Rethinking Apple Growing At Gilby’s

David Gilbertson

Dwarf & High Density Apple Trees

We started our orchard with Dwarf, Semi Dwarf and Standard trees. With our lessons learned over the years we found out Mother Nature can be very tough on apple growing in the North Central part of MN.

In the winters on 2013, 2014 and 2015 we lost many of our trees. Even though these trees had paid for them self-time and time again, we decided to move to a new growing system (HD) High Density Growing System.

What is HD (High Density) Growing System?

HD Apples at Gilbys

  • Trees are planted much closer together like 3-4’
  • They are supported by a Trellis system with wires at 2’,4’, 6’ and 8’
  • The wires are supported by wood poles
  • The trees are tied to the wire to support the trees and branches

Did you realize there are two primary parts to an apple tree?

  • Part 1….The Rootstock…. this controls the growth habit of the tree
  • Part 2….The Scion Wood this also means the variety of the tree like Honeycrisp

What Rootstocks did we select?

Rootstock & Scion

We selected dwarf root stocks like B.9 and G.41 for some of the following reasons:

Pro’s

  • Very cold hardy
  • 40% in size to a Standard Tree
  • Easier to prune and thin
  • Easier to harvest
  • Require less space
  • Instant gratification…. wants to generate fruit in the 1st year

Con’s

Trees need to be supported!

Why Support your Trees?

  • Dwarf trees need to be supported or they could break at the graft
  • The branches are also trained to grow more horizontal than vertical… Horizontal growth creates more fruit, vertical growth creates more wood.

Dwarf Apple Tree Production

  • 1st year or 1st leaf when you plant the tree you must remove all the fruit
  • 2nd year of 2nd leaf, if the tree has done very well you can leave a couple of apples
  • 3rd year or 3rd leaf, if the tree has done very well over the last 2 years you can leave about a dozen apples.
  • 4th year you can let the tree go… thin the tree so you have one apple per fist. You do not want to over crop the tree with apples.
  • 4th year you should get your return on investment…. one bushel of apples at a value of over $100.00 per tree

Your Goal When Growing Dwarf Apple Trees

  • Get the tree to 8’ as soon as possible!

How/where do I get a Dwarf Apple Tree?

  • You need to contact a grower or specialized nursery that has Apple trees on Dwarf Root Stocks (Gilby’s Nursery and Orchard LLC).
  • Most Nurseries you need to order the trees 2-3 years prior to when you want them.
  • Most Nurseries also have minimum order quantities like 50-100 trees per variety.
  • It is very uncommon to find a Dwarf Apple Tree at your local garden center.
  • You will 9 times out of 10 find Semi Dwarf Malling 7 at your local garden center. (They are calling “Semi-Dwarf”  – “Dwarf” buyer beware!)

What types of trees can you get on Dwarfing rootstock?

  • We currently have Honeycrisp and Zestar on B.9 Rootstock and Haralson and Frostbite on G.41
  • We will have KinderKrisp in spring of 2019