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growing apples from seeds vs. cloning

paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15608
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
Something I would like to explore a lot more is the idea of growing apples from seeds.

My understanding is that if your grow an apple from seed, it will have a tap root.  Any other way and it won't have a tap root.

And ....  if you grow an apple from seed, the apples might be great or they might be lousy.  But even if the apples are lousy, I suppose you could graft good apple varieties on to the tree.

Anybody have experience in this space and can tell us about what to be careful of?  Are there some seeds that might be better than others?


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Susan Monroe


Joined: Sep 30, 2008
Posts: 1093
Location: Western WA
Growing rootstock from seed may be viable, but growing a desirable fruit tree from seed is going to be a very iffy thing.

Most are crosses (deliberate or accidental), and I suspect that you would have to start a lot of seeds and grow them to where they start providing fruit to see if you had anything viable. 

The Granny Smith variety, for instance, would probably revert back to one of it's crabapple ancestors, as it was just a genetic fluke.

While you might create the 'Wheaton Apple', it is far more likely that you would simply have a tree that would be good firewood.  And if you did get something good, and wanted to make sure it was commercially viable, you would have to see what diseases it's susceptible to (or not), how it tastes, how it ships, if it's the favorite of every pest in the world, etc. 

It seems you would have to invest quite a lot of land, and a lot of time, all with no guarantees.

I'm waaaaay too impatient (not to mention old) to even think of trying something like this. 

But the idea does make me wonder how many seeds that John Chapman (Johnny Sppleseed) planted from seeds left over from the cider mills produced decent fruit.  And how much the trees had been crossed, and how different they were.  A time machine could provide some interesting answers.

Sue
Leah Sattler


Joined: Jun 26, 2008
Posts: 2603
hmm. I don't understand how the taproot thing could be true?? wouldn't you graft a desirable apple onto another apple tree? wouldn't all apple trees have or not have a tap root? just curious.


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paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15608
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
My understanding is that the taproot is really sensitive.  If you transplant a tree, it no longer does the taproot thing. 

paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15608
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
My favorite apple for the last few years has been cameo.  So I ordered some cameo apples from an organic source and they should be here in about a week.

My impression is that apple seeds do not need scarification or anything like that.  They will sprout by just sticking them into the soil.

My understanding is that getting a marketable/decent apple is a 1 in 20,000 chance.  In other words, people start lots of apples from seeds, but what they end up with is usually pretty lame.  So it is far wiser to find a really good apple and then graft a twig onto an existing root stock. 

So if I plant a bunch of cameo apple trees, there is a good chance that whatever I plant is gonna be crap. 

Will it turn out like crab apples? 

Are there some varieties that are less likely to turn out to be crap?

Does the rootstock do more than dwarf or not dwarf the tree?  Will the right rootstock make a crab apple become a full size apple?

Susan Monroe


Joined: Sep 30, 2008
Posts: 1093
Location: Western WA
Maybe this book would help to answer your root questions: 

Roots Demystified by Robert Kourik

It's in the library system.

On his blog, he talks about oak taproots.  I don't know if the same holds for apple tree roots.
http://robertkouriksgardenroots.blogspot.com/2008/05/taproot-myths-revealed.html

Most of what I know about tree roots is that if you leave a tree in a 3-gallon pot for too long, the roots grow out of the holes and into the ground, and there they sit.  Come to my house and see.

Sue
Dave Boehnlein


Joined: Jun 10, 2007
Posts: 291
Location: Orcas Island, WA
    
    2
Okay, for starters:

Paul, you're correct that seedling apples are highly likely to be crap. Some people find seedlings and think they aren't so bad (which happens pretty regularly...they aren't all 'spitters'. However, finding something of comparable quality to a Cameo, Fuji, or Jonagold is highly unlikely.

With regard to root health, Kourik's new book, Roots Demystified, seems to be a worthwhile read. I just read the following passage:

"When you buy any normally taproot-growing plant that is potted or in any another commercial plant-buying option, you've basically kissed the taproot goodbye. Patience favors the those that want the most fully-rooted plants..., because seed-grown trees are the only plants that will produce a healthy, unhindered root system. Once seed-grown babies start taking off, they can actually outgrow trees transplanted from containers" (Kourik, 2008, pp. 8.

Now, bear in mind that the part about messing up taproots only applies to trees that are taprooters to begin with (not all trees are and I'm not sure about apples). Trees that have fibrous root systems are still likely to have healthier root systems when grown from seed, but they won't be damaged from transplanting like taprooters.

Most of the commercially available, dwarfing rootstock you buy is propagated clonally through a process called "stooling" (the basic idea behind stooling is discussed here: http://www.rodsgarden.50megs.com/propagation.htm). In this way you make sure to maintain the specific characteristics of that rootstock (virus &/or disease resistance, appropriateness for specific soil types, size control, vigor, etc.). However, there are several standard rootstocks that are primarily grown from seed. In fact a standard apple rootstock called Antanovka is grown extensively for it's fruit in Poland (you can even purchase apple juice that specifies that it is "Antanovka" juice right on the package).

