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High-Altitude, Frost-resistant Apple Varieties....

Andre LaS

Joined: Jan 24, 2014
Posts: 50
Location: 3600ft Elevation, San Diego County, CA
I am working a small plot of land at 3600 ft elevation.
We get frost 10 months out of the year, so this causes some trouble with fruit trees and many vegetables.

While I am just now trying to start making micro-climates in my growing area, I am curious as to what other's experience is with frost-tolerant apple trees?

I've seen some listed in sepp holzer's Permaculture, but many of those varieties are seeming tough to find in the US- specifically southern California.

I am predominantly looking for apple trees to use as livestock feed- pigs, chickens, etc., so flavor takes a back seat to yield and frost-tolerance.


Jennifer Wadsworth

Joined: Sep 24, 2013
Posts: 2679
Location: Phoenix, AZ (9b)
Andre - check out Dave Wilson Nursery - they have recommendations for all sorts of climate zones. Do you know how many chill hours you get? If you poke around on their site, you'll find lots of recommendations. And I've also contacted them directly. They also have an online tool to help you find where you can get the varieties you want (Dave Wilson is a wholesaler).

Subtropical desert (Köppen: BWh)
Elevation: 1090 ft Annual rainfall: 7"
Andre LaS

Joined: Jan 24, 2014
Posts: 50
Location: 3600ft Elevation, San Diego County, CA

Thanks for the quick reply.
Why either of us is up at 4am on a Saturday is a good question.

I got the link- thank you.

It may seem like a silly question, but I'm not convinced of my USDA hardiness zone. Nor am I convinced of that a hardiness zone designation will help my get the correct tree.
Most apple trees can handle very cold weather in the winter, not a big deal. My issue specifically is dynamic swings of temperature on a daily basis, even in the summer.
I may hit 90 during the day and 30 at night. Or 80 in the day and 25 at night. (During the summer).

Do hardiness zones take in to account those types of dynamics? Or just the average highs and lows....

So, I will email Dave Wilson nursery, but I believe my decision cannot be based on hardiness zone, but rather some type of anecdotal experience from someone who grows apples in a similar climate.

Thanks again-
Jennifer Wadsworth

Joined: Sep 24, 2013
Posts: 2679
Location: Phoenix, AZ (9b)
Hey Andre:

I got a good laugh out of your comment on what the heck we're doing up at this time! I don't know either. Except that "suddenly" my cats were "starving" and needed me to be awake to address that need - NOW. Having woken up to serve their "needs" I can't fall back to sleep...

I get what you're saying about the frost issues - which is basically why I suggested emailing Dave Wilson - they probably have some experience with that situation. (living in Phoenix, I don't! I have the opposite problem - not enough chill hrs and hardly ever frost). Beyond that, hopefully someone with some actual experience with the situation will show up and help out.

Miles Flansburg

Joined: Feb 03, 2011
Posts: 3290
Location: Zones 2-4 Wyoming and 4-5 Colorado
Andre, I wonder if any of these folks could help?
Jessica Gorton

Joined: Sep 09, 2012
Posts: 274
Location: Central Maine - Zone 4b/5a
You might also call the good folks at St. Lawrence Nurseries in northern NY:

They may not have experience with your particular situation, but their focus is cold-hardy trees, and they might know of others in your kind of climate, and could point you in the right direction.

My project thread:
andrew curr

Joined: Dec 18, 2012
Posts: 288
Location: Deepwater northern New South wales Australia
I guess your climate is similar to mine!
Some shelter (pioneering legumes,shade trees) help with out of season frosts
I have codling moth problems(Not enough chooks) and possum predation
Frosts wont kill the trees but lack of moisture will!
Try pears ,cherries etc!!!

we have to forest our farms and farm our forests
Robert Ray

Joined: Jul 06, 2009
Posts: 1340
Location: Cascades of Oregon
OK this might not please everyone but here is what I am doing because I have those wild temperature fluctuations at my location too. I have mini christmas lights on my apple trees on a thermo cube. My blossoms always seem to freeze at some point during the spring and this seems to carry them through the cold spells unharmed. My trees are still young but maybe this year I'll have some apples.

"There is enough in the world for everyones needs, but not enough for everyones greed"
Ann Torrence

Joined: Jun 27, 2012
Posts: 985
Location: Torrey, UT; 6,840'/2085m; 7.5" precip; 125 frost-free days
The folks at Kuffle Creek Apple Nursery just down the road from you in Riverside would be where I'd start shopping for trees suited to California. The occasional frosts are less of a problem than apples with the correct number of chilling hours.

