Smitty's apple tree thriving in montana

Just wanting to report the rapid growth of Smitty’s (Stu Smith’s) apple tree, here in zone 3, short season Montana. I grafted a numer of branches on older trees for trialing (see photo), and I also have a couple bench-grafted onto B-118. The grafts I made onto the older tree for trialing, in '21, seem to be thriving very well, and I am looking forward to trying some of the apples in this coming season–along with about 30 other varieties I am also trialing. I have to say, Smitty’s seems to be growing as fast or faster than anything else in my trials ( I have 83 varieties at present.) Thank you, Stu Smith, for sending me the scions, and for sharig your success!!


Thats super cool to hear/see. Thank you


Reviewing my current inventory again, I see there are actually three Smitty’s bench-grafts on B-118, along with a Sweet 16 on B-118, and also Frostbite, Melba, Collet, and another Sweet 16 on Baccata rootstock–all with your name on the tags. There are likely a few others at least which the tags showing origin of the scions have been lost (and I have two or more sources for the same vareties). When the snow melts and I can get a better look, I will take a few more pictures of the Smitty’s on B-118 in the garden bed, and so you can see the comparison of them with the others I have growing, and photos of the apples in the Fall, too, and with the test results of the juice I get as well.

I am wondring why I do not see any Smitty’s on either my Baccata or Ranetka rootstock(?) Perhaps I should look at my records to see if I tried grafting Smitty’s onto them? And perhaps I should try again this spring, whether I’ve tried before or not(?) I had a lot of varities that year to save and collect, and maybe not enough Baccata and Ranetka to try Smitty’s on(?) And with so many other Smitty’s already grafted, I probably felt the three on B-118 enough until I could see the fruit on the older trees this season and decide if I wanted to keep Smitty’s in my orchard. So far, as I said in the message above, it appears to be among the most vigorous of all I have growing, and so I am looking forward to this coming Fall and tasting the fruits of my labor.

…And so thank you again very much for your generosity, and sharing!


I’ll be interested to hear what you think about the fruit when you get some. Any information on disease/insect pressure would be appreciated as well. Finding out how Smitty’s does in other areas is interesting to me.

I spray my trees with Captain Jack’s Dead Bug Brew (spinosad) to prevent codling moth from ruining my apples, but I have a couple more grafted limbs of Smitty’s besides these in the photo above, and so I should have a good number to sample this year and report my findings to you.

Another thing about my location is the sandy/gravelly soil with a PH of 8.3. In the springtime, I add sulfur and iron and nutrients to the trees in the gardenbed rows, but the PH remains around 7.5, I think, most of the time. I am guessing the high PH soil is going to affect the charactistics of all my fruit, unless I can adjust the PH to become lower, and become more precise with my application of the iron and sulfur. With such a high PH, not just any iron will work either, and so I plan to supplement to soil while the trees are becoming established, so they grow quickly to full size. Once established, though, I may decide to discontinue the nutrient and supplement feeding, and then the trees will be getting the high PH 8.3 soil again, from that time forward. This may seem like too much info, but this high PH seems important to me. I say this because the 3 Smitty’s on B-118 rootstock in the bed, so not seem [quite] as vigorous as the 4 or 5 Smitty’s grafted onto the 50 year old heritage trees in my backyard. By appearances, you might think the Smitty’s prefers the higher PH of the older heritage tree, verses the amended soil in the garden rows. On the tree, it’s performance is among the top 10% growth rate. In the bed, it’s only average, in the 50% growth rate range (when comparing to all other varieties). The Smitty’s apples I get this year from the heritage tree will be the high PH soil I give nutrients in springtime, but no iron and sulfur (so far) since moving here in 2017.

I would be curious to hear if you have any thoughts on how the high 8.3 PH soil might affect the fruit, if you have any. Thanks again!

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Johnny, how many sprays, how do you time them, and how effective has your program been?

I spray with spinosad for CM too, but I’ve taken to supplementing with Spectracide Once and Done and that has worked really well. But last year I decided to use Malathion in place of the Spectracide (to avoid the bugs developing resistance) and lost what few apples I had to CM. I suspect I just timed things wrong.

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Interesting information, I do not have any thoughts on the impact of high soil PH on the fruit/tree. Native PH here runs anywhere from the high 5s to the mid 6s.

It sounds like you will get some idea of what the fruit will be like soon :slight_smile:

Do you have red cedars/junipers anywhere near your fruit trees?

