High Desert Group

My approach to growing fruit at home is much more old school: I wanted - & still want - to appropriate the attitudes & experience of our forebears. That was the prime motivation for selecting heirloom cultivars. They have largely proven unable to thrive & produce well in northern Spokane. Here I have basalt sand fathoms deep, little to no organic matter apart from what is being husbanded in this back yard, six to 26 days above 90°F most summers, 13% humidity in dry days & thirty degree temperature swings day to night from late June through most of September.

The oldest cultivars doing well are Hunt Russet & what I hope will prove to be Orléans Reinette, both dating to only 1750.
What experience has taught me confirms the adage that people raised what worked in their conditions. That has shaped this home orchard more than anything.

Zinhead: you know much more than I about biochemistry and fungus. I cannot answer all your questions. The trees are teaching me.

FungoliaFarms: Thanks, I will look into gypsum, as a diverse batch of fungi in the soil seems to be a hallmark of mature healthy ecosystems.

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The environment is changing.
What used to work may not in the future.
Test your soil & water.
Balance the pH & nutrients for optimal symbiosis for each species you grow.
Don’t be cookie cutter.
Prune for dense canopy, do high density planting & leave pull north side of trees just before heavy rains.
Good luck!


I don’t mind more of em, I roast the roots and eat the baby leaves so it’s ok.

I have a gravenstein that’s doing pretty well here in Spokane and a few other apples- I would love to have more of the old heirloom style but like you said I’m uncertain about how well they’ll cope. we are in the middle of prime apple country though

@fungolia I’m starting shitaake in some oak logs here, your setup is amazing!!!

I forget the name of this old aromatic apple.
I’m finding pics now under 4 different names.
Anyone grow it or know the real cultivar name?
“Apistar Alma” or something else?


It’s apistar apple. Yes i had it but a storm broked her and i didn’t plant another… the flavor is good, the perfume too but it’s too small for me.


Thanks for starting this topic, NB. I find (have found since we started trading scions years ago) it interesting that you struggle with varieties that do well for me here in hotter, drier, and higher Reno. I know there are other climatic considerations that must affect success or lack thereof with some of the heirlooms you’ve had trouble with that do fairly well here, but I imagine your soil must be the primary differentiator. I’ve been procrastinating for years on testing my soil, much less my water (municipal), but ZinHead has convinced me to stop being so lazy. I’m sure there are varieties that have struggled here that would perform better if I correct whatever deficiencies might be present.

With respect to what does well for me, Claygate Pearmain is my most reliable apple, so I’m glad it’s doing well for you. Did you get Orleans Reinette from me? If yes, it’s the real deal. It’s inconsistent here, but in it’s best years, it’s in my top five. I’ve fruited six other apples on your list, Calville Blanc d’Hiver, Esopus Spitzenburg, Goldrush, Williams Pride, Rambour Franc, and Lamb Abbey Pearmain. E. Spitzenburg, Goldrush, and Calville Blanc are all excellent, with the first two better producers than CB, which is a coddling moth magnate, Williams Pride was pretty good the only time I fruited it, but I expect it to be good regularly as the new graft matures (lost the original), and Rambour Franc was regular and decent, if not great, when I had it. I got rid of Lamb Abbey P after repeated crops of smallish apples that had plenty of sugar, but were unpleasantly bitter. Maybe it was a cider apple that was mislabeled LAP when it came to me, though I believe I got it from the Geneva repository, so a mistake from them seems unlikely.

Other quality apples in the Great Basin:
Blushing Golden
Pixie Crunch
Sweet Sixteen

I’ve fruited many other very good apples, but they haven’t been produced regularly enough for me to feel confident about them yet.


Excited to follow this thread (zone 7, central Rio Grande Valley New Mexico). Late spring freezes, dry April/May winds, and intense summer heat are my biggest fruit growing challenges. Endless sunshine and clay soils to hold moisture are the benefits.

Varieties that have done well for me so far:

  • Apples: Macoun (so good!), GoldRush
  • Peach: Elberta (when there isn’t a freeze)
  • Nectarine: Fantasia

Helpful growing tricks in this area:

  • Painting the tree trunks white to protect against sun scald.
  • Mowing everbearing raspberries to the ground in February for a single September crop (June is too hot and dry for the second crop)
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The variety name is Apistar. “Alma” simply means “apple” in Turkic languages (Turkish, Kazakh, etc.).

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That has been labeled Api Etoile in most of the print I have encountered so far: Star Apple from French, I believe. Most characteristics of the Api or Lady apple, with super ribs. Never had the pleasure of trying Api Etoile, although Lady is really good.

There is a German apple called Weinachtsternapfel (Christmas Star apple), which is quite a different fruit from this one, being medium sized, dark red and with heavily russeted lenticels that typically have rays in several directions, suggesting stars. Its flavor seems more like Lord Lambourne: strawberry. Not sure it is to be found on these shores.

High & Dry: Welcome, Buddy! Good to have you on board. The OR scion you sent did not take; as I recall that was the year of weather challenges which ruined my grafts. This Orléans Reinette possibility came from a local scion swap & was the loose piece in a bag - the only one of three cvs, in that bag to callus. The other two were yellow fruits, so it is most likely to be OR, since the twig wood is deeply red. Once its ID is assured I can send you a scion so you could make a comparison.
Interesting that Lamb Abbey is a bitter pill for you. Here it seems to shine with all the complexity & nuance of which it is capable. I have to patiently curb its abundant fruitfulness so it will grow. (I know, but sometimes character building is just the worst.)

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Api Etoile, that’s it.

I’ve been working for 4 decades on symbiosis.
One of the areas of research has been microbial watering & fertilization.
The most successful method in the desert of most plants is an undocumented form of yeast symbiosis on leaves, branches & nodes.
If nutrients are correct, yeast call water & fertilize plants even at 117°F with 8% humidity.
We are in a 22 year drought.
My location has received (0.75) inches of rain (Jan 1, 2022 to June 12, 2022) this Bougainvillea has not been watered since June 2020.
Once a month I mist it lightly with a solution to optimize yeast symbiosis.
Not so little water not even the wild bermuda is alive.
This is the direction that agricultural work will need to take for a sustainable future in arid environments.

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that’s incredible that just misting can do that

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Misting with micronutrients balanced for yeast symbiosis, can.
Has to be balanced for nutritional needs of wild yeast like what grows on grape skins!
Plan water is only slightly beneficial.
The right nutrients helps yeast get water from the air via osmotic pressure.
Moisture will condense on the plant early in the morning when humidity is high.

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watching all the zone 7+ people posting food already is making me impatient. this waiting time of year it’s worse than winter!

I did get a cabbage today. it’s been pecked over a little but it’s still food

edit I look a mess and so does the garden


You look great and so does your garden…!! Gotta love that hat.

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we are coming into a heat wave. fussing over when to water.