Winter storage apples for a cold zone 4

I’m new to the forum, and hope to be able to provide some input based on 12 years of fruit propagating and growing in hot steamy central Missouri with high disease pressure and a heavy clay soil soil with drainage issues. 3 years ago I moved to Michigan’s upper peninsula (Sault Ste Marie, next to Canada). Although Lake Superior moderates our winter lows to zone 4 our summers are quite cool. So far each spring we still have piles of snow in the yard in mid-May. Farmers almanac says we have 129 day frost free season, but many of those days are pretty cold! And my soil is completely opposite Missouri, excessively well drained sand. Anyway, there has been a learning curve on many fronts in the garden, and I could go on forever about that. My question is suggestions for winter storage apple varieties that will do well in this cold climate, which I don’t see in the topic history. I suspect some of the varieties that can handle our winter lows may not ripen here. I’ve already got Honeycrisp (scions from MO, did great there with afternoon shade, but absolute favorite of all apples by the birds and Japanese beetles) and Northern Spy (aware NS may not ripen here, but great tasting apple when well grown, in MO the summers were too hot for good fruit - though it started producing there in 4 years on B9). I’m currently looking at Nova Easygrow, Harlson, Black Oxford and Golden Russet. Any input on those or other suggestions? Also Goodland, but have found conflicting information on storage qualities. I like a lot of apples, though not the sweet bland supermarket types. The ideal apple flavor-wise has the sweet/tart flavor of a well ripened McIntosh or Cortland.



Both and have online catalogues. ou maybe not be able to order from them (shipping issues) but apple descriptions of both catalogues could give you hints about cold hardy apple varieties and those which store well. Marc


The two nurseries come to mind for cold hardy apples are St.Lawrence Nursery in NY and Fedco Nursery in ME.

I hope @JesseinMaine will chime in to share his experience. He has grown apples in this zone 4 ME. There are other apple growers here in cold zones like yours, too.

1 Like

I have all 4 of the varieties you’ve listed and all are growing well here. I have sandy adirondack soil, but I’d guess it’s not as bad as yours. All my trees are young so I can’t comment on fruiting and storage yet. Fameuse, the improved Macs and Canadian bred varieties may be good for you, as well as some of the Prairie varieties that were bred for the cold of the mid-west, as well as the Univ of Minn varieties. I think Sue-MiUPz3 may be a good resource for you.

1 Like

Sounds like you’re off to a good start and getting some good advice. I have family in the Soo, so I know the area a little bit. It sounds like you’re aware of some of the conditions you’ll be working with (sandy soil, cool summers, short growing season) but here are a couple of additional thoughts.

The fact that the Soo gets heavy lake effect snow should help your trees get through the winter, due to the fact that the show will help to protect the trees from severe temperatures and desiccating winds. I believe that @steveb4 has talked about using snow to protect his trees in Northern Maine, so he may have some thoughts for you in this regard.

It sounds like you’ve got a good list of varieties so far. I would think that the tricky thing about storage apples in the UP would be that many of the best keeping apples are relatively late-ripening, which could be a challenge for you. But definitely look at Fedco’s offerings, and you might also check out this list from the University of Minnesota: Growing apples in the home garden | UMN Extension

Hope this is helpful!


moose71 is now @steveb4

1 Like

You are in 4b and I’m in 5b, I think. I relied on recommendations from Maple Valley Orchards, choosing and planting my trees. I have twenty on B9 and M26 in my backyard on a sand dune on the west beach of Lake Michigan. I irrigate.

Good keepers in my experience are:

  • Wolf River
  • Swiss Gourmet*
  • Northern Spy
  • Northwestern Greening
  • Spokane Beauty*
  • Idared*
  • Sweet 16*
  • Milo Gibson
  • Wealthy
  • Honeygold*
  • Honey Crisp*
  • Fameuse
  • Fireside*

*These are best, although keeping quality varies from year to year.

Golden Russet is also good and does well around here, but I’ve lost that tree.


Thanks, my bad! I went back and fixed the handle to avoid confusion.

Of the apples that ripen here in our short Alaskan season, Lobo seems to keep better than most. Bob Purvis mentions Valentine keeping well, which also survives here. I also hear good things about Kerr crabapple storage ability, but don’t know much about flavor.

1 Like

Hi Simeon - Glad you made it to Growing Fruit! Another thread that has a lot of recommendations is: Winter keeper apples.
Hopefully I’ll have more Goodlands this coming year so I can check how they do in storage but most of what I’ve read doesn’t indicate that it’s a keeper. Unfortunately, my Haralsons aren’t keeping well this year, likely due to the record hot summer weather, early ripening, mild fall so root cellar was late to cool down. Most are wrinkling already but the flavor is good now. So it does depend on the year but they do ripen plenty early. A few years ago I ate my last Black Oxford mid January and it was good. Last year they were pretty much done by end of December but I had a lot of Bitter Pit and I’m pretty sure that affected the storage condition. I know it’s supposed to be a good keeper. This year was an off year but hopefully the coming season will be another good (and BP free) harvest. With better storage conditions (not dependent on the weather-related root cellar) I’m sure they all would store longer.

