New to apples! Dwarf Trees -- Stake or Trellis?

Hello, all.

We just moved into a house a year ago, and our lot has two apple trees that had been untouched for who-knows-how-long. We got four bites of the apples last year–they were all misshapen, diseased, and bug-ridden. In March this year, I pruned them quite a bit. This summer, I have been doing regular applications of captan and spinosad–and the fruit looks infinitely better than last year. I also thinned the fruit pretty heavily, and I have bagged 900 apples. There must be at least several hundred more apples still there. Next year, I’ll thin the fruitlets more drastically.

All that intro is to say that I’m hooked! I have now ordered from Century Farm Orchards five trees for delivery this fall (Zone 7A). Two of those trees are on Bud-9 stock. I am trying to decide the best way to handle them. I have read quite a bit on staking and on using trellises, including the Tall Spindle method.

Do any of you have any recommendations for a newbie regarding the advantages of staking versus trellising?

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I only have one tree on Bud9 and I staked it. You will get some good advice from others that primarily use Bud9. All my other apples are on M111 root with Bud9 interstems so my situation is different. What really got my attention was bagging 900 apples which is no small task. I bagged about 250 and was glad when I had finished. Almost forgot to say welcome to the forum. Bill

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Thanks, Auburn, for the welcome! I actually enjoyed bagging the apples. I bagged them in tranches of 50 or 100 over a month’s time, from mid-May to mid-June. In fact, I keep wanting to bag more, but I’m going to hold off. We hope the apples turn out good enough to offer them to friends and neighbors.

Even if no one else comes along, I’ll keep reading what I can. I have yet to come across a concise comparison of the advantages and disadvantages of staking versus trellising in the home orchard.

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I don’t really think there is much advantage one way or the other. Others may offer a different opinion. I staked my two dwarfs on g11 with an emt pipe hammered a few feet in the ground. I then used plastic coated sprinkler system wire to attach the trunks to the pipe. I used this system just because it is so easy versus a trellis. Just my idea but I know a trellis is great too.

A trellis would be great if you had hundreds of apple trees. Commercial growers use trellising instead of stakes because of the cost savings. On the small scale, a properly built trellis would be much much more expensive than stakes.

If a trellis fails, every tree gets destroyed. If a stake fails, only one tree gets destroyed.

You can also build a hybrid model where the trellis only has one wire - at the top of the stakes. Stakes & Trellising is the best if you’ve got the time and money.

In summary, stakes are cheaper and easier on the small scale.

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If you have many of the same variety on the same rootstock, ie very similar growth habits then build a trellis. Or use roots that are self anchoring.

Think about things not related to either staking or trellising. Let’s look at orchard design in general. What happens if a really nasty apple disease hits you 7 years from now? You might consider adding a peach, cherry or apricot in the middle of the apples so if you did get a disease it would hit an apple or two and then stop. By adding the non related fruit in the middle you will likely wind up using less spray. Same way for those planting peaches an apple or pear once in awhile stops the disease from sweeping through the orchard. Grapes or other non related fruits can be helpful. Staking or trellising are both good choices. I think trellising looks really nice but can be a lot of work in pruning etc. . Staking is fairly easy in my opinion comparatively. I have a friend who grows apples on trellises and he prunes off a lot of growth training them to the trellis.

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Thanks, all, for your responses. Since I only have two on dwarf rootstock (as of now), staking would definitely be easier. I know that one of the disadvantages for me of building a trellis is that I would then be tempted to plant more apple trees!

In retrospect, I probably should have ordered all five trees on Bud-9 rather than getting three on M111.

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Mebbe, but you won’t really know for a few years, and the fact of the matter is that you’re going to grow good apples and have a lot of fun (and not a little frustration!) growing them either way.

I have the one apple tree, on what a nursery sold me as “semi-dwarf”, but when I called them to ask what rootstock was used they had no idea and couldn’t look up the answer, even tho’ they tried. And my one pear is on one of the Old Home Farmingdale rootstocks, but I got confused as to which and have managed OK.

So while there is no doubt that rootstock matters I’m of the opinion that lots of them are pretty good and we small-scale guys don’t have to be optimum to end up with much better fruit than we’ll usually be able to buy, plus we get to chose our varieties, and have control over just what’s put on them and how they’re handled. Down the road we might find that we really need a certain rootstock but right now we’ll do fine as we are.

I hope you can find a good 12 step support group somewhere near you …

:-)M

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I agree! My stuff is on a 4 wire trellis, but I believe individual stakes are better with a single trellis wire.

Small stakes like 2X2 or conduit will require some type of support system like a single wire attached near the top of the stake or conduit. Without the wire, a large crop of apples can bend the conduit during a high wind event and destroy the tree. For a few trees a single pressure treated post at each tree would work and eliminate the need for the support wire.

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Agreed. I have already stopped myself from ordering more trees. A small family doesn’t ~need~ seven apple trees (the two I already have plus the five more I’ve ordered). I need to diversify with a couple sweet cherries and peaches.

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I love these gems from long time gardeners. So right on.