About Fruit TreesApples
Rootstocks for Grafting
Years to Bearing is an estimate; your results will vary depending on climate, site, soil, nutrients, light, spacing, pruning.
Malus spp. Some definitions:
- Summer apples ripen in summer, are generally crisp only for a short period, do not store well, and are often best for cooking.
- Fall apples store longer and are useful for a wide variety of purposes.
- Winter apples ripen mid to late fall, store well, and reach their best flavor after weeks, or even months, of storage.
- Dessert apples are delicious eaten raw.
- Crabapples are less than 2" in diameter. Some crabs bear edible or culinary or cider-making fruit. Some have persistent wildlife fruit that hangs on the tree for weeks or even months. Others have hardly any fruit at all. Some are beautiful ornamentals.
- Cider apples are especially suited to making fermented “hard” cider. Some cider apples are also good dessert fruit, but most are not. Click here for more info about cider apples.
- Subacid means tart!
- Russet or russeting is a skin texture (fairly common on apple varieties and on a few pears and potatoes) which looks and feels somewhat like suede.
- Bloom is a naturally occurring dust-like yeast film on the skin of some varieties of apples, plums, grapes and blueberries.
All apple trees require a second variety for pollination, but any apple or crabapple blooming at the same time, within a quarter mile, will probably do.
Check out our interactive Pick the Right Apple chart.
Hardiness zone range and relative ripening dates Although our catalog focuses on woody plants that do well in the northeast, we have customers all over the U.S.—up along the Canadian border, in the mid-Atlantic states, down in the mountains of North Carolina and out west in the high desert—anywhere hardiness is important. We love having customers so spread out, and we do our best to tell you when a variety will ripen in your orchard. But it’s not easy. An apple that ripens in September in northern Maine might ripen a month earlier in Pennsylvania. Ripening dates also vary from year to year depending on conditions. Not only that, the apple might be exquisite up north but rather blah farther south. That’s the nature of these varieties, and it’s part of why we offer so many each year. We think you’ll find varieties that can thrive in your area.
The USDA plant zone hardiness map is a guide designed to assist gardeners and orchardists in choosing suitable plants. The zones are based on the average annual minimum winter temperature. The lower the temperature, the lower the zone rating number, and the “hardier” the plant. Zone 3 is about as cold as it gets in any part of New York and New England. Most of northern New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine would all be Zone 3. The central part of the four states would be Zone 4. The southern half of each state would be Zone 5 or 6.
When choosing apple varieties, note the zone rating at the end of each description. If an apple has a Z3 rating, you will be able to grow it successfully in the coldest locations in Maine, as well as two or three zones “south.” In other words, if the rating is Z3, it may be in its prime in Z3, but should do well down to Z5 or 6. Typically, it will not perform well outside of that approximate range. Note that hardiness works both ways. Not only can't you grow mangoes in Maine, you can't grow most apples in Florida.
Choosing a variety: not every variety is right for you. All-purpose apples are just that—they’re good for a bunch of jobs. If I were planting just one tree, I’d start there. However, if you’re a history buff, consider the historical varieties and maybe plant one that originated nearby. If you don’t eat many apples but love pies, go for the pie apples. If you’re a dessert connoisseur, skip all the others and go for the highly flavored dessert varieties. Some are strictly for cider. Some are great to put out at the camp for summer use. Some are perfect for those who want fall fruit but don’t have winter storage facilities. Others keep all winter in the root cellar and into the following summer. Read the descriptions and consult the chart.
Varieties bearing annually are noted; others normally bear every other year. With diligent annual pruning and thinning, most apples will produce an annual crop, one heavy, the next light.
Years to Bearing: approximately 5-7.
Planting distance depends on the rootstock:
Plant standard trees (A) 25-30' apart.
Plant Bud 118 (B) rootstocks 20-25' apart.
Plant M111 (C) rootstocks 15-20' apart.
Plant Bud 9 (D) rootstocks 5-10' apart.
Plant V1 (E) rootstocks 5-10' apart.
Rootstocks: We offer most of our apples on standard Antonovka seedling rootstock. We also offer several varieties on semi-dwarf and dwarf rootstocks. Where A follows the item number in the apple section, the variety is on standard rootstock. B indicates the variety is on Bud118 rootstock, C indicates the variety is on M111 rootstock, D indicates the variety is on Bud9, and E is V1.
Some people wonder why we have offered trees almost exclusively on standard (full-sized) rootstock over the years. Standard trees have deep, substantial—and therefore hardier—root systems. Most winters in central Maine the apples on standard rootstock survive far better than those on semi-dwarf or dwarf rootstock. By selecting the varieties appropriate to your district, grafted on standard rootstock, you may well be planting a tree that will be picked by your grandchildren’s grandchildren. Standard trees will grow to be large, but you can keep them trimmed. Our largest trees are now about 30 years old, yet the tallest are well under 20'.
