grapes are self-fruitful; however, St Pepin requires a pollinator, and should be interplanted with other cultivars. In fact, all varieties can benefit by some cross-pollination.
Grape plants should be spaced 6 to 8 feet apart, with 6 to 8 feet between rows.
How long before it fruits?
With proper cultivation and care, grape plants will start to produce in 3-4 years. This will vary with soil type and climate.
In Canada they are known as “Saskatoons.” Plant breeders have worked with Juneberries (the native shrub is sometimes called Serviceberry or Shadblow) since the early 1900's, breeding for size and quality of fruit and for higher production. Similar to a blueberry in looks and taste, the fruit hangs in clusters from spreading, open, vase-shaped bushes which vary in height from 6-10 feet (most Amelanchier alnifolia) to 20-25 ft (Autumn Brilliance.) Suckering, the sprouting of multiple stems from the root, is considered a desirable quality, since it increases the fruiting capacity of the bush. Plants are initially small, and benefit from being set into a garden spot for 1-2 years, where they will receive extra watering and weeding, before being moved to their permanent location. For many people, Juneberries are easier to grow than blueberries because they do not require acid soils. They grow well on a variety of soils, but prefer a loamy site with a pH of 6.0-7.0. It can be moist but not constantly wet.
Juneberries are self-fertile; however, planting more than one cultivar will enhance yields.
4 to 5 feet apart for Fergie, 6 to 8 ft apart for Honeywood, Lee #8, Martin, Nelson, Northline, Pembina, Parkhill, Prince William, Regent, Smoky and Success. 10 to 15 feet apart for Autumn Brilliance, Princess Diana, and Theissen. For a hedge effect, spacing can be slightly closer.
We grow and sell seedling nut trees
These trees grow directly from the nut rather than being grafted onto a rootstock. Like children, seedlings are each genetically different. They will not be an exact copy of either parent. The parents of our nut tree seedlings are selected for superior hardiness, nut quality, and straight, timber-type growth. Traits like upright growth habit and hardiness are relatively “fixed” and are present in almost all seedlings of these parents. (Those that do not measure up are eliminated.) Ease of cracking, size of nuts, and time of ripening will be more variable. Because of the genetic diversity inherent in seedlings, a small percentage will actually exceed the performance of both parents. Keep your eyes open for the “exceptional child!”
Choosing a site for your nut trees
Young nut trees require extra care during and immediately after planting, such as a deeper hole for the taproot, a good deep mulch to hold moisture, and water every day while their root systems are getting established. Be sure that you can provide water to the trees during their first growing season. Each tree should receive 5-10 gallons of water per day until the end of May, and 2-3 times per week thereafter through mid-July. Nut trees grow very fast in rich soil, and seem to do well near river bottoms (but not in frost pockets). Soils with some clay that are not constant wet spots are good for most nut trees. They can tolerate wetter soils than fruit trees but will drown if their roots are sitting in water all year round. The exceptions to these guidelines are hazelberts, Korean nut pines, and American chestnuts, which do not have a taproot and, like fruit trees, favor light, well-drained soils. A little extra fuss and care during this first important year will yield a beautiful stand of trees that will be a rewarding asset to the landowner and to future generations.
Pollination and spacing in nut trees
Most of the nut trees we offer require pollination by a second tree of the same species to produce a good quantity of filled nuts. In a stand of black walnuts, chestnuts, hickories, or oaks, the trees should be planted 20 to 40 feet apart (or as close as 15 feet apart if planting a single row.) The closer spacing will force them to grow straight and tall; after 20 years or so the stand can be thinned for timber. If you do not plan to thin the stand, choose the wider spacing pattern. For hazelberts, which grow as a large bush (10-15 feet tall at maturity,) a spacing of 3 feet apart will make a nice hedge; for pollination they should be no more than 6 to 8 feet apart.
In some areas, deer may browse back the tips of black walnut and other nut trees. If this is the case, deer control measures, especially fencing to prevent access while the trees are young, will improve the growth of your nut trees. For areas that cannot be fenced, consider Plant Protec® deer repellent units. Avoid the use of “tree tubes,” especially in northern areas. They can create a “mini-greenhouse” effect that leaves the tree vulnerable to winter injury
How soon will they yield nuts?
This will vary widely with species, soil, climate and care. General guidelines are 5 - 10 years for chestnut, oak, black walnut,or hickory, and 3 - 5 years for hazelberts.