So with that info on the table, here's my two cents...If you want to grow standard apple trees with the healthiest possible root systems you would do well to plant your Cameo seeds in-situ and graft the 1 year old trees to the varieties you like (selecting those varieties for cross-pollination & maximum production seasons is another issue to think about). If you want the rootstock to be something with more specific characteristics than just 'Malus domestica', you could order seeds from known standard rootstock varieties. You can learn more about this in the Seed Savers Exchange Fruit, Nut, & Berry Inventory (an excellent compilation of varietal & rootstock info for all your permie needs).

However, if you require trees with specific characteristics (particularly size control or disease-resistance) you would do well to consider using a stooled rootstock. In spike of Kourik's assertion that seed-grown trees will always do better, there are myriad examples of highly-productive trees on clonally propagated rootstocks out there. Dwarfing trees tend to be shorter lived than standards, perhaps because of the hindered roots. However, if you are in an area with specific disease issues, you would do well to make sure your rootstock is resistant. Also, if you require smaller trees (which they often do commercially for faster picking since workers do not need to go up and down ladders) you might again consider clonally propagated rootstocks.

To respond to some of the other questions:
-If you grew your Cameo seeds to full productive trees (which would probably take 10-12 years), they probably wouldn't be so great. However, they also wouldn't likely be crab apples. The seeds in those apples will be a genetic amalgamation between the Cameo & whatever pollen donor got it's seed into the flower. That pollen could have come from a Fuji, a Braeburn, a seedling, a crab apple, or any number of other varieties. The fact that Cameo is not genetically stable (being a hybrid itself) means that you would be playing with a huge variety of genetic options. In breeding programs they often times pollenate 'specific variety A' with 'specific variety B' to find a good hybrid. They grow out tons of seeds from those conscious crosses and wait until they fruit (I suspect they even have tricks to induce early fruiting). Then they can walk through the orchard and taste everything. Anything that stinks is removed & the good ones are kept. If there is only one good one out of 10,000, that might be the one that is kept. That might also be the one that is selected as a parent for the next level of genetic refinement. Most of the older apple varieties I suspect were a result of finding chance seedlings on some farmer's property. That's part of what makes grafting so magical. Unlike annuals, once you've got a good hybrid, you can keep those genetics going because you don't have to go back to the genetic slot machine of seeds each year.

-If you plant out your Cameo seeds I would suggest doing it soon. Although apples don't require scarification, they do require about 3 months of cold stratification before they will germinate. Throw a half dozen seeds in at each spot and keep it free of weeds. Hopefully you'll see them coming up in the spring.

-If you want to get scion wood next winter to graft on, you can participate in scion exchanges (I suspect the Western Washington Fruit Research Foundation - http://www.wwfrf.org - might know when they happen in this area). You can can also order scion wood directly from Nick Botner in Oregon. He has over 3000 varieties of apples available along with a heap of plums, cherries, pears, grapes, etc. You can get his list by sending a SASE to Nick Botner, 4015 Eagle Valley Road, Yoncalla, OR 97499.

Good luck!

Dave


Principal - Terra Phoenix Design
http://TerraPhoenixDesign.com
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15608
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
Wow, Dave, that was awesome!

I read roots demystified a couple of months ago.  I got it from the library just before I moved and so I ended up reading it in spurts just before having to return it.  So I skipped a few bits.  I'll probably buy a copy before christmas.

The thing about apples being a taprooted plant came from the permaculture convergence.  I think there was a guy named Chuck that brought it up and somebody else confirmed it. 

Antanovka:  Are you saying that most of these rootstocks come from seed?

So, if I go out and plant my cameo seeds, maybe half of them will get to be a foot tall in a year.  I could then kill off the wimps.  And supposing that I planted 20 spots with six seeds each, and I kept one seedling in each of the 20 spots, I would get 20 different trees.  The fruit from each tree would probably be quite different and three of them might be kinda like lame cameo apples.  Half of them would probably be just awful (pithy, or mealy, or flavorless, or riddled with disease, or ...).  I could then graft stuff onto these trees.  It would be just as good as grafting onto an Antanovka seedling?    (and while this looks like a long series of statements, I really mean it to be a long series of questions, so I'll add my question marks here)

10-12 years to fruit, eh?  I'm guessing that's 10-12 years to being able to get a respectable/useful crop, right?  Maybe in five years it will throw off three apples?  And in eight years it might have 20 apples?

Susan Monroe


Joined: Sep 30, 2008
Posts: 1093
Location: Western WA
Dave, that was great information!

May I assume that most/all of the apples available these days are hybrids?  Were the apple of 100 -200 years ago hybrids by then, too?  What about the Antanovka?

"Genetic slot machine" -- I love that!

Oh, Paul, my reference to crab apples was specific to the Granny Smith variety, which I know was a crabapple cross.  Others, I have no idea.

