Seeking Apricot, Blueberry, Apple, Grape, etc. Variety Recs for MD (zone 7A)

This is such an exciting time of year for me, ordering and dreaming and ordering some more. I am trying to rein myself in a bit with my apricot purchases this season for my somewhat limited growing area. I live in MD and currently have two Manturian Apricots, now flowering. I have heard great things about Tomcot (Scott, you have said great things about these over the years), Robada, and Sweetheart, and am considering Montrose as well. I’m also curious what blueberry varieties people have had success with here, as my bushes have not flowered since the first summer, which for some of them is 5-6 years. Clearly they are not happy–probably not enough acidity in the soil, which I am working on. Also looking for suggestions for a sweet eating apple with disease resistance. My family is not keen on sub-acidity in fruits, and most catalogs do not enumerate which of their fruit trees produce sour fruits. I have Galarina and Goldrush, for polination considerations. Along those lines, I was surprised when I visited Edible Landscaping for their yearly Harvest Festival and found almost all of the table grapes repugnant. It’s so hard to know what a thing will taste like until one has tried it! Scott, I have been heartened by your approval of the recent AK grape introductions, which I put in last spring and have yet to taste. Surely there are some lovely varieties out there for fresh eating. I am also interested in didsease/pest resistance, where possible, naturally. I’ve also heard good things about Swenson Red, Flame, and Somerset (aside from Hope, Joy, Gratitude, and Faith). Any strong opinions on these or other fruit varieties which don’t prove too troublesome for the Midatlantic area? I’m happy to see so many folks from nearby (as well as those from far away!).

Howdy, neighbor! Swenson Red is an excellent grape, the only problem is it has seeds. My family doesn’t like seeded grapes so I topworked it last summer. The AK grapes are probably the best overall, but Jupiter I also like a lot. Flame is not any good in the east; Somerset I have heard great things about and I plan on trying it at some point. The AK grapes are taking awhile to come into full production, but I have had that to some degree on all my grapes as they are on a steep hill I don’t irrigate and they don’t establish very quickly at all. I would also consider some muscadines, they have seeds and are slipskin, but they also are much more flavorful. The other grapes taste like mild sugar water by comparison. They are also bulletproof in our climate.

For the apricots, I don’t think Robada is a good eastern cot, it gets too many skin and rot problems. I topworked mine last year. If you want another cot try Orangered or Ilona (the new NJ one, ACN is selling).

For heirloom fruits you might want a look at Ragan, an old book with geography based recommendations:

The zone 3 recs are generally pretty good for us. If you type Scott’s into the magnifying glass search in the upper right you will get my own apple and stone fruit experiences.

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Any thoughts on the Moorpark variety?

What blueberry plants do you have in now? Yes the soil must be acid. In ground plantings where soil in not 5.0 or lower are hard to manage. I use raised beds, my soil is 6.5 and too hard to maintain lower. Much easier with a raised bed. I also grow in containers. It can be done in ground, just requires more work. Mine are now 5 years old, and are monsters around 5 feet tall. They each yield hundreds of berries.

I’d like to try it some day given the recommendation in this old guide plus the recent positive report cited above.


Drew51, I was taking a look at my blueberry survivors–I have had probably 8 - 10 plants over the years and their numbers have been dwindling bit by bit. I finally set up a sort of blueberry sanctuary off of our carport/door/porch area, where I was able to amend the soil with sulphur and peat, etc. I had just started a blueberry spray program for them in earnest, as I’ve had many of them, like I mentioned, 5 to 6 years and none of them are over 2 feet tall. So I had this blueberry fertilizer concoction I had in my 1 gal sprayer which I was spraying them with every chance I got, which wasn’t all the time because I have more passion for these things than time, regrettably. So I came back mid spring or summer last year to fertilize them, and there was already spray in the 1 gal container so I just went to work. It was only after they all died a miserable death that I realized the spray I used was leftover copper fungicide spray, obviously terrible to spray on plants which had leafed out. Alas. So I think my only survivors are Duke and… Patriot? Earliblue? Not sure about the possible second one–these are/were in a different section of the garden and didn’t get the dosing. My husband took out some junipers in an in-ground decorative planting area off of our sidewalk this year, and I was thinking of reworking the soil (which would hopefully already be at least more acidic with all of the help from the coniferous bushes) with peat and sulphur in lieu of a raised bed (husband is getting tired of having things to mow around), and plant it up with blueberries. That’s the plan, anyway… I have high hopes though I am worried that they won’t get enough sun to be very fruitful. I know they can handle shade (and in fact my biggest one died straight off, I think from too much heat that first summer), but I do want to get some fruit from them after all. It’s so hard to predict exactly how much sunlight will fall there from one time of day to another. In terms of varieties I’m looking at right now, I’m very keen on the Chandler, which is supposed to have large and luscious berries–a rare combination. It’s a midseason bush, so I’m also looking at early and late plants to extend the harvest time a bit, but I am all ears for recommendations from any part of the season; I want these plants to work. Perhaps earliblue for the early season? Patriot? Thinking Dixie and/or Jersey for late season (Liberty is a Jersey cross with bigger berries, sounds good but supposed to be soft in areas which are too hot…). I have heard that Elliot is a sturdy plant but not a huge bearer. I have heard/read good things about Bluecrop, Blue Ray, Jersey (but berries apparently not large), and Duke. I’m intrigued by the concepts of the Sweetheart (two crops, early and late summer, apparently–where the weather is temperate enough) and the Sunshine Blue–evergreen, red flowers, Southern Highbush only reaching 3 ft but apparently a heavy bearer.