Hope you have some snow over your way! Sue


welcome to the site Simeon! my wife has a coworker that just bought farmland here and theyre from central M.O. she asked me about growing here as well. cortlands and macs grow well here and should also for you. im on heavy clay so soil conditions are quite different. late ripening apples seem to take longer to start fruiting up here than in s Maine. friend of mine has a 25 yr old harlson and that thing is a apple factory! i go get some from him to make applesauce as he cant use them all. with our average of nearly 40in. of rain, fireblight is a problem here but very little else. i dont need to spray for bugs here. some scab and rust but not enough to spray for in most years. my trees are just starting to bear. i got 6 apples off my yellow transparent last summer. its a garfield king y. transparent from fedco. the original tree was grown 20 miles from here. i have liberty and willams pride grafted on it last year. i also have a sargents crab with williams pride, frostbite and sweet 16 grafted on it. it hasnt fruited yet. my deep snow has been a double edged sword here. it does keep the trees from coming out of dormancy too soon but also can reflect sun onto the bark on warmer, late winter, sunny days, causing the sap to flow and then cold nights cause it to freeze, splitting the bark. i lost a few trees to secondary infections from this. id paint the trunks of your trees with light colored dilluted flat latex paint to prevent this. it also helps protect the bark from insects as well. not the prettiest but necessary in the white north. welcome and good luck to you!

1 Like

Thanks Marc! Yes, I’ve been looking at the Whiffletree catalog, and will look at the silvercreek. Challenge has been determining which late season apples might ripen in our climate, further north than whiffletree location

Appreciate the information Sue, I need to respond to your email. I’ve been swamped lately. Agree it was a really challenging fall for relying on outdoor temps to chill the harvest. The carrot crop that overwinters in tubs of sand in my garage sprouted much more than I would like! Looking forward to having some apples to store though.

OK learning how to respond here to multiple posts…

Mamuang, I’ve been eyeing St Lawrence and Fedco. Looks like they have some great varieties.

AndySmith good to know the varieties are doing well. Was trying to avoid Mac due to scab issues (if the crabapple in the front yard is any indication, scab does well at my location!), but maybe one of the similar varieties with disease resistance would be good.

JinMA, one of the problems I discovered with the deep snow is the voles love it and are probably protected from some predators by my fence. I’ve long protected the base of my trees but didn’t account for the fact that they are willing to work their way down inside the protection around the trunk from a few feet above the ground when your snow is several feet deep all winter… Consequently, this is my second attempt to start an orchard! Appreciate the link from MN.

CRhode, Appreciate your list as well. Hopefully some of those will do well up here as well! I think I might have a Wealthy that came with the property. Wonderful apple, but has not kept well here. Of course, what I’m guessing is Wealthy could also be something else.

Thanks Palmer, good to know!

Steveb4, I love cortland and mac, but the scab issues with the flowering crab in the front yard has me scared, great to hear they’ve grown well for you. Appreciate the report. Yellow transparent in hot Missouri would ripen so fast I think one would have to stand by the tree and get it at the right minute before it was a split pile of mush. I anticipate better luck with it here. I brought William’s Pride up here from Missouri, great early apple there (though a bit of a sunburn issue some years) with wonderful flavor, and super easy to train, but seemed to ripen at the same time as my massive red haven peach crop and several other things and hard to utilize them, were not my favorite for sauce. The voles got the tree here, but I think I’ve got other apples in a similar ripening season so going for winter keepers instead. I do have a young sweet 16 I’m looking forward to, no experience with it. Good to know about the frost injury you experienced, so far most of my trees were barely above the snow the past couple years and didn’t experience that.

Thanks again all, what a great group of enthusiastic fruit growers!


For the vole problem, I believe I remember reading a piece in a Fedco catalog several years back where they recommended stamping down the snow around the trees to discourage tunneling. (And wrapping the trees with something to discourage gnawing. I’ve been using hardware cloth and that seems to work for me, though I see more signs of rabbits than voles in my yard.)

MA, I’ve been chuckling for a while. A cold zone 4? All the zone 4s are cold! I’m not as experienced as many here, but I come from a cold zone 4a. Honeycrisp is the latest apple I can ripen here, and I’m often picking them as the temperature is dropping below -5 celcius. There are many threads here describing the vagaries of growing honeycrisp and we are not immune from them in zone 4. I would suggest trying Zestar from the UofM. It ripens early September and for me it is the first apple where I have had the aroma and body that more experienced apple growers talk about.(I’ve only had 1 harvest) If you like a apple with a bit of tart Goodland is a very dependable producer, but doesn’t store much past 6 weeks. I also find it drops apples all summer long even after thinning. Kerr applecrab is best used as an ornamental. It’s dark red apples are pretty, but they have an unpleasant aftertaste. Apples like Sweet Sixteen, Frostbite, Macintosh, Spartan all ripen later than Honeycrisp. I too have them planted, but I do question whether that was a good choice on my part.


When you hit a Reply button at the end of a post, you reply to the owner of that post like you did on mine above.

However, if you want to call attention to one or several poster, you put a symbol @ plus their handle names.

Example @MacApples or @JinMA.

A small blue circle will show up next to their handle names on the top right corner of their page.

If you see a small green circle there, it means someone is private messaging you.

It’s not the best, but Wealthy bears reliably over a long ripening season. The later ones are useful for quite awhile if in good condition.

voles did some serious damage here 4 yrs ago. even went up and over the 30in of hardware cloth under the snow to completely girdle my trees! now i poison them with block bait put inside 12in sections of 2in pvc pipe with one end duct taped off, put around the perimeter in nov before the snow flies. so far its done the job and ive had 0 damage. they go off and die under ground, under the snow so no bodies to poison predators and pets come spring. :wink:

1 Like

@steveb4 What kind of block bait do you use in those bait stations?