Sue
Leah Sattler


Joined: Jun 26, 2008
Posts: 2603
very informative dave! ok I get it. I knew that transplanted trees tend to have damaged taproots. I thought you were saying that grafting on to one somehow prevents it from "tapping" certainly most rootstock undergoes transplanting at some point. so the thing to do would be to plant those seeds and graft a desirable variety to it right? how closely related do they need to be? or do they? I have seen frankentrees that have several varietys grafted on to the same tree (not that I want to do that) but that suggests they are pretty interchangable.
              


Joined: Nov 08, 2008
Posts: 133
Location: West Iowa
Any wild seedling apple I've ate, has tasted good to quench my thirst and hunger.  If nothing else, they make good wildlife plants.  But I'm going to grow seedlings, then just graft onto them, to get the named varieties.  Because even though the grafted varieties don't taste any better to me, I'm thinking other people's sense of taste is different and more discriminating. 



Susan Monroe


Joined: Sep 30, 2008
Posts: 1093
Location: Western WA
Paul, if you haven't read it already, find Robert Kourik's book Designing and Maintaining Your Edible Landscape Naturally (1986/2005).  He's got a section in there about grafting fruit trees, root stocks, etc.

It's in the library system.

Sue
Steve Nicolini


Joined: Nov 15, 2008
Posts: 224
I just read an article about growing fruit trees from seed.  Supposedly, cross pollination produces "variable results."  Seems like growing apples from seed has a risk factor of "big" whereas grafting and cloning from a tasty, healthy parent tree will ensure a good fruit bearing tree.  Then there is the whole taproot thing.  Apples from seed send that root down deep, getting a whole bunch of nutrients.  I guess the thing to do is plant a ton of apple trees from seed and observe. 
paul wheaton
steward

Joined: Apr 01, 2005
Posts: 15608
Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
    ∞
SueinWA wrote:
Paul, if you haven't read it already, find Robert Kourik's book Designing and Maintaining Your Edible Landscape Naturally (1986/2005).  He's got a section in there about grafting fruit trees, root stocks, etc.

It's in the library system.

Sue


Lies!  Damn lies!

It is not in the library system.  So I put in a request for them to get it.  And I added it to my amazon wish list. 

Susan Monroe


Joined: Sep 30, 2008
Posts: 1093
Location: Western WA
Well, it's in someone's library system!

Sue, Queen of InterLibrary Loans 
Dave Boehnlein


Joined: Jun 10, 2007
Posts: 291
Location: Orcas Island, WA
    
    2
paul wheaton wrote:
Antnovka:  Are you saying that most of these rootstocks come from seed?

So, if I go out and plant my cameo seeds, maybe half of them will get to be a foot tall in a year.  I could then kill off the wimps.  And supposing that I planted 20 spots with six seeds each, and I kept one seedling in each of the 20 spots, I would get 20 different trees.  The fruit from each tree would probably be quite different and three of them might be kinda like lame cameo apples.  Half of them would probably be just awful (pithy, or mealy, or flavorless, or riddled with disease, or ...).  I could then graft stuff onto these trees.  It would be just as good as grafting onto an Antanovka seedling?    (and while this looks like a long series of statements, I really mean it to be a long series of questions, so I'll add my question marks here)

10-12 years to fruit, eh?  I'm guessing that's 10-12 years to being able to get a respectable/useful crop, right?  Maybe in five years it will throw off three apples?  And in eight years it might have 20 apples?


Paul,

I believe that 'Antonovka' is propagated from seed. If you ever purchase Malus domestica rootstock that is definitely propagated from seed (http://www.lawyernursery.com/productinfo.aspx?productSpecies=Malus%20%27Antanovka%27.&categoryid=75).

If you plant your cameo seeds you will essentially be getting Malus domestica rootstocks. That should produce a standard size apple tree. However, there are no guarantees that you will have resistance to collar rot, drought tolerance, virus resistance, etc. In order to guarantee any of those characteristics you would need to select a rootstock that is geared for your site.

If your site doesn't seem to have any issues that would steer you away from using Malus domestica rootstocks (which is quite possible) you could go ahead and use your cameo seeds. However, I probably wouldn't bother waiting until they fruit to graft them over. As soon as they're pencil thick I would graft them all 2-8" from the ground. If you wait until they produce grafting them will create a wound that will take much longer to heal. If you graft when they're small you won't even be able to see the union once they're mature.

Regarding time to production, if I speak in averages it looks like 8-12 years before you would see your first apples from a seedling with production hitting it's stride in 25-30 years. At any rate I doubt you would see fruit on the tree before eight years that you would want to use to judge the quality (I imagine if it produces one fruit early, it might not be as good as once it's fully established).

lkz5ia wrote:
Any wild seedling apple I've ate, has tasted good to quench my thirst and hunger.


Of course, as lkz5ia said, there are plenty of seedling apples out there that will quench the thirst and be sweet/tart. Lots of our interns find seedling apples growing in our neighborhood and think they aren't so bad. However, there has been so much breeding work done on apples at this point it would be hard to find something that compares to a 'Honeycrisp' or a 'Pink Lady' in terms of flavor and production. Also, grafting these known varieties allows you to ensure production throughout the season starting as early as July with the 'Yellow Transparent' and going all the way through the end of November with 'Melrose' or other late varieties.

