Have you ever grown an apple tree from a seed?
A neighbour called us this morning asking me if I had some soil. Having just dug my way into the greenhouse yesterday I was happy to be able to say yes. He told me he was on his way over with an apple tree. An apple tree! It's the dead of winter so where the heck did he find an apple tree? I had so many question but he hung up before I could dive in.
Twenty minutes later he arrived and imagine my surprise when he pulled out a ziploc bag with a little apple tree seedling in it. He had sprouted an apple seed for me to plant. We have the coolest, nicest neighbour ever!
Can't have enough apples on a homestead
There are a lot of wild apple trees in the woods around us. These trees along with occasional rock piles are the last remaining signs of the homesteads that once stood there. I have no idea what varieties we have growing wild but they are misshapen, all natural and quite tasty (most of them anyhow).
We often toss apple cores into the woods in hope that a few will sprout someday but we've never really thought about planting from seed. We have an orchard with 3-4 year old root stock that we bought. Those trees will be several more years before they are producing. A seed will take eight years or more. I really do wonder If I can pull this off!
I've done some reading and here's what they have to say about growing apple trees from seed Penn State Extension. Our neighbour did the simple stratification method that I describe in this post: Heirloom Seeds Part 7 - Seed Stratification. It's pretty easy really. You are just putting the seeds in a moist towel, inside a ziploc bag and refrigerating them for a while. This mimics the winter dormancy that some seeds require before they will germinate. We have all kinds of seeds going through their stratification period in our fridge right now.
Contrary to what the Penn State suggests, it only took a few weeks for this seed to sprout. It all comes down to luck sometimes! I have some reading to do on how we'll keep this seedling growing happily into a tree. This is a first for me. I'll just try to keep it alive and see what happens when spring arrives!
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Some of those wild trees you have may actually be lost heirloom genetics and you just don't know. I'm not sure how much you know about it, but in case you don't, briefly... when an apple tree comes from seed it can be absolutely any kind of apple in the world. It usually will not make a tree that is anything like the apple in which the seed came from. I just learned about this over the past three years!
I think we have one that is a rare, highly sought, gourmet apple from France (I'll do a post about it soon! I have not had it tested so far.
Most of ours came from (like yours) the early settlers-- from Massachusetts in this case. The one lady planted an orchard and that is where I believe the trees here originated. Some are really yummy, and some are apparently called "spitters"... I found out why! I could go on all day about this topic because it's on my mind right now, but I won't do that to ya! ;) lol. I think you should see if you can identify your apples as any type of heirloom varieties that are all gone now-- unless they come from a seed! You might have something that a niche group somewhere is searching for!!! Never know! Good luck with your awesome little tree!!! If Steemit is still around in a few years you will have to let us know what kind you got from your neighbor!
I've met someone that knows what a few of the apples are, they are the best tasting of the bunch. (can't remember the name). I've been thinking about taking some cuttings and grafting them onto some trees in our garden.
I would certainly love to know more about your apple knowledge! Especially pruning. Where/how do you get them tested?
Thanks for all the great info!
In as late as the 1930's the USDA statistics agency NASS estimated there was over 500 varieties of apple commercially grown in the states. That wasn't that long ago. Nowadays it's about 50 but only a decade earlier it was a dozen or so if you can believe that. The same catastrophe happened in the UK where the revival of local varieties is still slow in coming with collections of trimmings from garden trees from communities across the country. Some varieties are certainly lost forever.
Same here in Austria and Germany and I think in many many other countries. And not only fruit is affected, but also vegetables. There are initiatives that are working to make people aware of this fact. They search, propagate and preserve old varieties and campaign to ensure that many people grow old varieties again.
Once there's a healthy selection, you can turn to breeding new varieties and at that point it should be easy and quick to do so.
Its frustrating to witness the decline in the genetic diversity of plants. I really get fired up about it. That's why we grow & save heirloom seeds. It really is up to all of us to do our part to preserve and safeguard all that we can. There was an initiative here to start a living museum of all the apple varieties but it didn't get enough support. It certainly feels shameful that all the work our ancestors did to grow and save all of this plant life has been lost due to apathy.
We are going to learn how to graft so we can bring some of these varieties onto our property. I suppose the best we can do is to do something right?
Seed from every apple variety could be stored with the Noah seed bank so the disappearance of thousands of varieties is never repeated.
It's really scary how quickly we have lost/destroyed the genetic diversity of plants, animals. I just read this sobering CBC article that shares some of the bleak stats from the latest UN scientific reports. We do our best to do our part to help. I grow and save only heirloom seeds .. about 19 types of tomatoes this year - keeping it alive in our back yard where we have control.