I normally see insects and diseases early in the spring, like powdery mildew and aphids, so I will spray at the earliest signs with Bonide Captain Jack’s Citrus, Fruit, & Nut Orhard Concentrate (sulfur and pyritherins), or if unavailable, I use Captain Jack’s Fruit Tree Spray (neem oil) according to the directions every couple weeks, as needed.

For Codling Moth, I try to find the degree day/emergence reporting station nearest to me to get an idea for the approx. date of first emergence, but considering I am at a higher location 10 miles away from the reporting station, I figure I may be a couple days later than this location. Not wanting to chance it though, I look to see the blossoms all gone and the fruit is the size of a small fingernail, and that is when I begin spraying according to the directions every 7 to 10 days until reporting station chart shows time for third emergence has passed, plus another week or so to account for my higher elevation location. By the time the apples are the size of a thumb nail, it is possible to see CM signs already…and an infestation that has already occurred at the first emergence. If that happens, and you’ve missed the first spray application, I have found the apples are already infested so badly they are not going to be worth much for eating or cider, and even the deer won’t eat them when they are like that. I am speaking from my own experience, and have sworn an oath to never let that happen again. Better to spray one too many times, than to miss that first emegence and allow the CM to ruin the entire crop for the year.


That’s similar to my own approach - I go by the local extension service, plus I hang pheromone tent traps to count the males. But somehow last year I flat missed it.

But I agree - an extra spray is small potatoes compared to losing your apples.

I’ve noticed that you can see CM eggs as shiny spots on the apples. If you can spray then with spinosad and/or spectracide and have it stay on long enough you might have the spray on the fruit when they hatch.


I have two juniper bushes in front of my house, but the older trees are on the other side of the house, and the future orchard site is located in the pasture, upwind and about 150 feet away from the closest juniper bush. Both of the junipers are ancient, and nothing I want to keep for any reason. Is there a good reason for me to consider making the effort to remove them?

I asked about red cedars/junipers only because of Cedar Apple Rust. Maybe that isn’t an issue in your location? It is here. I don’t have huge numbers of eastern red cedars or junipers here, but I do still get spots of CAR on many apple tree leaves (so far none on pear). I haven’t sprayed with myclobutanil yet, but may in the future. Smitty’s here gets very little damage from CAR, but I’m always interested to hear how it does elsewhere.

I’ll let you decide on keeping the junipers or not :slight_smile: I generally remove eastern red cedars here, but allow common junipers to stay.

Here’s my list of the things that can go wrong.


That’s a good discussion -very informative and clear. Thank you for linking it.

Burns: still one of my favorite poets ever.

What is the apple like?

You would have to ask @smsmith to describe the apples. I got the scions from him, after reading a message thread talking about his seedling apple tree…and reading the mouth-watering description he gave for the apples. I am in zone 3 Montana, directly on eastern slope of Continental Divide, and the scions I grafted in 2021 onto an existing tree will be giving me some apples this Fall. I am looking forward to giving them a taste and doing some PH and SG tests for cidermaking. The scion grew very quickly, and was among the most vigorous of other varieties I am trialing on the older trees in my yard. I am hopeful that the Smitty"s apples will be something special, and I will follow up in the Fall with an update, along with the results of my sample testing.


Thanks! If they are tough trees with good flavor that is always something interesting!

I’ve brix tested the fruit for 3 years now. The lowest reading I’ve got was 13 and the highest was 18. They ripen mid-late September here in central MN. They are juicy and more sweet than tart. I’ve given a good number of the fruit away and everybody has enjoyed them for fresh eating. I haven’t done much sweet cider making with them yet, but plan to in the future. I’m expecting them to do well. No idea how they’d do for sauce, baking, etc. The tree shows some bi-annual tendencies and fruit size is variable.
The tree was here when I bought the place in 2012. It was browsed by cattle and surrounded by prickly ash. The cattle got removed when I bought the place. I got rid of the prickly ash and I pruned the tree up and got a central leader to take over. I’m guessing the tree is around 15-18 years old now. It has seen temps at least as low as -38, not to mention numerous years with multiple successive weeks with -20 to -30 lows and below zero highs.
I"m hoping that Smitty’s Seedling trees will available for purchase either next spring or the spring after.
A couple pics of the fruit from different years.

pics of the tree last spring


Sound great! Sounds like a tree I would like to try here in Maine on the wild coast.


or up along the Canadian border. :wink:


I am just curious to know what rootstock you’ve grafted onto, to make the trees you will be selling? Besides the 3 I have on B-118, I may try grafting Smitty’s onto some Baccata and Ranetka roots, just for the heck of it, and see if it takes to Baccata, which doesn’t like some varieties.

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