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- 31-05-2012, 12:26 PM #1Rooter
- Join Date
- Aug 2010
How long does it take from fruit trees to go from seed to bearing fruit?
Thinking of taking on the task of doing this. Was wondering how long this would take before it started to pay off? Thinking of mainly cherry, apple and pear
- 31-05-2012, 01:26 PM #2
This is a difficult question to answer precisely, since it will be somewhat influenced by the growing conditions (soil, climate etc).
Also bear in mind that seeds will be as different to their parent as human children are.
Seedlings will have some similarities with their parent, but also many differences depending on the other (unknown) parent and depending on which genes they happen to inherit from each of their parents.
Modern apples, for example, are often pollinated commercially by crab apples. So a pip from a shop-bought fruit may well turn out to be a something between a crab and a domestic apple - probably about the size of a golf ball (in-between crab and domestic apple size), and also posessing some of the rather hard and rather bitter characteristics of its crab father.
Pips and seeds from home-grown fruit are generally more likely to either be self-pollinated, or to have been pollinated by another domestic apple. In these cases, the fruit may be reasonably good - but the outcome is still very variable.
Generally speaking, seedlings will be vigorous. Like humans, they often have a hormonal mechanism which prevents much reproduction until they are approaching ten years old - sometimes 20 years old.
This is intended to allow the tree to become large and strong - to compete successfully against the other big, old, established trees.
Needless to say, with all its energy going into growth for many years, seedling trees often become very large. Pears grown from seed can take even longer to crop and can become extremely large - much bigger than apples.
Modern rootstocks have been carefully selected in order to encourage the tree to crop at a much younger age than if it was a seedling, or grown on a seedling rootstock.
Seedling trees, being genetic individuals, also will vary in the amount of fruit they produce (I have heard of some which never fruited, while others fruited after just a couple of years). Generally speaking, seedling rootstocks produce lighter crops than the specially-selected rootstocks onto which we graft fruit trees.
Also, a seedling tree will have unpredictable resistance to the various pests and diseases. Generally speaking, commercial (shop-bought) varieties are very prone to disease, and their offspring tend to inherit this susceptibility. This can result in very sickly seedling trees which remain weak, stunted and unproductive. Certianly my experiments with seeds from shop-bought fruit have resulted in the death of all seedlings by the age of five, usually due to powdery mildew (which is a big problem in my area). I have no surviving seedlings from shop-bought fruit.
I do have a handful of promising seedlings grown from pips of my own fruits (often old, rare varieties with good disease resistance), but the seedlings are several years old and have yet to fruit.
In summary - by all means grow some seedlings for a bit of fun, but don't expect much from them - in that way you won't be disappointed.
Certainly don't waste the time growing a specimen tree from a pip unless you can afford it to produce few fruits or poor quality fruits.
If you want a specimen tree, or if you want early and near-guaranteed result, buy a ready-grafted tree.
If cost is a problem, many come up for sale on clearance for a few quid each, around February-April each year..
- 31-05-2012, 01:32 PM #3Rooter
- Join Date
- Aug 2010
Well I was thinking about asking someone for seeds that I know are not grown commercially and are as natural as they come. The lady with a a garden behind mine has a couple of apple trees so Those would be ideal as I know they will grow correctly then =)
- 31-05-2012, 04:01 PM #4
So there are no guarantees that you'll have a tree of the required size, with the required tolerance of the soil, with the required disease resistance for your area, with fruit which is of good quality and eats/cooks/ciders in a way that you like.
Think of it as a lucky dip.
However, if you plant a large batch of seeds, you can do a lot to help select the most promising candidates (most will die along the way, but if you want a better chance of a good'un you have to be cruel to be kind):
Sow the seeds into your garden soil. Let those which don't like the soil die.
No feeding, and only water in very dry weather.
Do not use any chemicals to treat for insects or diseases.
Select seedlings with larger, darker, thicker leaves.
