Lifetime of M26 grafted apple trees

Hi, I am a newbie to the forum. I have 12 apples on M26 still bearing at 30 years here in zone 4 Minnesota.
I am impressed, as others have stated, that trees do not age like people. These trees have rotting trunks and wounded limbs yet each year they hand out bushels of Liberty, Sweet 16, Honeycrusp and, the queen of them all a Chestnut crab on Antanova rootstock.

I was told that those on M26 graft had reached the end of their life.
I was greatly saddened :frowning:
Of course, when I planted them, as a younger man, I was thinking of a legacy. Like 100 years.
Now, seeing their many wounds and need for bracing, I feel like I am forcing them to stay on life support just because I can.
I have lectured them that they can back off on the multiparity thing. They won’t listen. The injured and decayed areas are skirted by healthy wood and bloom and bud regardless.
So, we limp along together: winter pruning, dormant sprays, limb crutches, on guard for all the life forms, from microscopic to antlered, that want a taste. Then each fall wondering where to give them away this time.

My kids have grown and left so
I have to wonder: If I did not do all the fussing and just let them grow to the sky, would they be happier? Would the intent of this Malus DNA be “free to be”?
Would they be just as “healthy” without my focus on production? What is it to be a good steward if I just want them to be there for the next passerby.
Jim

7 Likes

Hello Jim and welcome.

Not an expert, but my understanding is that trees on all kinds of dwarfing rootstock have shorter lifespans than those on seedlings.

I wonder if anybody here would recommend hilling soil around the base to encourage the tree to root above the graft, and whether that would help.

4 Likes

I would in-arch with a vigorous seedling bypassing the rootstock or use a semi-dwarf rootstock for the new roots.

5 Likes

Thanks forvthe replies. I can accept that the grafted trees are passing. It was a philosophical question for tree stewards. I saw an ancient plum tree once. It was braced and wrapped in gauze like a patient. Venerated because of its age. All to let it leaf and flower on a little stick of a branch.
But I think these trees will get away from me eventually. And then we will see what they think is best.

2 Likes

Jim, When we started planting fruit trees in 1996, I ended up with trees on a mix of ‘unknown’, M7, M106, M9/M11, M26. All in all, the trees on M26 have performed better than almost all others with regard to anchorage and productivity, and have maintained themselves at reasonable size - and I’ve never done ANY pruning other than collecting scionwood… which usually entails removing most of the vigorous shoots from the previous year’s growth… and in recent years, those have not been all that prevalent.
All are very ‘spurry’, and fruit well, with no major lesions; I don’t see my M26 trees as being in decline.
Mine sucker from the rootstock quite prolifically, and it’s an easy matter to pull or dig plenty of new rootstocks for grafting onto.

1 Like

@Farmerboy1: Welcome to one of the best things to enter my life in years.

Rootstock is cheap. Grafting is fun. In your shoes, I’d replicate what I can’t live without now so when the existing tree goes down you have a jump start on its clone.

I had a tree that just couldn’t hack conditions here; took it down last year. In the meantime I grafted something onto another root that is a sure bet. Today I put the whip in place & look forward to the future.

1 Like

I will confess, after asking the philosophical question of letting my M26 trees move into hospice, that I have bud grated onto one of the vigorous suckers from the rootstock with intent to birth a progeny. I am hesitant to cut down any of the original that still flowers and fruits, seemingly fulfilling its DNA destiny, though it will soon be too crowded.
Michael Pollan had it right saying that the apple domesticated humans.
And I agree that the M26 is sturdy. I climb into the trees at 10-15 feet.

2 Likes

Don’t worry about propping them up as they age. It’s normal for old apple trees to fall over and have hollow trunks. They will push new roots along the trunks where they lay on the ground and this will allow them to carry on for a very long time.

2 Likes

I remember the late Lon Rombough telling of a 150±yr old apple that had ‘moved downhill’ 50 ft or more from its original site, by falling over, rooting in, regrowing, then falling over again and again, repeating the cycle multiple times.

3 Likes

That is how the Hackworth Apple continued it’s DNA. Washed down a hillside from a man’s orchard. The Evil Nicademus Hackworth swam across the river and stole one of the sprouts and claimed it was his invention…lol

3 Likes