Time versus money

Looking at some of the threads where members of this forum have described orders they’ve received or where they’ve noted what they’re buying, I was a little surprised to see that people with seemingly well established orchards that have been growing fruit for several years and who are experienced at grafting seem to still be buying substantial numbers of trees and mostly non-patented varieties that one could probably get scion wood for easily enough. It seems some people are more eager to get to larger and bearing trees, and they’re willing to pay to get there sooner.

Personally, I’m still very interested in trying and adding new species and varieties (and adding more of some varieties I already have), but I feel like I have enough things going now that I can take the slow path with additional things. For example, I already have three pecan varieties of purchased trees, and there are three or four more varieties I’d like to grow, but I’m planning to use seedlings (that I started a couple years ago from nuts) for rootstock once they’re growing more vigorously, which I expect means it will probably be another two or three or more years before I graft them, if I’m even able to find sources for scionwood of the varieties I want when the rootstocks seem ready. My purchased trees are still far from yielding, so I’m not inclined to spend more money when I have yet to see if late frosts or disease or birds or whatever are going to take all my nuts every year anyway. But I was inclined to spend a fair amount of money at first, just to get a good basic assortment of things going.

At this point, I’m as interested as much in propagating things as I am in having them. It seems to me it’s more satisfying to grow a seedling and graft it (or whatever method of propagation applies), with all the learning and challenges and optimization that comes with growing, than it is to buy a tree, just as homegrown fruit can be more satisfying than purchased fruit that’s just as tasty (and even just as organic, etc.) And I appreciate the value of a tree that I can multiply, replace, give to friends, etc. for basically just the cost of time spent doing something I enjoy, so those are skills I want to develop and fine tune.

I suppose part of the differences between my approach and others may have to do with age and how settled different people are and how much space they have. I’m middle-aged with no plans of ever moving and a pretty generous amount of space (a small farm) for growing most things, so I have hope of harvesting things that won’t bear for another 20 or even 30 years, and I hope my son (and his children that haven’t even been born yet – my son is only 8) will take over and enjoy the things I plant after me, so I even have thoughts of starting things like shagbark hickories from seed that even if I graft mature wood onto them may not bear before I’m dead or too toothless to eat nuts. I can see how I might look at things very differently if I didn’t think I’d be here much longer and I expected the next owner just to cut everything down for ease of management.

Are there others on the forum that have reached a stage where they’re content to take the slow path with most additional things they want to grow (start it from seed, graft it themselves, etc.)? I’m sure some people just aren’t interested in propagation at all or maybe just as a means to acquire varieties that can’t easily be bought. How do you all decide whether to buy things or take the slow path?


I think the hobby of growing fruit is a little different for everyone, different parts of it appeal to people. As I age in growing fruit I too am enjoying the slow process of growing out rootstock and then joining with various experimental scions. We dont generally grow out our rootstock from seed yet preferring to just cut roots of existing trees and let them sucker, then dig them up when dormant and transplant/graft.

We do still at times order in trees. But usually now its just to gain the wood because its not available from anyone else. The trees are often times completely useless for us due to being on poor rootstock for our soil. So we take wood and put it on decent root. Its a expensive way to go but sometimes there is no choice. What trips my trigger is the discovery of it all. Because of the rootstock issue and just plain lack of knowledge in my area, many of these trees I am experimenting with have never been tried in the state.

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Many folks have different applications. Perhaps mine is unusual. While I do pick and eat some fruit, my primary application is part of a broad wildlife management program. While getting fruit sooner is one important consideration, it is not the only one and not even the most important. I’m looking for volume and minimal long-term maintenance but there are many other considerations as well.

The method I’ve found to get fruit soon and achieve most of my other goals is to start with native trees on the farm and improve them. The biggest bang for the buck for me is cutting down native male persimmons and grafting scions from both named varieties and from unnamed prolific trees from other locations. With well established native rootstock, it is possible to get the first fruit in the third leaf.

We also have a lot of native hickory growing. The problem is that the shells are so thick that only squirrels can use the nuts. I’ve tried grafting thin shelled pecans to native hickory. I had about a 30% take on grafts but it too early to tell how well this will work in the long run.

We also need to find techniques that fit our climate. We generally get ample spring and fall rain while summers can be dry. I’ve found growing native or related non-natives from nuts in root pruning containers can be a good high volume approach for low maintenance trees. In my case, one tree I’ve been using is Dunstan chestnuts. American chestnuts were native to my area for hundreds of years before the blight. Dunstan is an American Chinese cross that is blight resistant and fairly true to seed. They produce nuts fairly early compared to most oaks that take 20+ years. They do need protection when young but will produce with no maintenance long-term. We have Allegheny Chinquapins growing natively. I’m propagating those as well. they produce nuts in just a few years. They are susceptible to blight and die back but will bounce back from the roots and continue to produce nuts. I’m also about to try the Chinese version of these called Seguins which are blight resistant.

