I have a bunch of apple trees that are probably around 8 years old planted on B-118 rootstock. We have clay loam soil which stays pretty moist. Unfortunately quite a few of the trees are leaning, some quite a bit. They were never staked, but B-118 is listed at 80-90% of standard and doesn’t need to be staked.
I’m basically trying to figure out if this is a defect in B-118 (at least for my site) or if this is more of a general problem with my site or the method when the trees were planted. I don’t have any apple trees on anything other than B-118, and am kind of a novice, so it is hard for me to know.
So I’m wondering, have others seen this kind of leaning on B-118? I’m in zone 3b so my rootstock options are limited but I’m wondering if I should try a different rootstock when I plant more trees. Thanks.
I’m not too experienced with B-118 - MM-111 is the go-to rootstock in my climate - but I seem to recall reading that it doesn’t like damp soil. It’s possible that it does require staking, at least for a time, to keep it upright under your conditions.
You might consider P-18 as an alternative - Cummins describes it thus: “A Malling 4 x Common Antonovka hybrid from the great Polish rootstock breeding program at Skierniewice. (No, the “P” doesn’t stand for “Polish” or “Poland”, but for the Polish word for rootstock.) Slightly more vigorous than Budagovsky 118, about 95% of standard. Extremely winter-hardy, as well as tolerant of “wet feet”. Resistant to collar rot, scab, mildew, and gall; intermediate tolerance to fireblight. No burrknot tendencies!”
Of course, if the soil is damp enough, P-18 might require staking for a time to prevent leaning, too.
When I go to a shopping center, I often look at the trees planted in the islands of the parking lots, or along the perimeter. Frequently over half of them are leaning!
And they aren’t B-118 apples.
So, I would need more information. but I doubt the B118 is any worse than most other apple roots, and likely better than some.
I had read from one of the rootstock suppliers that b118 is more prone to leaning than mm111. That’s been my experience as well. My b118 had some leaning problems prior to this year, but this summer we had wet conditions accompanied by two separate severe storms with high winds up to 100mph in each. With trees maybe 5 years in the ground and some fruit load, several of the b118 were severely tipped over with the storms, while mm111 and especially antanovka were completely unfazed. The b118 will clearly not handle the conditions here as well as mm111 and antanovka, so I’ll slowly replace them over time. I planted the mm111 and b118 simply to get fruit a bit earlier than antanovka. I doubt mm111 will stand up as well as antanovka to adverse conditions here, so antanovka will mostly be my rootstock of choice going forward.
I have b118 which are 8 yrs old, none are leaning here.
My B-118 haven’t had a crop yet. But, I can say this, M-7 is the one that will be leaning in every orchard you find it, unless staked. Supposedly it was “self supporting”…and it has been, as I’ve never had one fall over all the way.
To be fair to the b118, our ground got super saturated and there was intense flooding in the area (two different storms about 18 days apart following a wet winter/spring), so the ground turned to soup during each storm. I think we had 7 inches of rain in the second storm in about 30 minutes or something. The extreme conditions gave me good insight into what would anchor best in my location (mm111 and antanovka) for the rootstocks I used. I can’t say that mm111 is a winner, just that at this point, it anchored better than b118 here. It could be a long term dud too.
I would say my soil is loamy under the top soil. I’m thankful that this happened now rather than 20 years down the road. At this point, the trees are a size that I could get them upright with some help. I don’t know if the b118 are capable of improving their anchoring over the next couple of years. I’m approaching the age where I don’t want to be fighting them, so I will likely plant antanovka between each tree in preparation for the long term. Watch them prove me wrong!
Here is a red gravenstein apple on b118 from the first storm. Not the worst leaner, but the clearest pic I got from that storm. We leaned it back up shortly afterward while the soil was still soupy.
Here is a liberty on b118 from the second storm. This tree had already been knocked loose during the first storm and then anchored. My anchors failed during the second storm as the soil became too saturated, and the storm winds were too much for the top heavy tree. I wasn’t expecting two downpours in the same summer.
Thanks, this is interesting info… @snowflake your picture there looks like a bunch of my trees on B-118. I never connected the dots with a major rainstorm but when there is a lot of rain it definitely takes a while for the water to drain into the soil so I’m wondering if the soil turning “soupy” could be what causes the problem. The question is if a different rootstock would handle it better, and it seems like it might in your case.