Select varieties in the vigour range you require, by looking at how big the seedlings are compared to others in the same batch. The smaller/slower-growing seedlings will be natural dwarfs (about 2m or less), while the average growers will probably be about 4-6m when mature and the fast-growers will probably be 8-10 metres..
- 31-05-2012, 04:25 PM #5Sprouter
- Join Date
- Jun 2011
I don't want to hijack this thread too much, but it's semi-related to the subject and advice given by FB.
If I were to grow apple trees purely for firewood / smoking (therefore wanting as much mass of wood as possible as quickly as possible) should I care about the type? I'm going to guess (please correct me if I'm wrong) that all apple wood smells similar, and all cherry wood does too?
If so I guess as many seeds as possible from a local bramley tree would be a good start?
- 31-05-2012, 05:54 PM #6
If you want them for wood, I suggest choosing vigorous varieties (and on vigorous roots), but with an eye towards varieties which are both precocious (crop when young) and vigorous.
I would highly recommend the vigorous M25 rootstock, which grows quickly, but also fruits very early in life.
M25 is actually better than dwarfs for early cropping, since the dwarfs roots are too weak and take a few years to establish (therefore fruit is small and of poor quality, and they don't grow very quickly), whereas M25 has no problems producing god quality fruit and growing at the same time.
If you regularly prune them hard, they will probably start to send up root suckers, so I'd plant them deeper than the graft, then "coppice" them, you will have multi-stemmed fruiting wood, on its own roots.
Have a row of several of them, spaced about 2m apart, and cut them down on a rolling rotation, so that they are cut down just at the time when they have grown to fill their allotted space.
Just like hazels used to be grown.
The variety "Blenheim Orange" used to be highly prized for its excellent wood. However, it is not very precocious, so you wouldn't get much fruit off it.
If you are likely to prune hard and regularly, suggest good disease resistance (canker, mildew and scab) because all that new growth and all the pruning wounds will be possible entry points fo disease.
You speak of using seeds from a Bramley.
However, in my experience, seeds from triploids (and there are a lot more triploids than the nurseries label as triploid) are often very few, and often don't germinate.
This is hardly surprising, given that triploids have an abnormal chromosomes number which becomes even more abnormal in their offspring.
Here are some generalisations in identifying a triploid variety (the more of the following feature, the more likely to be triploid - but these are just a guide and not hard rules):
Open branch structure.
Unusual growth habit.
Thick, tough leaves.
Rounded leaves (as oppsed to slender leaves).
Leaves with noticeably asymmetrical tips (such as off-centre).
Large flowers (often very attractive).
Poor seed count in the fruit.
I'll see if I can go and take a few pictures of triploid and diploid leaves.
Last edited by FB.; 31-05-2012 at 05:55 PM..
- 31-05-2012, 06:19 PM #7
Here you go.
Basically, because triploids have a genetic (chromosomes) abnormality, they have subtle differences which often allow them to be picked-out from diploids.
In much the same way as humans with triploidy of chromosome 21 (Down's Syndrome) usually have distinctive facial features.
Notice the extremely large and dark leaf of Coeur de Boeuf.
Also notice the very rounded shape and very off-centre/pointing-to-one-side tip of Belle de Boskoop - although the leaf is quite pale for a triploid.
Anyway, a collection of different leaves:
Last edited by FB.; 31-05-2012 at 06:22 PM..
- 10-06-2012, 06:48 PM #8Rooter
- Join Date
- Jun 2012
In my small experience of growing seedling apple trees, the Spartan regime which FB proposes is exactly right, and the ones to look out for are those with the thicker darker leaves.
Seedling cherries might get to 8m but 4m-5m would be good going for a seedling apple tree (it’s not often you see wild apple trees larger than that, and most tend to grow as bushes rather than trees).
If you think you might have a good one, shorten the time to checking the fruit by bud-grafting on to some M27 rootstocks, which will probably give you a few apples the following year, whilst the original seedling will take 4 years or more. In my opinion, if you are serious about trying out apple seedlings then you absolutely have to plant some M27 or M9 rootstocks at the same time to help evaluate the fruit!