Howdy! Scott, that book looks pretty amazing! Thanks for posting it in usable format for us and sharing the love! I’m looking forward to delving in! I also appreciate the advice about the Robada. I have heard rave reviews, but not from our area, so I was really wondering. I know a few years back you had posted about interest in the Sweetheart apricot and the Montrose, and I have seen you post positively about the Sweetheart since–you’re happy with it? Did you get the Montrose? Did you like it if you did? Sometimes I feel like I’m following in your same footsteps from your previous years. I have only been doing this 6 years, so you have about a 20 year head start on me! Thank you for sharing from your experience–I have been reading what you have had to offer on all topics fruit for years with great interest. It’s been very helpful for me, and I’m sure many others. And that goes for many others of you (Alan among those I know the names of)… thank you for sharing your experiences here for the rest of us to learn from.
Also, I had forgotten that you liked Jupiter so much. Thank you, I just added it to my order. Somerset has been recommended to me by people at a couple of different nurseries who say it tastes amazing/like strawberries. Any recommendations on Plum varieties for those who don’t like a sour skin?

I have been on the same quest for a number of years. The sourness off most asian plum skins is a real turn off for me.

I have limited experience with European plums but last year my Parfumee De Septembre plum fruited for the first time. I have to say that this fruit was by far the most delicious plum I have ever tasted. Neither sour nor bitter in any of the fruit.

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OK, well that really sounds like a pH problem. Stunted growth is the number one symptom from my experience. When mine slow down, I take pH readings.

All the cultivars you mentioned are decent. Stand outs for me are Chandler, good taste, very large berries. Needs help via pruning as it lacks vigor when older, not a big deal at all. Sunshine Blue is a winner, but may not be in your area? I would add Legacy as it has some SHB in it too, just for a possible pollinator. Well more than that it is a decent cultivar. Produces well, and is tolerant of late freezes.One fault is it is hard to tell when berries are ripe. Uneven ripening once blue they need a week, like most others, but with a long ripening period it’s hard to tell fully ripe from just turned blue. Others are green around the stem till fully ripe and easy to tell. Chandler is like this.
You mentioned large berries, others like that are Spartan an early season, and the best tasting early season type. Darrow has large berries as does Bonus. All decent. I researched those a lot, but have not tried them. I have my own want list. All mentioned, if I don’t have them are on it.
Cara’s Choice is the best tasting blueberry I have. It has beautiful blue-green leaves.
A smaller cultivar.

You have to do more than amend local soil, you need to remove it and put in a peat/pine bark mixture. Or all peat with pine bark mulch. You won’t really need sulfur if this is done. If you go for a mix, just use peat with local soil. Add sulfur too. Sulfur takes 6 months to work at least, sometimes a year. You will need to monitor all the time.
Another option is to throw in the towel and put something else there. Like Honeyberries and you won’t have to do any amendments. They are not very attractive bushes though. If hoping for some landscape value, they will not be that attractive.
Honeyberries don’t mind some shade. Best if they have some.

If you have some room other options are the Romance series cherries that grow about 6-8 feet tall and 6 feet wide.Juliet is the sweetest but best for cooking. These are fantastic top rate tart cherries. The best cherry pie you could possibly have I made jam, fantastic! I gave away a tree, so my production will be lower this year, I’ll make jam again. in 2018 I’ll have enough for many things. These are also very attractive plants in their round form, and beautiful bloom in the spring.

I am growing Sweetheart but it didn’t fruit yet. If the weather doesn’t wipe me out this weekend I should get to taste it this year. Hoyt Montrose fruited for two years, the first it was OK but last year it was pretty good. It was also the most frost-resistant variety in my orchard by far. Zard blooms later but its more tender.