I guess it comes down to a question of planning. When you go with seedlings you are sacrificing a lot of known info (maximum size, disease resistance, flowering time, fruiting time, keeping quality) for unknowns. It becomes harder to plan. In Permaculture terms, I would say that growing seedling apples is a strategy for your zone 4 where you are largely just letting things do their own thing. For example, if you just want to grow apples to bring in deer that you can shoot and eat, Malus domestica seedlings will be just fine. For your zones 1-3 I would steer toward grafted stock so you can plan things out with more detail and have a better idea of your maintenance and harvest regimes.

Susan Monroe wrote:
May I assume that most/all of the apples available these days are hybrids?  Were the apple of 100 -200 years ago hybrids by then, too?  What about the Antanovka?

Sue


Sue, I would say that the vast majority of apples available today are hybrids. I suspect that all of the big breeding programs (University of Minnesota, Cornell, WSU, etc.) are actually hybridizing specific varieties to try and get an ideal cross. 200 years ago I would think the same would be true, but instead of human created hybrids the hybrids were random crosses in nature. Johnny Appleseed was spreading seedling apples around the US. These were probably crossing all over the place. Every once in a while some farmer would discover a tree growing at his farm that knocked the socks off the others. This is probably where the breeding all began.

I don't know for sure here, but I suspect that 'Antonovka' was a hybrid at some point, but through generations of reproduction with genetically similar specimens, it reached a point of relative genetic stability (just as annuals eventually will if continually crossed over and over for a specific trait). I just read that 'Antonovka' is 90% true to seed (http://www.practicallyedible.com/edible.nsf/encyclopaedia!openframeset&frame=Right&Src=/edible.nsf/pages/antonovkaapples!opendocument). I don't know if anyone truly knows the origins of the 'Antonovka' apple.

Leah Sattler wrote:
I knew that transplanted trees tend to have damaged taproots. I thought you were saying that grafting on to one somehow prevents it from "tapping" certainly most rootstock undergoes transplanting at some point. so the thing to do would be to plant those seeds and graft a desirable variety to it right? how closely related do they need to be? or do they? I have seen frankentrees that have several varietys grafted on to the same tree (not that I want to do that) but that suggests they are pretty interchangable.


Leah, for apples I don't know of any incompatibilities as far as varieties & even species. I suspect that you can probably graft just about any Malus spp onto another Malus spp. However, if you wanted to make sure you don't run into some obscure exception to the rule, you should pick up an advanced grafting or orcharding book. This can be more of an issue with other fruit trees. Pears, for example, occasionally require an interstem to make the rootstock compatible with the variety you want to graft. An interstem is where you graft a small piece of a compatible variety onto a rootstock, then graft the desired variety onto that. This is typically only used when you have a compatibility issue, although there are a few other cases where horticulturists have found it helpful. However, this is pretty advanced. It is rare that you would need it.

A couple of interesting grafting tidbits:

  • [li]Many varieties of pear can be grafted onto quince rootstock for a semi-dwarf tree that is more tolerant of wet feet (where it doesn't get too cold)[/li]
    [li]Many varieties of pear can be grafted onto hawthorn. For those with hawthorns coming up wild, why not give it a try?[/li]
    [li]Stone fruits can generally be grafted onto each other (e.g. plum on peach rootstock), with the exception of cherries, which can only be grafted onto other cherries[/li]
    [li]There are tasty varieties of hawthorn (mayhaws) and serviceberries. You can graft onto the ones you find growing wild.[/li]


  • We often use Malus fusca (our native crab apple) as a rootstock for our apples. When we find a native crab apple growing in the blackberries we clear around it and graft a yummy domestic apple onto it. This results in a situation where we get apple production without doing any of the establishment work or nursery care. If the rootstock is already there and established we are definitely proponents of taking advantage of it.

    Also, don't be afraid of those "frankentrees"! Having multiple varieties on one tree is a fantastic solution for people who don't have space for multiple apple trees. You can spread your harvest throughout the year by having multiple varieties without taking up the whole yard with 4 or 5 apple trees. This technique is especially good for urban areas.

    Hope that helps!

    Dave
    paul wheaton
    steward

    Joined: Apr 01, 2005
    Posts: 15608
    Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
        ∞
    This is so cool.

    I think the best thing to do is to plant gobs and gobs of Antanovka seeds and then graft the good stuff onto that!  That way, the untransplanted Antanovka keeps its taproot.

