Variety suggestions for you pick orchard

We have a neighbor with acreage, who would save thousands a year in taxes with ag status. We are discussing planting a you pick orchard in his field about 1/2 mile from us. He will pay for the fencing, and we install it. We could plant about 50 300’ rows of dwarf trees, if we did slender spindle on trellis, and have about 5000 trees.

I am looking for suggestions on varieties, and, because of our early warming, and late frosts, would prefer apples that bloom with or after Golden Delicious, I think that’s blooming group four.
We have rootstocks ordered, and will be grafting maybe a thousand trees this year, and perhaps 2000 per year in the following two years. I have quite a few varieties that I should be able to trial here, before we get to that final year, but am really wanting recommendations. We’re not interested in new varieties still under patent, as there are so many great varieties without worrying about the new ones.
the other factor will be getting enough scion, or budwood of the chosen varieties, for grafting 50-100 trees, so if some of you are willing to help me with that, it would be very appreciated!

We are in Zone 8a in the mountains of central Arizona. 4400’ elevation and have a fairly long season. Little disease pressure, but a fair number of coddling moth.
I probably don’t know enough to even ask all the right questions, so feel free to bring up anything I might not have considered.

Many thanks in advance, Jolene

P.S. we have another property that is a certain thing, a few miles away, so are planning to do this one place or the other.

Jolene, it would help forum members if you indicated where, exactly, this orchard is. In the USA? What state, what part of the state?? That can make a significant difference in what types of trees and specific cultivars that can be recommended.

Edited to include location. We are in the mountains of central Arizona. The USDA plant hardiness map actually puts us in zone 8a.

You’re probably aware that you-pick orchards require substantial medical and physical liability insurance, along with licencing from government ag and health departments?

1 Like

Congratulations on your new orchard project! It should keep you busy.

I would start by visiting the orchards in your area and learning what variety they grow, which ones are easy to grow and which are the most popular. I’m not sure where you are located but some agg university have good programs in variety, rootstock selections and production methods.

Next, break your harvest season down into multiple windows. Perhaps early, mid, late and very late and pick the best varieties for each window in order to keep the apples flowing. Plant the trees in blocks according to the expected harvest date. Might be good idea to allocate the number of trees in each block in proportion to the size of the crowd you expect to draw and any possible overlap with anything else you may want to grow.

Keep in mind the very long term nature and the high establishment costs of your new orchard. I would expect a BEP of around 8-10 years. I’m not sure about the establishment cost per acre since you are grafting a lot of your own trees. You may want to try a combination of purchased trees with your grafted trees. This would cost more money, but would get some trees into production sooner. Variety trials take a long time and it would be very helpful to start with most variety that are proven in your climate.

Cornell, Penn State, UMass, NC State and other university have good research.


Probably cheaper in insurance, and start up costs would be a blackberry or raspberry U Pick. Not to mention you would be selling in 2 years. Some users here are doing this. It might not be feasible in the location? Nourse sells 1000 blackberry plants for about 2 dollars each.
Indiana Berry also sells commercial stock, both are top rate A++ nurseries. It doesn’t get better.
Shipping would be an issue, probably a nursery much closer would do.

You pick is optional. Or restricting pickers to ground level, while we pick higher fruit.

We will certainly will look into all needed aspects.

Thank you.

1 Like


I grow and sell both apples and blackberry U-pick. Drew is right about the startup costs. Getting an acre of blackberry into production is a lot faster and cheaper than apples. My experience is in zone 7 at about 800 feet. We suffer from the early warming and late frost you describe in your zone 8. Early warming and late frost can be a BIG problem on apples. Blackberry bloom later and are more reliable than apples. Peaches and blueberry are also greatly impacted by early warming and frost. A northern aspect helps reduce the problem and rows running north/south might also help.

In most states you must have a certain number of acres in farm production and also generate a minimum amount of revenue to get the property tax reduction you mentioned. In my state, its $1000 a year for 3 years in a row with a minimum of 5 acre in horticulture crops. If property tax reduction is a primary consideration, some blackberry added to your apple enterprise will help accelerate your tax goal.

1 Like

Definitely something to consider. There is a fair bit of room.
Maybe we could plant both.

Thanks for the tip!

That may very by state. Kansas has laws limiting lawsuits for customers of agro-tourism farms.

1 Like

Do you have water rights at the proposed location? How would you irrigate?

Fuji, Gala, GoldRush, Honeycrisp, and Jonagold are in flowering group 4.