I’ve experimented with other non-native trees like Jujube but the jury is still out. I’ve started to grow crabapple from seed. I will let some of these develop as crabapple but others I’ll graft with vintage disease resistant domestic apples. Time will tell how this works.

So, I guess folks simply need to think through their application and constraints and find the path that works best for them. For me, starting trees from nuts, seeds, and root cuttings indoors under lights is also a great cure for cabin fever in the winter.

Eric and Jack, thanks for sharing your thoughts. It helps me to think more clearly myself.

I changed the title of this thread to hopefully express the idea more clearly and succinctly.

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One more thought on the time verses money. While buying older bare root seedlings may save a little time, it may not be as much as we think. Certainly dwarfed trees will produce sooner and trees grafted with scions from mature fruiting trees helps, one thing to keep in mind is the sleep-creep-leap phenomenon when planting bare root trees.

If you are in the right climate or if you can provide supplemental water when needed, I’ve found root pruning containers can speed things up quite a bit.

This chestnut was started from a nut late last December and grown using a root pruning container system and planted in late September. It is over 6’ tall and over 3/4" in caliper. Admittedly, chestnuts are fast growing trees to start with. The key here is the lack of sleep-creep-leap. Because the containers unwrap from the very dense root system with many terminal roots without disturbing the root ball at all,

Without that sleep-creep-leap, trees can make up some lost time compared to older bare root seedlings. With some species, you can further speed up the process by grafting with mature tree scions after they are well established in the field.

I agree completely on this. Often times bare roots can really be slow to establish for the first season. A practice that im just in love with is planting rootstock and letting it establish one season, then grafting it the next season and watch it explode! The root is already well established after a year and will push growth massively. Ive got peaches I did this with at the beginning of this current season that are full size (9ft tall 8 ft wide, 2-3" caliper) and ready to produce next season. It may not work this way for everyone, we have a 9 month grow season.

Bare root plantings are a means to a commercial end. No one said its the best way.

You may be referring to me here :slight_smile:

Yes, I’ve bought quite a few trees this year, even though I said the following on July 5th:

So now, just 4 months later, I have 29 trees on order (or arrived for places which ship in the fall). Of those:
1.) Over half (15) are jujubes. I tried to get a lot of rootstocks this spring from Roger Meyers, but most didn’t make it, so I decided to make up for the lost year by buying bigger trees. Before I can graft my way to more varieties, I needed more established stocks. After this, I don’t plan on buying more, as the suckers alone should give me plenty of trees if I find places to put them.
2.) 9 are Euro plums- something I’ve gotten increasingly excited about. I may be overshooting a bit on these, but there seems to be quite a few different kinds (mirabelles, prunes, gages, etc) to try, as well as different seasons, disease resistances, etc.
3.) A couple apricots, as much to replace the losses as anything. They seem to have a low life expectancy in my yard, so it is best to get the most mature tree possible. I wouldn’t keep trying, except the few fruit I’ve gotten have been very good- the absolute best thing that is ripe at the time.
4.) Late season peaches- I got pretty excited about October peaches this fall, so I had to add a few trees. That should shave at least a year off me grafting them. Also, I don’t know of anyone who has one of the varieties (Carnival), so I wouldn’t have been able to graft it.

We’re living in a pretty expensive area, so once the kids are out of the (good) schools, I suspect that we’ll probably move somewhere cheaper and/or warmer. So, I’ve probably got another 10-12 years here, to learn (and eat) as much as I can. That’s still a reasonably long timerange, but I’d like to shave a year or two off the waiting when I can.

My perspective is probably different from most folks on this forum. Once I make the decision to plant more trees, I need to get the trees into production as soon as possible. I try to buy 100 trees at a time in order to get the price break. A six foot 5/8 inch feathered apple tree from a good commercial nursery like ACN will produce enough apples to pay for about 1/2 of the tree the first year its planted, if everything goes according to plan. Unfortunately, very few nurseries sell this type of tree and the ones that do sell out early. A lesser quality field grown apple tree is a year behind and a bench grafted apple is probably two years behind. My bench grafts for instance are about 2 years behind. In some cases I can not purchase what I need, (like Hoople) so I have to grow my own trees.

It really is about time verses money, especially at my age (62). I need to get the trees into production while I can still enjoy the work involved.


Thanks, everyone, for sharing your thoughts. It’s interesting to consider the reasons for making the trade-offs. Bob, I didn’t have anyone particular in mind, but that’s not to say some of your posts weren’t part of the vague general impression I had formed. 10-12 years is long enough to do a lot, as you say, but it’s short enough to definitely make a difference.


