May 28, 2015
my father in law has a small orchard on one of his properties that has gone mostly untouched for a very long time. he figures the trees to be about 100 years old but we really have no idea. we are looking into making cider with the apples and are looking for some help in IDing the apple varieties and the overall health of the trees. We are in Eugene OR if anyone has any info that might help us out it would be greatly appreciated.
March 16, 2015
Welcome to the Forum ~ Rejuvenating an old orchard is definitely a labor of love. And though the trees are often very large, that’s not likely the way they were originally trained and tended. Left alone, onetime productive and well maintained trees develope the ‘tree inside a tree’ look, where unpruned ‘sucker shoots’ from the top of it’s branches have so dominated that they’ve shaded out the productive limbs below and the fruit is now a half-mile high. I’d inherited the same, thirty-something years ago.
It’s not impossible to eliminate the overgrown ‘shoots,’ but it’s extremely difficult to saw them off and pull them down and out, then keep the freshly exposed ‘original’ limbs from becoming sunburned. Also, though abandoned fruit trees often look vigorous, because of their size, they’ve usually hit a very delicate equilibrium, where there is very little new growth and the energy intake is needed to sustain their root structure. So if large portions of the tree are removed, equal portions of it’s roots will die.
But many homesteads have giant apple trees that can produce lots of apples. They’ll usually set heavy one year then rest the next ...and maybe the next... Impossible to thin, spray, and sometimes even harvest, ‘juice’ is usually the best you can do to utilize them.
As far as ‘what variety’ they are, it hardly matters, they are what they are. We’ve an ID Team with the HOS that could likely name them if you secured several specimens for the Fall, All About Fruit Show in October. Otherwise, most apple juice will work for cider, though a blend of sweets, bitters & sharps work best.
Personally, if the trees are on ‘standard’ or non-dwarfing rootstock, they’re not worth attempting to salvage. I’d figure out which are the most consistent producers and have an apple you find useful, then remove all the dead wood to allow better air circulation and lessen limb loads. If any are broken down, loaded with rot or barely hanging on, I’d remove and replace them. If the apple appears unusual, save a few ‘scions’ to have grafted onto some rootstock at our spring event and start a new ‘modern’ tree on dwarfing (or manageable) rootstock, with fruit identical to the source. Otherwise, I’d likely plant 3 replacements to every monster I removed. And as ‘mine’ were planted by my Great-grandfather, I did all I could to salvage them first. Some worked, most didn’t.
March 16, 2015
June 21, 2015
Since they are very old trees, I wonder if they are treasures available nowhere else.
If you can, you might want to obtain scion from the trees to graft onto new rootstock, and inter-plant your orchard with new trees taken from the originals.
You might want to share scion, to see if others can reproduce them which might help with discovering their identities.
Then again, if they were originally seedlings, they might not have a name.
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