I applaud your work homesteading, preserving tomato and apple varieties, especially in light of the degradation of the natural environment and the dismal projections of species die off.
This is very worrisome as diversity is a measure of ecological durability and resilience (though not necessarily of vitality which is what is implied by "health"; evidently scientists are not the best with language).
I've never heard of growing an apple tree from seeds. Congratulations to your neighbor and good luck, he'll need it, it's a long way full of danger.
My grandparents had apple trees, about 4000 or so and I know how hard it was to keep them healthy, to work them during the year. My English is pretty poor when it comes to gardening but you have experience and probably know what I mean.
In any case I would really like to hear about this project of your neighbour's. :)
He gave the seedling to me to care for and grow. He isn't much of a gardener! :)
Wow! 4,000 trees - that is such a big orchard! It must have been beautiful when the trees were covered with apple blossoms!
I have 4 year old trees grown from root stock and you are right - it's a lot of work, especially when you grow organically. I am hoping I can keep this seedling happy and alive. It's hard to imagine that this little seedling will (hopefully) become a tree some day.
Good luck again and please post about this little tree from time to time :)
I was interested in growing apple trees but wow 8 years. Sure am glad I read this article. Unless I find some 4 year old trees and get a head start I may just have to find something else. Thanks you so much. Up voted and resteemed.
I've bought a dozen or so apple trees from the garden centre. They are doing quite well. If you don't have the patience to do it from seed, it's certainly a good option. There is also the option of grafting. You take a cutting from an existing apple tree and graft it onto a different tree. I don't have experience with it yet but its something we plant to try this year.
I have three apple trees we started from seed about a year and a half ago. They are from a pink lady apple.
How are they doing? Where do you keep them? I've been wondering where to keep it outside once the warmer weather arrives. I am assuming you just keep potting them up until they are big enough to go in the ground?
You can never have enough fruit trees. I start many from seeds. I know I may not be around to enjoy the fruits of my labour but my sons and grandchildren will.
I agree! I simply love growing things and am happy to diversify and try all the different ways that something can be grown. I like to envision what this place will look like in 100 years. Its a nice picture.
Cool about the neighbor! What a nice thing to do!
This year I have a lot of things needing stratification/vernalization and have a lot of trays of things in the spare fridge. Some take 10 days and other 2 months. So far the first one out of the fridge has yet to sprout. It's waiting its turn on the heat mat...
I totally get that. I am forever juggling trays for space on the heat mats. Our neighbour is really great, we adore him. He's taught my husband all kinds of things to do with welding, mechanics, diesel engines etc. We give him eggs and veggies and other things and I've started a bunch of tomato plants for him as well. I think overall we've got a great system. :)
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I have not grown any from seeds, but I have seeds I saved from last year that I would like to try sprouting. That is the cutest little sprout ever! You can do this! We have quite a few wild apples on our property and I have no idea what they are. I have my own names that help me tell Chad which tree I picked from. They are all very different and I love them. Best of luck with your new little tree.
It is quite remarkable to look at that small seedling and know it might be 8ft tall (or more) someday. I sure hope I am able to keep it healthy and happy. Wild apples are so wonderful. I can't believe people just left them fall by the roadside unpicked. I just read that someone in our province is starting up a cider business. They go around collecting wild apples. It's a lot of work gathering them but their main ingredient is FREE - that's smart business if you ask me!
Best of luck with sprouting your apple seeds! :)
Thanks and I will let you know if I have success. That would be exciting for me :)
I bought a few apple seeds online here in Japan. They're from European varieties which I haven't been able to find elsewhere and which I really can't see myself bringing back from Europe on my next trip. I'm pretty sceptical about them actually producing fruit which corresponds to the parent varieties but I reckon that at least I'll have some sturdy grafting stock. Do you have any experience with grating apples?
That's pretty cool. I hope they end up being what you were hoping for! I suppose accidentally bringing a few cuttings in your luggage is the other option. I have no experience with grafting. I've read up on it a fair bit, it looks quite simple. We plan to do it this spring if time permits.
I did think about misplacing some cuttings in my bags but the only time I go back to Europe is in the middle of winter when it's freezing back home and even more so here, so no hope of either finding a cutting or getting it to survive when brought back to Japan. Still, if I could find a way to keep some cuttings going through the cold, it might be worth trying...
My kiddos said they want to plant apple seeds, after learning about Johnny Appleseed at preschool :) Now that I know growing a tree takes 8 years, I guess I better start those apple trees asap so the kids can enjoy them before they grow up and move away!
It is quite the commitment! I think grafting is more up my alley but I'm going to do my best to keep this little seedling alive. It's a long time before the snow melts yet!