I decided to order a Somerset myself, it was on my to get list and I realized I had a spot for it now. Another one I have been wanting to grow is Petite Jewel. I had it once but it died and I never got to taste the fruit.

Thank you for that tip, DanChappell! It’s definitely going on my wants list!

Thank you too, Drew51, that’s great information on the blueberries! I will take a closer look at those varieties; I know some of them are carried by the nurseries I’m planning to order from this winter/spring.

I had read that I should be adding 1/3 local soil, 1/3 peat and1/3 sulphur, I think, to each hole… also that they appreciate compost a great deal. I hadn’t heard that you could use pine bark on its own (with peat) in place of soil. Where does one go about procuring pine bark? I don’t think I’ve noticed it at the local stores, but then I may have missed it too. The cherries sound interesting–bush cherries, I think? I remember reading about them a while ago, probably on Gardenweb. I had some bush cherries, but I think I have lost all but one at this point. Perhaps I should replace them.

I have been thinking of service berries/june berries in place of blueberries, but my family lov es the original so much that I don’t think I can just replace them. Anyone have any experience with service berries with any advice on them? Do they like shade, or just tolerate it more than most? I have a couple of bushes, but I haven’t quite figured them out yet.[quote=“scottfsmith, post:10, topic:9606, full:true”]
I am growing Sweetheart but it didn’t fruit yet. If the weather doesn’t wipe me out this weekend I should get to taste it this year. Hoyt Montrose fruited for two years, the first it was OK but last year it was pretty good. It was also the most frost-resistant variety in my orchard by far. Zard blooms later but its more tender.


Thanks for that advice, Scott… that (and the pending June tree sale at Stark bros.) may push me towards the Hoyt Montrose instead, with the option to add the Sweetheart in June if I can find a spot for it.

No too much, think of it like fertilizer, you may want to add a cup or so, no more.

This has been tough for years!! Bags sold as soil amendment are usually 100% pine bark. Also path bark is pine. Most independent nurseries carry this stuff. Some big box stores do too, but not always, or only in some locations as supply is very regional.
I would use a mix of peat and pine bark. I saw studies on blueberries, and the best mix was about a 2 to 1 pine bark to peat, but the plants grew in pure peat and pure pine bark. Very nutrient poor, so you have to be on top of feeding them. Adding oak leaves as mulch can feed them some, but they for sure need a acid loving plant fertilizer.

The thing about in ground is you have to amend enough to last. Everything will eventually break down, and the normal pH will creep back in unless your treating the area with sulfur. From what I have seen, it works well for a few years, but if local soil is basic, it prevails. Like if I threw 20 ton’s of salt in Lake Michigan, it’s not going to make the whole thing salt water. Locally it will be salty, but it won’t take that long for the salt to disperse. The flow of Hydrogen ions in the soil is just about the same way. It’s going to move to the path of least resistance, just like water. Your local soil is constantly going to pull hydrogen ions off the acidic soil. So you have to add hydrogen ions indirectly in the form of sulfur. Bacteria will release the ions in sulfur and form sulfuric acid.It takes about 6 months. Blueberries can be tough, but once soil is right, they grow well.

If you water with an acid, you can keep it stable, and may not even need the sulfur.
You don’t need much, and depends on your water how much you will need, you need to test water pH if you do this…

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Hoyt Montrose is overall looking to be the best mid-atlantic cot as far as withstanding freezes goes. So far it looks like I didn’t lose a single blossom on it. That puts it pretty high up on the priority list! Sweetheart was in partial bloom, I lost some but hopefully not all.


Yes, of course, you are right, Drew51. Now that I think back, I believe the other third was compost, and 1 cup sulfur was recommended per plant. Thanks for correcting me on this! I try to research things in depth before doing a lot of them, then after I do them I forget everything and have to read up on it all again next time. I think I need to start keeping a journal. What do you recommend for acid watering? I had heard about watering with diluted coffee, etc., but wasn’t sure what the effects would be on the leaves and didn’t want to chance it without knowing. And thanks for the tips about continual amending; I hadn’t thought of the ongoing dilution of the acidity of the soil. I will have to check my local nursery for the pine bark. Thanks for the tip. You mentioned Lake Michigan–which side of it are you on? I’m from MI myself, originally. Prime blueberry growing land, over there!
Scott, I’m afraid that frost may have wiped out my Manturian blossoms this year too. I haven’t gotten a single fruit from them yet; perhaps there are some buds left, we shall see. I should have known that weather resistant apricots reference the wood and not necessarily the blooms!