    Now, the next question is:  does the apple taproot stick around?  Will I go to a bunch of hassle to have apple trees with tap roots and they the taproot just goes away after a few years anyway.  I get this concern from reading Kourik's web site a bit.

    paul wheaton
    steward

    Joined: Apr 01, 2005
    Posts: 15608
    Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
        ∞
    Interesting vid:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fiHQU_p8rCY

    paul wheaton
    steward

    Joined: Apr 01, 2005
    Posts: 15608
    Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
        ∞
    I just found this page:  http://permaculture.wikia.com/wiki/Own-root_fruit_trees

    Joel Hollingsworth
    volunteer

    Joined: Jul 01, 2009
    Posts: 2103
    Location: Oakland, CA
    I really enjoyed The Botany of Desire, by Michael Pollan.  It had a whole section on apples, which was very negative about the flavor of varieties that have made it to the supermarket vs. heirloom varieties.  The impression I got is that even well-pedigreed seed stocks vary widely in the quality of apples they produce.  He says most varieties today came from cider orchards, and were discovered by children (the cider farmer saw a lot of cores near one tree...); like Fukuoka, Pollan advocates growing at least a few from seed.

    My understanding is that apples don't self-pollenate, so that no clonal variety will produce seed (or even fruit) without pollen from a genetically dissimilar tree.

    It will be a long time before I can commit to a tree for a decade or so, but a tentative plan for then is to grow many trees from seed, and after a few years stress them, and remove any that are weak or sickly.  If one or two produce good fruit, so much the better; on another one or two, I'll leave the central leader alone, and only graft for the primary scaffold branches, of which I'll put more than one variety per tree.  Would this make sense?


    "the qualities of these bacteria, like the heat of the sun, electricity, or the qualities of metals, are part of the storehouse of knowledge of all men.  They are manifestations of the laws of nature, free to all men and reserved exclusively to none." SCOTUS, Funk Bros. Seed Co. v. Kale Inoculant Co.
    jeremiah bailey


    Joined: May 05, 2009
    Posts: 343
    I'm no expert on grafting, but here's my general understanding. Root stocks keep the properties inherent in their genes, and the tops keep the properties inherent in theirs. They basically use each other for the missing half. The roots need the trunk and tops to get carbon and sunlight. The tops and trunk need the roots to get water and soil nutrients. Other than that, they keep their properties. If you grow root stock from seed it will act like a seedling tree's roots. If you clone your root stock, it will act like a cloned tree's roots. Transplants act like transplants, etc. If you graft on the main trunk from another tree, the top will act like the main trunk of the tree it came from. If you graft a twig from a mature tree onto a seedling rootstock, then that trunk will act more like a tree branch than a trunk. The differences may be very subtle but still there.

    Polyparadigm, your idea about grafting branches onto the central leader makes sense. However, you may want to modify it to grafting some twigs onto the leader at an earlier age. Otherwise you'll likely have to do the waiting process over again with the new branches. Does anyone else see this? I'm not entirely sure about this one.

    As for the non-self-pollinating apple tree, my understanding is that the franken-tree allows for the same tree to self-pollinate amongst its varieties. I've heard it is actually possible to take a lone mature tree, graft on a twig from a crab apple and start producing apples. But you are really just growing multiple trees on one set of roots.

    I don't remember exactly where I researched this, but this might give you some good points to google for.


    "Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it." - Helen Keller
    --
    Jeremiah Bailey
    Central Indiana
    paul wheaton
    steward

    Joined: Apr 01, 2005
    Posts: 15608
    Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
        ∞
    I keep thinking I have so much more to research in this space.  And Brenda's recent posts got me to thinking about it again.

    Robert Kourik's web page said something about how tap roots are overratted.  I was browsing the page at the time and having a hard time quickly finding the details ....  and I've tried browsing it twice more with the same results.  I really need to take the time to thoroughly read the whole thing.  My question would be:  surely not all taproots are overrated?  My impression was that the taproot kinda died off after a few years. 

    I would very much like to get my head wrapped around this. 

    Imagine having a thousand apple tree seeds.  If you plant all of them, surely 50 of them will make it to adulthood.  And maybe 30 of them will be great (and the other 20 could have other good varieties grafted on them).  But all of them would be far superior to transplanted apple trees because they would have a tap root!

    Or ... would they?

    Joel Hollingsworth
    volunteer

    Joined: Jul 01, 2009
    Posts: 2103
    Location: Oakland, CA
    From the FAQ:


  • [li]Aren’t all trees deep rooted? Most trees, regardless of the depth of a few roots, have 90% or more of their feeding roots in the top 18–24 inches of the soil. Many trees have deep roots for survival during periods of drought. Some trees in arid climates do get carried away with growing deep to find water. As an example, some juniper trees in New Mexico were found with roots 200 feet deep.

    Doesn’t the taproot hold the tree up? Very few trees have taproots—a single root that grows straight down from the base of the tree—their entire life. [Some nut trees, like pecan trees, are an exception . . . if the soil is deep and fertile.] Trees actually have roots that extend one-half to five or more times the width of the tree’s foliage [the dripline]. Some trees have roots that explore soil eight times the width of the dripline. A wide root system helps the tree stand up to harsh winds and find plenty of moisture and nutrients.[/li]
    [li][/li]


  • It seems very species and environment-dependent.  He's a big fan of drip irrigation, which, if done properly, would convince most any tree that its taproot has been a bad investment.