I had some trees die from voles this past winter that I haven’t sawed down yet. I’m wondering if I dug them up and looked at the roots if that would give me a good idea of how anchored they actually are? I don’t really have anything to compare them to other than pictures online.
P-18 and Antanovka look like good alternatives if I want to try planting some. I’m thinking about the same as you, planting between the existing trees and seeing if they do better, and if so, eventually removing the B-118 trees when the new ones grow up. I’ll have to compare the P-18 and Antanovka to see what is cold hardier.
Our soil normally drains pretty well, and these trees are on a slope, but it couldn’t handle the sudden downpour. I planted the b118 and mm111 with the grafts 4-6 inches above the soil. The antanovka, I planted the graft a bit below the soil level. It really seemed like I was digging to China to plant the antanovka. Maybe their roots were a little more vertical, but my memory isn’t that great. I just recall extremely deep holes. Maybe I could have planted the b118 a bit deeper and had better results assuming they wouldn’t suffer from other issues like collar rot.
In addition to our B-118 trees leaning here, I recently observed trees planted at two other locations at the same time which also are on B-118. They are all leaning in a similar way. The soil at the other locations is similar, though, so this may be more a problem on heavy soil when it gets waterlogged?
I had some trees that were killed by voles this winter that I never took care of, so I decided to dig one up and see how the roots are structured.
I’ve never dug up an apple tree before so I can’t really say how this root structure compares with others, but my gut reaction was that it seemed pretty small. Here are a couple pictures – has anyone else ever dug up an apple tree? Do you think these roots seem small for this size of tree?
Here are the pictures. The tree is about 12’ tall, probably around 5-7 years old. The crown of the tree is around 6’ in diameter. The trunk was 3" in diameter.
Underground, the roots went about 15" down and the main mass of roots that you see is about 1’ in diameter. There were a few roots that went further out to bring the whole root structure to about 3.5’ in diameter. Of course there were really tiny roots that probably went further than that, but within 3.5’ would be all the roots that were greater than probably 1/4" in diameter.
I cut those two “big” roots that you can see coming out the top of the second picture with the spade and taped them for the picture, so that’s why they look a little funny. They are about 3/8" in diameter.
So do these roots seem small for this size of tree (keeping in mind that B-118 is not supposed to require staking) or do you think pretty normal?
Are those two big root suckers? Or part of the root system?
And don’t I see bent roots at the bottom?
I don’t see any proof one rootstock is to blame…if another tree from the same location was also dug and presented beside this one…might be more revealing (that is if the other tree was on some other root stock such as M7 or M111 or whatever.)
That’s very observant and a good question. I don’t really know how to tell if they are root suckers or not, what should I look for? They come out of the same mass of roots and have what looks like little hairs on them, so I thought they were roots, but they also are going out from the tree and slightly up so perhaps they are root suckers that are heading for the surface? I know with these trees I get many root suckers coming out of the ground, which are particularly visible with B-118 because the leaves are purple.
If you load the big version of the first picture, the voles girdled down to the soil level and there is about 1 foot under that which was underground but looks pretty similar to the rest of the trunk. There is a small root coming out of that which would have been about 4" underground but otherwise the rest of the roots basically started close to 1 foot underground, and really they are only coming off the main trunk for a couple of inches.
The roots do sweep in kind of a “C” shape where they don’t really go down from there.
It’s totally possible that they were planted wrong. I didn’t plant them, not that I would necessarily do a better job. They may have been planted deeper than normal as I know some people do that because of the cold climate (zone 3b). The trunk looks a little swollen near the soil level so it may have been planted around where the graft union was?
If they were planted wrong, though, would that be the reason for leaning?
Unfortunately all the trees here were planted with B-118 so I don’t have another tree to dig up and compare it to. Thanks.
Good reply nickh,
I’m sorry I can’t be of more help based on what I’m eyeballing. I am glad I don’t have your zone 3 conditions. My trees on B118 here in zone 6 are not really big enough to know if I’ll have any problems such as you describe. But, I just think there’s too many things I don’t know to be able to make a definitive assessment of your leaning trees.
I would suggest the Budagovsky or Antonovka rootstocks are wise for your climate…they grow in Russia and Poland so they should be plenty cold hardy.
Maybe someone else will have another comment that can relate.
Thanks. I wish I knew more but I am still learning after taking over caring for these trees. I will probably try planting some Antonovka or P.18 next year for comparison to see how they do in my soil. It will be a long time before I can really come to a conclusion though!