@steveb4 asked me to start this one after I had been mulling it over for a bit (although I don’t personally reside in the -40 F club). I didn’t see a chat for folks in the colder zones (z2/3/4) so here it is! Although you might not necessarily be close physically, many share a need for very cold hardy plants over other qualities.
Nice people over the phone. I am collecting the Lee series of Apple trees despite not needing there cold hardiness at all. They will be part of my breading project which goal is whimsical at best.
Those who don’t begin the journey towards their dreams never accomplish them. If every backyard grower had a side breeding project, we’d have the thousands of seedlings necessary to find a winner.
Having lived in zone 5b Colorado all my life and seeing how restrictive that season is I can’t imagine how restrictive the colder zones north of me are. Only fruit I know that grows zone 4 and below is certain kinds of apples like Honeycrisp which is not bad, thimbleberries, some strawberries, raspberries, some pears, blueberries and honey berries. You cannot grow basic varieties like most stone fruit or many good brambles like blackberries. Already in zone 5 I can’t grow many brambles but at least I can grow blackberries as brambles which is my favorite of the two between blackberries and raspberries as blackberries are much sweeter.
I used to live in a suburb on the southwest side of Denver and you are correct about it being challenging. The biggest problem I dealt with was the extreme temperature swings that would wake up plants/trees earlier than ideal and then destroy fruit production with late freezes. Now I live in west central Minnesota and I’ve had less headache since spring is more gradual and defined. You might also be surprised the varieties you can grow so long as you’re in a sheltered location.
I’m pleased to see a regional chat that I can identify with! I live in the foothills of the Snowy Mountains in central Montana. Maps display us as zone 4, but at our elevation, that seems a bit optimistic! We have a mature Dolgo Crab that I have been topworking with various hardy apple scions with some success. We have mature Chestnut and Whitney crab trees that happened to be the survivors of several attempts to establish fruit trees in the early 1970’s. My Yellow Transparent and Westland apple trees established 8 years ago, have thrived and fruited through drought and polar vortecs! I have other “hardy” varieties of apples that look OK but have not fruited yet. My Hazen Apple did bloom last Spring but it occurred during a cold snap. The U of S dwarf cherries are persisting but do die back if we encounter wet Fall weather discouraging their going dormant. I have made a couple of attempts to establish a plum thicket consisting of a mixture of wild, Toka, and Black Ice. The first attempt died the first season after an especially brutal cold open winter. This winter was much milder so I expect them to do better.
Yesterday was a sunny 70 degrees. I visited my Honey Bees and observed that they were busily packing pollen back to the hive. The grass or Dandelions haven’t started growing yet, but I noticed that the Cottonwood Trees are blooming. Today is a snow storm and 20 degrees, which is still relatively mild conditions for here, this time of year!
USDA 3b here.
Always like reading the tasting notes from:
Carroll usually ranks up there, often above Trailman and Norkent but this shows how difficult it is to judge taste. I like Carroll and it has the added benefit of being a great, early apple (starts to be ready late July) that has a prolonged ripening time lasting 3-4 weeks spreading out harvest in the backyard. Also does not drop as easy as Trailman and Norkent which start dropping mid to late august. BUT the crispness, juiciness and nice acidity of Trailman and Norkent put them above Carroll for me although I am keeping all trees.
WAY behind on write ups but will get there some day so for now you can more photos at FrozenNorthFruit.com (yes, I am transitioning to another account).
Fellow zone 3/4 straddler.
Here is Minnesota’s Department of Agriculture Cold Hardiness List. I am just starting out and find it helpful:
I wanted to share some more information that I have found handy, mainly from zone 4:
Windbreak Cookbook - lots of awesome info about hardy trees/bushes and how to use them for food with recipes.
Northern Hardy Fruit Evaluation Progect CREC -
Annual reports of what has worked in Carrington, ND. They also do annual tours, have a beautifully maintained orchard, and Kathy Wiederholt is a wealth of information.
Edible Forest in ND - the pdf talks about the plants they selected and why (shipova? Mountain ash?) Some may recognize Jim Walla who has been mentioned on here before for propagating Trader Mulberry.
University of Minnesota Fruit Info - great basic guides for plant selection and care.
Honey Berry USA - lots of good info on fruit bushes in zone 3 and sales.