    If you can keep your trees skeptical about the supply of shallow water, like you advocate for lawns and like I have to dry-crop tomatoes this year, I bet taproots would be worthwhile for you and the trees.  Especially if you don't want to irrigate as much as he does.
    paul wheaton
    steward

    Joined: Apr 01, 2005
    Posts: 15608
    Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
        ∞
    Yeah - that's where I'm going:  zero irrigation.  So tap rooted trees are gonna be a big help with this. 

    Apples are considered to not have a tap root - but that's because all trees lose their tap root if they are transplanted, and nearly all apple trees are transplanted trees. 

    So ... at this point ... it sounds like if you start an apple tree from seed and don't move it, it will have a tap root root.  Wow .... amazing fruit and a taproot too!

    Brenda Groth
    volunteer

    Joined: Feb 01, 2009
    Posts: 4433
    Location: North Central Michigan
        
        9
    as i am reading this i'm eating an apple off of one of our "from seed" trees..it is totally different than the ones that i put in the freezer this morning, but still great..this one is firm, crisp and tart..the others were very super sweet and not so crisp..

    still not sure about the ones in the back woods..the one i sampled was tart but not ripe.

    i'm no pro on apples from seed, but we have had our share of trees grow from apples we have thrown out for deer food or tossed cause they were rotten, into the field or the compost pile..right now we have 4 of them bearing..lost most of the others to our house fire deconstruction.

    as far as tap roots..don't kinow..but i can assume they do..as far as drought or whatever damaging them..nope..no way..i never water them..ever..

    i told you on the other thread that my husband climbed the tree last night and it's first harvest was a goodly size canvas grocery bag of apples..they were ugly looking..but i was able  to use all but one of them..which was rotten..so i tossed it into the woods..oh oh..

    anyway..i got 3 big bags of apples in the freezer from those apples on that first harvest from that little tree..and i'm very happy with the results..as i was peeling and coring them..i was blessed to find very few that were badly blemished..even thouth it wasn't sprayed at all..(can't spray a tree hanging over your pond)

    now our other tree is getting ripe apples..the transparents came first..last week..then the little tree, now the HUGE tree..these are tart..not sure what i want to do with them..the others were nice and sweet..but i'll use thses for seomthing..won't waste them.

    i'll let you know about the ones in the woods..they aren't quite ready yet..and very very very difficult to get to right now..will ahve to walk my hubby back there and point it out..and see if he'll climb that one for me..tee hee.


    Brenda

    Bloom where you are planted.
    http://restfultrailsfoodforestgarden.blogspot.com/
    paul wheaton
    steward

    Joined: Apr 01, 2005
    Posts: 15608
    Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
        ∞
    I now have over 100 varieties of apple seeds.  With a focus on large fruit and winter keepers. 

    If anybody has any really excellent winter keeper apples, I would trade a permies mug for 200 seeds.

    Dave Miller


    Joined: Jun 08, 2009
    Posts: 400
    Location: Zone 8b: SW Washington
        
      10
    paul wheaton wrote:
    I now have over 100 varieties of apple seeds.  With a focus on large fruit and winter keepers. 

    If anybody has any really excellent winter keeper apples, I would trade a permies mug for 200 seeds.


    Congratulations.  Please keep us updated on this project.

    I have grown three apple trees from seed.  One could never really recover from deer browsing, so I finally put it out of its misery.  Another is alive but is quite stunted - 5 feet tall after 8 years (though deer browsing is the main reason).  The third is about 7 years old, 15 feet tall, has been super healthy and has been producing apples for three years.  I like the apples a lot - they look and taste like golden delicious, but are very crisp and long-lasting.

    We are redesigning (or rather designing) our backyard and I plan to do a lot of apple grafting.  There are a lot of old apple trees in the neighborhood that I want to take scions from.
    Fred Morgan
    steward

    Joined: Sep 29, 2009
    Posts: 973
    Location: Northern Zone, Costa Rica - 200 to 300 meters Tropical Humid Rainforest
        
      12
    Most trees don't have taproots which I am sure you all know. And, those that do, will often regrow them, but probably be branched, which isn't a problem. What is interesting is that you won't generally find a tap root on an older tree. It is to the trees interest to spread out the roots to look for nutrients, not reach the center of the earth! And older tree that has a taproot when young will often resemble a tree without a taproot as it grows older and is better established.

    Young trees that grow up fast need tap roots so they don't fall over as they are establishing their root systems, but after a while, the side roots grow large, even to having buttresses as well.

    So, if you fear your apple trees don't have a taproot due to damage, pruning, etc. tie them up. You will achieve most of what the tap root does.

    Trees for climates that are desert or semi desert are different most likely, and I don't know anything about that, since we live in a rainforest!

    just my dos colones (worth a 1/6 th as much as 2 cents) but we are in forestry and have planted more than 140,000 trees.