Just noticed your location - west of Winston Salem. Are you close to any vineyards/orchards?

By nature I love growing seedlings and I do grow at least 10 per year and sometimes much more than that. I also like to plant large organized plantings. In Kansas almost all fruit growing is an experiment so failures and success are things I’ve grown accustomed to. Rootstocks are something I use because they are disease resistant, they are vigorous, and they are predictable in terms of compatibility. Everyone needs a bread and butter crop.

Rick, I sent you a message. By the way, if there’s anyone else (including lurkers) in the area, I’d love to connect. I consider my area more or less between Greensboro and Hickory, and between Charlotte and the VA line.

‘time versus money’ could be seen in two ways–when you have plenty of time in your hands, it saves you money. Whereas if you have extra money, it buys you time. Each has benefits not provided by the other , and speaing for myself, couldn’t really tell which is the better approach.

For me I would rather have smaller trees as I can shape them better to fit a backyard style of growing. Production here is often controlled by the weather so you could buy a larger tree and still not see any production until the weather allows it. I don’t grow apples so not talking about apple trees.
Also I have no intention of selling fruit. So that is a non factor for me.I would consider it, but there is no money in selling fruit I can see. Breeding fruit has more potential for payoff but only on a large scale. So it is a hobby only for me. I like growing things, always will grow plants, edible or otherwise. Often i found when turning professional it takes all the fun out of it. I was almost a professional photographer, and it ruined my joy of creating art with photos. So I stopped pursuing a professional career in that field. I don’t even have a good camera anymore. I guess it did ruin the fun of it for me. I now have little interest in photography.

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I agree with Floyd…I’m always surprised by the number of folks here who order trees. No problem with it of course and no doubt there are a multitude of very good reasons for doing so. Still, like Floyd, I can’t help but wonder why more of us don’t make our own. The majority (not all) of us aren’t in it for the money or being pressed by any real deadline aside from age (the most real and truest of all deadlines).
I just cannot help but see so clearly what he is saying. If we were say on a woodworking or furniture making site, we all could likely go buy something as good or better, but in the end WE didn’t do it. Someone else did it for us.
To me, the biggest joy is doing something and have it actually work out. Production is great, but the greatest of that is tangible proof that we succeeded. Furthermore watching and guiding that success or failure (as is often the case) is all part of it.
The fact that it is more challenging and requiring of more patience (not to mention more economical) simply HAS to be part of the draw. I just love it I really do…all of it.
Controlling and guiding nature is, in reality, only reserved for gardeners and gods.


some people order trees because that part of fruit production doesn’t interest them or they have other things going on in their life. I’m just starting to think about grafting after 6 or 7 years. I just took seeds from my pressing apples and planted them out in a field to see if they take. Theirs a wild crab apple I’ve noticed that I may try to turn into a Frankenstein tree. I may never get to the next level because my life or interests will change. I have a huge veg garden and many of my veggies I grow from seed, but I also buy many seeds and plants. Time and space is an issue there also.

Exactly, one has to get there first. Most pro football players don’t start with the NFL without years of playing in HS and college.

Very true. I have to make the money to do this first! I too have a large vegetable garden, it is much more practical too. I’m at both limits of time and money, and the 3rd, space. It seems many here main interest is gardening or running an orchard. Mine is cooking. I garden to cook, not control nature. I just can’t buy what I grow. I keep spices growing all winter. To me that is just as important, maybe more so than my fruit trees.
For me buying trees does save time, although I do have an interest in making my own, but one has to have good stock first, and one needs to buy that stock.

One year I grew so many vegetables to plant my dining room looked like a green house in April. My wife was very forgiving, but I knew I had to tone down what I grew from seed.

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Yes, me too! I grew tomatoes, peppers, melons, snapdragons, onions, and shallots from seed indoors (many more direct sow). That is my limited seed starting for this year. I start about 30 tomato and 30 pepper plants and keep about 17. I give the rest away, if any. You have to start more as some may not germinate or make it to plant out.
I enjoy the tomatoes and peppers as much as the fruit trees. Deciding what to grow next year is huge fun! I still have pepper plants. I put them in the garage last night to protect from frost, I have about 7 or 8 large bell peppers on 2 plants. Waiting for them to mature.
I have a bunch of pepper seed from Europe I’m growing next year. I have bought seed from African seed companies, tomatoes and peppers are awesome to grow and a heck of a lot of fun. I grow sweet, hot, and super hots. Even though you can get better production from hybrids, growing OP peppers and tomatoes and saving seed is too much fun to give up.