Some less common varieties in group 4: Akane, Blenheim Orange, Calville Blanc d’Hiver, Claygate Pearmain, Empire, Ginger Gold, Karmijn de Sonnaville, Mother, Orleans Reinette, Pitmaston Pineapple, Pixie Crunch, Reine des Reinettes, Roxbury Russet, Spitzenburg.

Among those mentioned above, Claygate Pearmain, Karmijn de Sonnaville, Orleans Reinette, and Roxbury Russet are triploids (have sterile pollen that will not pollinate themselves or others).

There is more then one well on the property, and there are no water restrictions where we are. We would put tanks up on the hill, use solar pumps, and a drip type system with bubblers. Making the rootbed area a few inches lower, and putting several inches of woodchips (my guys do tree service work, and we have LOADS of wood chips) should hold in moisture, keep the weeds down, and feed the worms. There is also a regular submersible pump for back up.


I am already growing many of those varieties, including the triploids. I have yet to get apples though.

I thought to plant the rows of triploids between rows of good pollinators.

The first five varieties are on my list. And there are only a few in the second list I probably wouldn’t grow. I read Orleans Reinette is a dryer apple, Mother is a variable cultivar, I had not considered Empire, not sure on Pitmaston Pineapple.
Scott has Blenheim Orange as his favorite cooker, so I thought to perhaps grow it along with Calville Blanc.
Pixie Crunch is not off patent until 2021, but we could buy trees.

You haven’t responded to an earlier suggestion that you visit other orchards in your area. If there is the potential to make a profit growing fruit where you are there would almost certainly be existing orchards and they would be your best source of useful info. It is such a big investment that you should start with what you know works and experiment from there. I’m sure you realize that if you don’t generate enough revenue quickly, the whole thing will be an absolute bust.

As I recall, higher elevations in AZ are subject to some dramatic turns in weather which is not what an orchard keeper wants. You may even want to explore growing fruit under tunnels.

If you can grow cherries there, they might have even more draw than apples.

1 Like

Pitmaston Pineapple although as all accounts say are an excellent eater they do not produce any sort of heavy crop. I would think although great for planting personal consumption, planting it for a commercial sources wouldnt be a good idea.


Where exactly in AZ are you? I live in Oracle at about 5000 feet and there is a large you-pick orchard in Willcox (southeast of Tucson at about 4000 feet) called Apple Annie’s that seems to have things figured out pretty well. I’m sure whatever does well there would do well for you as well.

For us, variety has been the key to getting some fruit each year. Two out of the last five years we had a decent amount of snow in mid April, almost two months after apples and other stone fruits flowered. I know some people in other small AZ towns at higher elevation (Camp Verde, Young) that unfortunately live in frost pockets and have never gotten stone fruits to produce because of late frosts. But persimmons, jujubes, blackberries, and figs, among others, tend to break dormancy later and might be a great addition to your orchard plan to ensure you always have something to offer.

Good luck!

I like the idea of growing blackberries in addition to the apples. It would give you an earlier income and also help build your customer base. The people picking the blackberries will also be the people picking the apples later.

I would check to see if there are any apple growers in the area. You would at least want to make sure the apples grow and produce in your area. We had a peach orchard go in our area about 15 years ago. The problem is peaches are very hard to grow here. It went under pretty fast. However, blueberries grow well here and we have several people with u pick farms. One person even put in a pear, grape, blueberry and Kumquat U pick place that seems to done well.

Thanks for pointing out my oversight Allan.
Blueberrythrill had a good suggestion, that makes sense.

We are in Skull Valley Arizona, about 18 miles west of Prescott. We are surrounded by mostly ranch land.
We have seen a you pick about 40 miles from here, on Date Creek, but it was small, and not impressive.

I looked at the varieties Apple Annie’s is growing, and can tell you we are in a much cooler climate. They are further south, with higher day, and night temps.

Our neighbor right next to this land gets apples dang near every year, and he does nothing to protect them from frost.

Yes, we do get late frosts, but for those few nights that can be a problem, gas burners and fans might be a feasible option, when a good crop is at stake.

My family has property in Young, and it is rare to get apricots, or peaches there, but they get apples almost every year.
We get apricots occasionally, and peaches frequently, doing nothing to protect the trees. One year, years ago, my father in law canned a thousand quarts of apricots off of their trees.

George is liking the thought of persimmons. :slight_smile:

1 Like