    Sustainable Plantations and Agroforestry in Costa Rica
    Brenda Groth
    volunteer

    Joined: Feb 01, 2009
    Posts: 4433
    Location: North Central Michigan
        
        9
    Paul, so are you going to "start" your seeds out in the property rather than in pots or a nursery bed to prevent losing the tap root then?

    I did want to tell you that our snow apples ripened really late but when they did they were wonderful.. this is our oldest "seed" apple tree..we had more apples on this tree this year than it has ever had before..am thinking about pruning out some of the center to get more light and air into the tree this spring
    Joel Hollingsworth
    volunteer

    Joined: Jul 01, 2009
    Posts: 2103
    Location: Oakland, CA
    Ran Prieur just posted about a decade-long effort to find and preserve heritage apples:

    http://applesearch.org/

    PS:  The leader of that effort shares his technique for identification:

    To identify an unknown apple there is absolutely no substitute to taking the apple and showing it to people and asking, "o you know what type apple this is?" In this era of DNA classification and computer data bases I know that this sounds old fashioned and out of date, but actually there is no substitute. Here is some background information which should be of help. Apples in the United States can be divided into three groups:


  • [li]Modern Apples which originated in 1930 or later. [/li]
    [li]Known Heritage Apples such as the Virginia Beauty, Grimes Golden, or Wolf River which are old, but have been continuously cultivated and have never been lost. There are a few hundred of these. [/li]
    [li]Lost Heritage Apples which were known before 1930, but now can not be found. [/li]

  • If you have any commercial apple growers in your area, you should show your unknown apple to them. They probably can identify it if the apple is a Modern Apple or one of the more common Known Heritage Apples. Also frequently there were many similar apple trees in a given community. An elderly friend or neighbor might know the apple name. If it was a well distributed local variety, showing the apple to no more than six elderly people should result in its identification. You can also show the apple to older people at area stores where "locals" hang out. This way you can frequently get the opinions of two to six people at the same time.

    Apples can vary greatly in shape and color even on the same tree. Thus when you show people apples for identification you should show them four to six apples. You will be asking people to remember from many years ago, so you should have the very best apples to show them. The apples should be of representative color and size, plus they should be properly ripe. If you need more certainty of the identification, then you should get more than one person to identify the apple.

    The final group of apples is the Lost Heritage Apples. This group is very extensive. There could have easily been forty thousand apples with names in the United States. Some of these had a very extensive distribution over several states, while others were only known in a very small area. For identification of these apples there are old apple descriptive texts and historical nursery catalogs. Even if there is a written description of the apple, it is almost always not in sufficient detail to allow a positive identification. Two recently found apples were described in the old literature as "oblong". In reality only one apple out of eight was oblong. Thus the old written descriptions are frequently not very precise, but they also can be misleading. Actually many of the apples in the Lost group have no written descriptions at all.

    Still the very best way of identifying the Lost Heritage Apples is to show them to an elderly neighbor and ask them, "o you know what type apple this is?" The written apple descriptions can help confirm the local person's identification. One good source for apple identification is 'Old Southern Apples' by Creighton Lee Calhoun.
    paul wheaton
    steward

    Joined: Apr 01, 2005
    Posts: 15608
    Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
        ∞
    crtreedude wrote:
    Most trees don't have taproots which I am sure you all know. And, those that do, will often regrow them, but probably be branched, which isn't a problem. What is interesting is that you won't generally find a tap root on an older tree. It is to the trees interest to spread out the roots to look for nutrients, not reach the center of the earth! And older tree that has a taproot when young will often resemble a tree without a taproot as it grows older and is better established.

    Young trees that grow up fast need tap roots so they don't fall over as they are establishing their root systems, but after a while, the side roots grow large, even to having buttresses as well.

    So, if you fear your apple trees don't have a taproot due to damage, pruning, etc. tie them up. You will achieve most of what the tap root does.



    That might be the very explanation I have been searching for for the last year and a half!

    So!  Since this is something you know about, please forgive me as I proceed to pepper you with questions!

    1)  At my previous farm, there was not much rainfall - about 20 inches per year.  And summer would often be 60 to 90 days without a drop of rain.  One native plant that did amazingly well on this property was juneberry (aka serviceberry, aka saskatoon).  My understanding is that the reason it does so well is that it has a deep taproot.  It could find water when its neighbors could not.  So, my first question is:  do you know if this story is less than accurate?

    2)  Supposing that a taprooted plant starts off with a taproot for the sake of stability, and yet every dry summer that comes along, it uses the taproot to get water that the other roots cannot find.  Is is possible that it would then keep the taproot even though normally it would shed its taproot?

    3)  Supposing that #2 is true:  What if throughout the summer, somebody provided ample water twice a month throughout the drought period.  Would that cause the taproot to disappear?


    Fred Morgan
    steward

    Joined: Sep 29, 2009
    Posts: 973
    Location: Northern Zone, Costa Rica - 200 to 300 meters Tropical Humid Rainforest
        
      12
    No problem pestering me! I will return the favor for sure someday on another subject. 

    1) I do believe you are right, the juneberry as a very deep taproot.