The Michigan side :grin:
No I know what you meant, East side. I’m near Lake St Clair, and also have a cottage on the St Clair river which for those who don’t know between Lake Huron and Lake St Clair.
My In laws live in Cheboygan, and my son in Kalkaska, so I’m all over the state. Going to Cheboygan Friday as a matter of fact.

Many ways to acidify water, vinegar works, but is temporary, as bacteria will break it down. Same with citric acid. I use sulfuric acid, it turns the calcium to gypsum, which stops the calcium from becoming basic. So the pH will not go back up. I use battery acid, it is 30% sulfuric acid. I have to buy the stuff every year anyway for batteries. It is clean and safe as contaminants can cause a battery to explode, so law suit city, the production of sulfuric acid is rated and graded. It is a lower grade, but safe, never use acid out of a battery. Also poor acid into water, not water into acid. as acid will make the acid water splash a lot! It only takes a very small amount. Once a year I measure the amount to add to make water 4.5-5.0. Then just use that amount every time.I’m just about ready to order some test strips. I use to use a meter, but it is getting old, and the metal is almost gone on the probe. I don’t trust the reading, unless cleaned every time I use it. Strips are easier. I don’t use litmus paper, i use these strips, catalog number 4-1.09542.0001 They have a range of 4.0-7.0. I find it makes it easy to read with this narrow range. Anything outside the range does not concern me. I want it at 4.5 to 5.0 so when it reads there, I’m there. So in my bed is 7.2 it will read 7, but I know I’m in trouble!

They are a little pricey, litmus is a lot cheaper, and it can work too.

I had actually picked up some litmus strips in hope of making them work for this purpose; how do you do it? I’ve read to saturate some soil in equal amount purified (ph neutral) H2O for half an hour or more and to strain it. Is your method any simpler? Still a lot quicker and cheaper than sending it away to a lab, either way!

[quote=“Drew51, post:15, topic:9606”]
mentioned Lake Michigan–which side of it are you on?

The Michigan side :grin: /quote]

Ha ha ha! :smiley:

I think it is because it so much easier to read. Litmus paper is OK though.
For soil what I do, and not sure how accurate, is soak it really well, wait till it drains, and just stick it in and leave in there 15 minutes. Read it, easy to wipe clean to see. Not sure how accurate this is? As long as it reads close I’m happy. I could leave the strips in 24 hours if I wanted to, you can’t do that with litmus. I only do this once a year. I’m used to using my meter for this, and still may check readings with my meter, if I can find it? The meter is meant for soil.

Yes a lot of trouble this for blueberries, but worth it to know you’re good on pH. If high, I lower the water to 4.0. Fertilize with Ammonium sulfate which you must be careful, it can kill plants if you give it too much. This acidifies soil extremely well too. After a few watering rounds I check again, maybe a week or two later. Once there, I just use rainwater. I use Holly-Tone (which also has sulfur in it) for a fertilizer, and sulfur usually in the fall. Even though I have raised beds, the pH can creep up during the winter. Not in my newer beds as it’s all pine bark and peat, the pH is fairly constant, rarely add acid. As the beds get older, organic matter and soil build up and raise pH.
I never use manure, but leaf or plant compost is fine. Compost , almost any is neutral, it can raise pH over time. I try to use pine needles as mulch. This year I’m using straw, so pH is probably will go up in the older beds as it breaks down.
Friday going up north I’ll bring yard waste bags to collect white pine needles, a awesome orange color, and soft, you don’t need gloves. I use this in all my pots too. If I have it! I have ton’s of extra regular straw, so using that to get rid of it.


Wow, those are some beautiful beds. I’m envious of the access to soft pine needles; smart use of them, by the way. They look great. The carpentry is great, as well.

I’ll give it a shot with the paper I’ve already picked up, but its range may not be as precise as yours; I’ll keep that link in mind for when I run out, thanks. You fertilize in the fall? I have heard that you don’t want to fertilize too late in the year for fear of winter kill of young shoots. Interesting stuff!

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I put in my blueberries as you recommended, peat and pine bark (I threw in a bit of compost and a handful of sand and soil or so, to make sure the roots were happy with the drainage and add a bit of nutrients). They look happy (so far) and I’m feeling happy too; really hoping things will turn around this time. I also located my soil test strips, so I can make sure they aren’t getting too basic, but with mostly peat and pine in their surroundings, I don’t guess it could be too bad.

I noticed some of the new leaves of the new plants are turning reddish after planting; anyone know what that’s about?

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