Introducing myself - Nick from western Maine


#1

Many years ago, I was a member of GW, and I checked out the site again, and it’s changed quite drastically. This forum seems a lot better.

My family has been farming for several generations: growing fruit, berries, squash, etc. I had been away from farm life for a couple decades, but I am working to clear some woodland to grow some crops.

One of my hobbies is cross-breeding disease resistant apples.

I look forward to being a member of this forum.


#2

Welcome to the forum! What apple crosses have you tried?


#3

Welcome Nick,glad you joined.
I also live in w. Maine (Bridgton/Fryeburg area).


#4

Welcome Nick. Looking forward to you sharing how your disease resistant breeding is going.


#5

Thanks for making me feel welcome.

A couple people have shown interest in my apple-breeding hobby, so here is my not-so-short answer. I started breeding (if you want to call it breeding) disease resistant apples 20+ years ago, planting seeds from good apples from an very old orchard (many trunks were well over 2 feet in diameter) which hadn’t ever been sprayed in my lifetime. At that time, the orchard was used for grazing cows, so the orchard hadn’t reverted back into woodland yet. Most of the apple trees had been gone long before me, but you could tell that the orchard had been originally planted in a quincunx pattern. Some of the surviving apple trees were growing 2 types of apples, one from above the graft and one below. But most of the surviving apple trees only had one type of apple, and these were all different, so I presume that the rootstocks were seedlings and only the rootstocks survived. My grandfather (long passed now) once told me that that orchard had been old when he was a kid, and that the apples were used to make hard cider.

I figured that if I started with seeds from trees with good fruit, then I might have a chance of growing something really nice. I was thinking mainly of growing cider apples that never had to be sprayed and produced well. It never even crossed my mind that nature had already done all the work for me, and all I had to do was to graft cuttings from the best of those good survivors. My oh my, how I was foolish in those days. Especially since that old orchard is no longer there.

So I collected thousands of seeds and planted them in a garden bed before winter came and about half came up the next spring. Some of them just grew wrong and out they went. I remember some were vining along the ground. Most of the remaining ones were infected with scab before the summer was up, so out they went too. Most of those remaining ones didn’t survive the first winter, so by the second spring, I wasn’t left with many seedlings. Less than 20 survived their 2nd summer, with many succumbing to crown rot or canker or some other disease.

Much of Maine is wet and I wanted trees that would survive and even thrive with their feet wet, so I transplanted those remaining apple trees into an area that never fully dries out in the summer and floods every spring, and about half of them survived in that location. I left them there and checked on them every so often.

After a few years, one of them bloomed and bore a couple medium sized apples: definitely a spitter and thought it might make good cider. It started producing well a couple years after that and it did indeed make a tasty addition to cider, but an even better cooker. It makes the best pie and crisp that I or my wife have ever had, and there’s never any leftovers, which speaks for itself. I am sure that there are better pie apples out there; but we have generally only had the more commercial varieties in pie. And this one is very adapted to our local climate. Very disease resistant, but unfortunately not bug resistant. I have a few of that one grafted, and I call it “Winter Pie,” since you have to pick it a few days after the first hard frost, and it stores wonderfully. I figure that that name is most likely already taken, but it sums up the apple quite nicely. The problems are that it is somewhat biennial, and when grown on it’s own roots, it leans really bad. Weak flexible roots. It naturally grows into a central leader tree, but crops better if you tie down the branches.

Another decent apple came out of those seedlings. It is only 2.5 inches in diameter, but it is nice and sweet with a slightly spicy taste.

For a long while, I hadn’t done any breeding with apples, but for the past few years, I have been crossing Liberty and Galarina with sweet dessert maincrop apples. I plant the seeds the same way like I wrote above and let natural selection do most of the work for me, culling out the non-disease-resistant seedlings. The only seedlings that have produced so far have borne just small 1 inch crabapples, but who knows what might come?

Anyway… that’s my story on my apple breeding hobby.


#6

Welcome! There are a couple of others doing breeding here


#7

Welcome, Nick! Cute helper you’ve got, there :slight_smile: We’ll be interested to hear about your disease-resistant apples, that sounds like a fun hobby! Beautiful scenery behind you in the photo, too!

Patty S.