    2) It is very possible that this is true. A lot of times, what happens below on a tree is similar to what happens above. And example, if a tree sprouts in a forest, it will shoot up very straight with few limbs, reaching its maximum height. This is because the nature of the upper part of a tree is to search for light. The same is true for roots, they search for water and nutrients.  There is a balance by the way between the upper and lower, prune limbs and roots will die off (if you can handle the water sprouts! ) If you prune roots (often done to move a tree), new roots will fill in to provide for the canopy.

    3) It is possible that it might, it would definitely encourage shallow roots, which are fine, as long as you keep watering.

    The key of course is to grow what grows well in the area. I myself practice scientific neglect, I am never going to work too hard trying to make something grow where it doesn't belong.
    paul wheaton
    steward

    Joined: Apr 01, 2005
    Posts: 15608
    Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
        ∞
    Brenda Groth wrote:
    Paul, so are you going to "start" your seeds out in the property rather than in pots or a nursery bed to prevent losing the tap root then?


    Correct!

    Brenda Groth wrote:
    I did want to tell you that our snow apples ripened really late but when they did they were wonderful.. this is our oldest "seed" apple tree..we had more apples on this tree this year than it has ever had before..am thinking about pruning out some of the center to get more light and air into the tree this spring


    I would like some of those seeds!

    And, the discussion about how to prune apple trees is a long one.  But I think I would try to find a way to prune so that you might avoid future pruning.  There are many schools of thought.  I would encourage a central leader and only prune out the stuff that could bring future problems (crossing branches, crotch, etc.) - fukuoka had some really good points about how you can prune so that you have a lifetime commitment to pruning.  Sepp and fukuoka appear to have come to the same conclusions.



    paul wheaton
    steward

    Joined: Apr 01, 2005
    Posts: 15608
    Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
        ∞
    ctreedude,

    In that case, it seems that in a dry-ish area, a lot of trees that start with a taproot, might keep their taproot if the taproot finds deep water.  But if you water that tree in the summer, it might lose its taproot. 

    And, this could be true of apple trees started from seed.

    Brenda Groth
    volunteer

    Joined: Feb 01, 2009
    Posts: 4433
    Location: North Central Michigan
        
        9
    I just opened the last two snow apples and removed 6 good seeds for you Paul, they are in a bit of paper towel and note in a plain white envelope..in my mailbox..mail hasn't gone out yet today..so i would guess you should get them on Monday

    The snow apple is a very large apple tree, full and round..(if you look back there are photographs of it on my posts, it is the large one in my backyard).

    The tree blossoms later and bears later than all our other trees, the skin is a stripey mottled red over a golden green when ripe, they are tart when green and sweeten more and more as they ripen. They are a medium sized apple, the flesh is pure white when ripe ..thus snow.

    this tree bore very early on and was planted as a core in the ground..but alas i'm not sending you the core.
    Fred Morgan
    steward

    Joined: Sep 29, 2009
    Posts: 973
    Location: Northern Zone, Costa Rica - 200 to 300 meters Tropical Humid Rainforest
        
      12
    paul wheaton wrote:
    ctreedude,

    In that case, it seems that in a dry-ish area, a lot of trees that start with a taproot, might keep their taproot if the taproot finds deep water.  But if you water that tree in the summer, it might lose its taproot. 

    And, this could be true of apple trees started from seed.




    It is probably a safe assumption that whatever is needed, will continue. If you are growing a lot of trees, you might actually run an experiment and after a few years dig down and see what is happening. I know I would. 
    paul wheaton
    steward

    Joined: Apr 01, 2005
    Posts: 15608
    Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
        ∞
    Brenda Groth wrote:
    so i would guess you should get them on Monday



    Excellent!  Thanks Brenda!
    paul wheaton
    steward

    Joined: Apr 01, 2005
    Posts: 15608
    Location: missoula, montana (zone 4)
        ∞
    crtreedude wrote:
    after a few years dig down and see what is happening. I know I would. 


    So .....  dig up the whole tree?  Or dig up enough to try and find the tap root?


    Fred Morgan
    steward

    Joined: Sep 29, 2009
    Posts: 973
    Location: Northern Zone, Costa Rica - 200 to 300 meters Tropical Humid Rainforest
        
      12
    paul wheaton wrote:
    So .....  dig up the whole tree?  Or dig up enough to try and find the tap root?





    Just down one side to see how far down the tap root goes. If you make a fairly narrow trench, it shouldn't even harm the tree. Depending where the tree is, you might be able to erode the soil with a water hose, if you have a way to drain off the water.

    Joel Hollingsworth
    volunteer

    Joined: Jul 01, 2009
    Posts: 2103
    Location: Oakland, CA
    Brenda Groth wrote:the tree blossoms later and bears later than all our other trees...


    Wow, that sounds like it could be tremendously useful, both for bees and to spread out the labor of harvesting/window of you-pick operations.
     
     
    subject: growing apples from seeds vs. cloning
     
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