I would be curious to know what they recommend.

Michael Phillips book, the Holistic Orchard, is an excellent resource. I follow his holistic spring spraying program for our young trees and they have responded very well. My neighbors even asked me to put some of the magic sauce on their trees that they have had in the ground for couple years longer than us and could see them take off.

Blogging about homesteading, photography and living in a small Utah town | Growing mostly cider apples at Stray Arrow Ranch
Lucia Moreno

Joined: Jan 27, 2014
Posts: 46
Hi Andre,

I cannot help you with varieties, but if, as I understand, your problem is strong day/night temperature variations, then my guess is that microclimates are the way to go.

I live in the mountains near Madrid (Spain) where we have an extreme continental climate. Temperature variations are huge, both in summer and winter, but stronger in winter.

I would try to make south facing walls of stone, brick, rubber tyres, or any material that takes in heat from the sun during the day, so it will slowly release it during the night. These shelters would ideally be curved, to trap sunlight. Then I would choose strong varieties that are "care-free" and generally resistant to illness. What I mean is varieties that thrive in abandoned gardens and poor conditions in general. I would plant these very young in front of the shelters, facing south. I would not cuddle the trees in anyway, just abandon them, except for a few good soakings in the summer, as I saw fit. Some would die, but the survivors would be, I believe very well suited to the place.

Strong fruit trees you might want to check out are quince tress, as well as wild relatives of apples, pears, cherries, etc (note: I mean wild, not garden or decorative varieties). Sour cherries grow low and are very resistant in my opinion. Since you want the fruits for animals, you won't mind that all these aren't as sweet as the cultivars.

Also, check sepp holzer's use of stone and water for microclimate creation, but you probably already have

Michael Qulek

Joined: Oct 22, 2013
Posts: 148
Andre, I'm north of you at 4800 feet, so any exerience I've had will work for you I think. The apples I think you are safe to avoid are "low chill" apples such as Anna and Lodi. I have one combination tree I got from Home Depot that has Anna on one branch, it it is already flowering in the second week of January. However, just about any mainstream varieties like Fuji, Honeycript, Spartan, and Liberty will tolerate your "3600 foot chill". Apples I don't think are a significant problem. Peaches are a little tougher, but some of my trees are already starting to bear fruit. Here are some mail order nurseries that I've purchased trees from.

Rolling River is in California, and the advantage of that is fewer inter-state shipping regulations. They have cold hardy citrus varieities that other companies can not legally ship into the state of California. I think if you get your orders in right away, you can get on their spring shipping list.
Miles Flansburg

Joined: Feb 03, 2011
Posts: 3290
Location: Zones 2-4 Wyoming and 4-5 Colorado
Or you can grow your own and see what you get.

Danny Smithers

Joined: Nov 03, 2013
Posts: 34
Location: Florissant, CO
I have an extreme environment that I am working with as well. I don't have answers, but I'll at least throw out the idea I'm going to try. If anyone has any thoughts on if it will work or fail, let me know. And perhaps it will inspire solutions for you guys as well. I am planning a permaculture design at the school I work at in Colorado--9,440 feet above sea level. We are technically in growing zone 5A, but snow in July isn't out of the question, so it's a dubious distinction. Mitigating and balancing temperatures is the most important factor, they can rise and dip in great amounts. I am putting in several large 5-6 feet tall hugelbeds to block the wind and create a microclimate. I am thinking I would plant the apple trees close to the south side of the hugelbeds and and stack some rocks near the base of the trees. The mass of the beds and the rocks I'm thinking will be enough to at least stabilize temperatures somewhat. I know to expect slower-than-normal growth, but I think this can at least keep them alive and perhaps eventually fruit. But these will be experimental, I will be sticking to mostly heartier perennials at this altitude I think. I know people that have apple trees in the area--but none that have fruited. Good luck with your apple endeavors!
mike mclellan

Joined: Nov 13, 2011
Posts: 91
Location: Helena, MT zone 4
I'm a bit late to the party here but have you consulted with the local extension people in San Diego County? I know that apples were commercially produced at one time in the Julian area and there is likely some assistance available through those channels. There may be some local growers still in east county around Julian ( if they haven't developed the area too much- haven't lived in SD since the mid 70s). I hope you have had/will have success in getting the proper apples for your area.
subject: High-Altitude, Frost-resistant Apple Varieties....