I’m putting in a handful of new apple trees this spring. About a third will be put into existing rows with a less space than the rest. I’m trying to select the less vigorous varieties for the tighter spacing. There are a few varieties I’ve got ordered below for which I’m struggling to find consistent vigor information online. Everything is on M111 or Bud 118. Any help would be appreciated.
Hoople’s Antique Gold
Arkansas Black - from TOA
Kidd’s orange red
Not in your region, and using different rootstock, but Kidd’s has grown well for me - not among the most vigorous, but probably second tier, and very nice in terms of habit. Hoopla’s has been a little less vigorous than Kidd’s (and my Ashmead’s died, sad to say - roots just kind of gave out for some reason).
I have BLT, Pixie, Hooples, Ashmeads and Kidds and for me none are all that much out of the ordinary vigor-wise. Pixie and Ashmeads are a touch slower but it could be location or rootstock or whatever, not enough data for me to really see anything. Hooples is a YD sport so it should have similar vigor to YD.
I can see only two clear categories in my orchard, triploid (vigorous) and not (normal). I am sure there are more variations but it is hard to be certain. For example I thought Hawaii was low vigor but the rootstock was very weak; after about five years it finally got going and now it is looking very vigorous.
Someone told me that most (all?) Ashmeads are infected with latent viruses. Coincidentally, I’ve had several wild crabapples that i grafted Ashmeads into die for no obvious reason a couple years later.
Let’s say 3 categories of vigor if you include spurring strains which often includes your Ark Black. The spur strain is what ACN sells and it is by far the slowest growing variety in my nursery- too slow to really be profitable in my unirrigated but well mulched and weeded nursery. Red Delicious spurring types seem to be the worst flavored, btw. Maybe too few leaves to fruit is a factor. Other varieties can slow themselves just because they start fruiting so young. Certainly Ash isn’t, but some of the others seem to be based on my grafts. Kidd’s and Black Lim. come to mind. That said, Kidd’s trees I’ve managed are moderately vigorous. I don’t manage any Blacks and cut off my grafts because the apples had no flavor here in the NE. So bad I didn’t give them a second season to prove themselves.
I’ve grafted Cummin’s strain of Ash on wild crabs and old seedling rooted apple trees many times without killing trees. I’ve had wild crab trees die after grafting other heirloom strains that could have been carrying viruses. Some warn of the general danger of grafting non-indexed heirlooms but over the years and after many hundreds of grafts with wood I got from very old trees I’ve rarely encountered results that suggest a wide spread problem here.
For what it’s worth, Ashmead’s (the strain sold by TOA) has displayed the expected triploid vigor here on the Northern California coast. It’s a shy bearer, however, and I understand that’s the norm for AK. (It’s still clearly worth growing, to my mind.)
Very interesting. My Ashmead’s (bench grafted on G41) was doing not great but ok in the nursery, but I transplanted it out too late in the spring, and it struggled and eventually failed after that. Never saw anything weird with the leaves, but when I eventually pulled it, the roots seemed to be basically rotted away. I thought of voles, but it was the only tree that had that happen, so…?
It was also in a spot where it may have been dealing with some root competition from a Norway maple, so perhaps that contributed - the trees in that part of my Belgian fence have generally been a little less vigorous, though most of them are doing ok. (Unfortunately, it’s a city street tree, so I can’t really do much about it, other than give it a baleful look every now and again.)
Very interesting, Scott. I have much less experience than you do, and all my trees are still pretty young, but I’d agree with Alan that I see three categories: noticeably less vigor (e.g. Court Pendu Plat and Adam’s Pearmain, which oddly enough may also be triploid), average vigor (most things), and noticeably more vigor (e.g., Black Oxford and Wheeler’s Golden Russet, which are the strongest growing trees that I’ve had for more than a year or two).
Only grafted it this past year, but Bramley looks like it may be a fourth category all by itself. That thing is a beast.
Interesting! I’ve got a pair of Black Oxfords, too, and I’d say that they’re both noticeably (though not dramatically) more vigorous than average. Pitmaston Pearmain, Gray Pearmain, and Hunt Russet are a couple of others that have been in that category for me, with Kidd’s being maybe a half-step down and Wheeler’s GR a half-step up.
Hopefully my CPP just has a little catching up to do.
I should add that I have had many apples I thought were less vigorous, but my experience with Hawaii as well as re-grafts of “non-vigorous” apples in different spots which subsequently took off like rockets has diluted my certainty on what varieties inherently lack vigor. So, there is also a category of less vigorous varieties but it is a lot harder to see in one orchard.
I would not be surprised if Adam’s Pearmain was inherently less vigorous, it never grew strongly for me. (I also just took it out, it is a very good tasting apple but I got few to ripeness due to drops bugs etc.). Court Pendu Plat was of slightly above average vigor for me. Hunt Russet has been a bit low on vigor for me.
It seems like there is a lot of variation from site to site, and I know that there can be significant variation from tree to tree on the same site. For example, I have two Roxbury Russets, grafted a couple of years apart, and the younger one has significantly outgrown the older one.
So maybe it’s one of those things where if a tree grows vigorously, you know that it has the capacity to grow vigorously, but if it doesn’t grow vigorously, it’s hard to say from a small sample whether it’s the inherent vigor of the tree or some other factor. (Similar to the way that one great apple can tell you that a tree has the capacity to produce great apples, but it can be hard to tell from one or even quite a number of disappointing apples whether the problem is the inherent quality of the fruit or some other factor. As Alan, I think, has pointed out.)
I appreciate all the thoughtful replies. Since we’re already on the subject, maybe I’ll run my plan by the group?
The minority of smaller spacings are 12 foot in row. The new rows are created from scratch so I can do anything. I was thinking 14-15 feet between trees in row. I will be deer fencing each row separately. The fencing is a pain in the butt so I’m hoping to be as efficient with in row spacing as possible. I’ll be keeping everything 8-10 feet tall to avoid ladders, although a step stool would be fine.
I enjoy pruning so that’s not an issue. Would 12 feet all around be fine on M111 for this situation work, or should I be leaning toward 15 feet? Closer spacing gives me the option to add more varieties down the road since I’ll have more room left over. I’ll be putting in about 20 trees this spring so best to ask before I start.
12-15’ between trees on M111 is way too close in my opinion. Which direction are your rows oriented? East - West rows will have major shading issues at that 12-15 distance. Without pruning you will have trees touching each other in less than 5 years.