Will my young apples beome more hardy?

I am in zone 4 and have been having tip die back the last two years in the varites that are supposed to be rated for zone 4
The varities that are rated for zonee 3 have no damage and are green right to the tips. The trees are 3/4 years old on antonovka.

Question is: has anyone seen this get better for them with age? Or am a in for nothing but trouble with these. Thanks for any experince you can share. I have about 40 affected trees. Unfortunately many of the trees with dieback are the ones I was most excited for.


Are you over-fertilizing, or doing so later than June or July in the year?
That could be the problem…not dormant going into winter.


40 affected total trees (multiples of the same varieties) or 40 unique varieties? I am assuming the 1st? You would be extremely hard pressed to find 40 easily obtainable varieties that could handle the colder areas of zone 4.

Head back some limbs and check the cambium color for healthiness at least 6" behind the dieback.

I too wonder how many varieties have damage and if they are duplicates and how uniform the damage is presenting itself.

The year i planted the trees I added two good shovel fulls of compost around each tree. (Probably a mistake) It likely caused unwanted late season growth the first year. A few years later trees growth seemes modest and the compost seems to not be doing much and i have not added anything since.

I have about 25 varieties of the zone 4 rated apples probably half of which were from fedco. I sprayed them all white last fall. They are in an open filed of clover. The cambium damage varies depending on the varietiy. Some have mild damage mostly on last 6 inches… The worst show cambium damage almost down to the snow line. When pruning the cambium is brownish green and the core is off color also. The further down i prune the less the damage is.

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The damage was very consistent on the types I have more than one of.

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If late season fertilization isn’t the culprit, then some of the varieties probably aren’t hardy enough for your spot. Has any of your “zone 3” apples met with similar results…or are they in much better shape?

A list of impacted varieties would be interesting to see. I too am on the edge of 3b/4a.


You mention you are in zone 4? Just where are you at? I know the climatic zone charts are somewhat accurate but here in WIsconsin we have areas listed as zone 4 that have cold pockets due to soil/elevation. Where my sister lives in zone 4, she had colder winter temps all the time compared to what is in the nearest town 15 miles away. She is always hit with frosts in Fall way earlier than what they get in the town nearest her. Her area always does this. Just wondering if your site is low, frost pocket ect so that your varieties that are having trouble do not harden off in Fall before getting cold damaged?

The amount of compost you used would not really give off that much nitrogen to to be the reason why.

Also how much new growth each year on the apples that are getting damaged versus how much new growth per year on the zone 3 apples? Just curious and trying to rule out the question of too much nitrogen or not ( I would guess not).


Glad you figured out what you suspected all along.

Good luck growing apples, there. You got some valuable information, fer certain.


I think i can put this to rest and agree with your conclusion that my micro climate must be colder or bad in some way… ( thought its suprising because my site seems pretty ideal).
I will have to experiment… but it seemed like the damage took place before we had any super cold weather. Eventualy I will post which trees were most affected for others who may be on the zone 3/4 edege. Thanks for the input everyone.

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I’m currently growing close to 70 apple varieties in zone 3b/4a, so there are plenty of options out there. Long term survival is still being evaluated (obviously), but I can tell you that I have a bunch of varieties that have survived -38. Many have also survived multiple weeks of -20 to -28 temps with highs below zero.

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@smsmith - What rootstocks are your trees on?

b118, antonovka, dolgo, m111, ranetka, and wild crabapple

Cool. Thanks!!

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I am in Colorado and we have also been very interested in the Fedco varieties. Our thought was that if it was hardy enough for Maine, it would do well here. We have seen some dieback on some of these trees. My suspicion is that some of the hardier varieties do not such shut down in the fall as early as they should. In addition to our spring frosts, we sometime get large temperature swings in the fall (70 degrees one day and 20 degrees the next). If the tree survives, my feeling is that it does better the next year when it is bigger and the branches are thicker. We lost a Starkey and a Canadian Strawberry, and a Milden got hit this winter.


The point to be gained is that hardiness as for minimum winter temperatures isn’t the same as hardiness early and late when the temps are swinging like a pendulum. I imagine Colorado is ‘interesting’ place to grow things. Yet, there are old orchards from the 19th century…

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