Although standard-sized apple trees may be planted as close as 10–15' apart, they were typically planted 30' apart in 19th-century orchards. We generally plant standard trees 20–25' apart with good results. Apples on M111 rootstock can be planted about 15–20' apart, and those on V1 about 5–10' apart.
Apple trees are adaptable to a variety of soils and climates, though they prefer well-drained fertile soil. Varieties bearing annually are noted; others normally bear every other year. With diligent annual pruning and thinning, most apples will produce an annual crop, one heavy, the next light.
Click here for information on soil preparation and planting.
Click here for more info about apple pests.
All apple trees require a second variety for pollination, but any apple or crabapple blooming at the same time, within a quarter mile, will do.
Customers frequently ask us about apple pollination. Early season, midseason, late season bloomers—what does it all mean? Should you be in a tizzy about pollination? No. If there is at least one other apple tree blooming somewhere in your neighborhood, the bees will do their thing, and you’ll get fruit. That other tree can be a Fedco apple of a different variety. It can be a wild roadside apple tree. It can be an ornamental crabapple. It can be old or young, in your yard or your neighbor’s. But it must be different from yours. In other words, avoid planting ten Honeycrisps if no other apples are in sight. Most apples flower around the same time so timing is almost never an issue. However, if you live on a desert island with only an early bloomer and a late bloomer, you should plant a midseason bloomer, too.Back to top
Each year we offer a different assortment of the best European and American cider varieties. Many of these are NOT for fresh eating. They do however possess the qualities that make them very desirable for fermented cider production, and fermented cider (or hard cider) is what we mean by ‘cider.’
It’s All in the Mix!
“From the great diversity of soil and climate in the United States of America, and the almost endless variety of its apples, it followed that much diversity of taste and flavor will be necessarily found in the cider that is made from them.” Colin MacKenzie, 1829.
For the best cider, plant several varieties. That’s because when it comes to cider, it’s all in the mix. Unlike beer, cider has only one ingredient: apples. So the apples have to provide everything: acidity, sugar, tannin and flavor.
We classify the cider varieties into four categories:
- sharp (low in tannins, high in acid)
- sweet (high in sugar, little or no tannin, low acid)
- bittersharp (high in tannins and high acid)
- bittersweet (high tannins and sugar, low acid)
Vintage refers to those varieties that possess the perfect
qualities for cider.
Tannin denotes naturally occurring compounds whose bitter astringency gives rounded full flavor, body and golden color.
Is there a difference between bitterness and astringency? An excellent 2012 University of Reading (England) publication titled Sustainable Cider Apple Production attempts to define them: “Astringency is a drying, puckering sensation in the mouth in which the whole tongue is affected, while bitterness is mostly perceived at the sides and back of the tongue.”
We recommend you plant some sharp apples for acidity, some sweet apples for sugar and some bitter apples for the tannin. Find the acidity in bittersharp cider varieties such as Porter’s Perfection or from any of a number of American dessert apples such as Golden Russet and Esopus Spitzenburg. Get your sugar from bittersweet cider varieties like Dabinett and Yarlington Mill or from sweet American varieties such as Tolman Sweet and Black Oxford. You can find tannin in any of the bittersweet types—or even from the wild roadside apples in your neighborhood. You’ll know it when you taste it. Our best cider has been from about 40% bittersweet (astringent) apples and 60% mixed dessert and cooking apples.
Some of our favorite eating apples are also great for cider. Apples good for eating or cooking as well as cider include well-known varieties Baldwin, Cortland and Wealthy, as well as Ashmead’s Kernel, Calville Blanc d’Hiver, Grimes Golden, Redfield, Roxbury Russet and Wickson. Some crabapple varieties that deserve a place in the cider orchard: Brandywine and Dolgo.
Don’t vintners make single variety wines? Absolutely. Grape wines are often best as single varietals. So is perry. Some assume the same would be true of apples, but unfortunately not so, as very few apples have all the necessary attributes. Harrison and Kingston Black are two, but others are precious few.
Check out our interactive Pick the Right Apple chart.
The New Cidermaker’s Handbook: A Comprehensive Guide for Craft Producers by Claude Jolicoeur takes cidermaking to a more advanced level.
If you’re considering a trip to the cider orchards of England or France, or just want to know more about their ciders, try Ciderland by James Crowden (English cider) and Calvados: The Spirit of Normandy by Charles Neal (French cider). The best book on English cider varieties is Cider Apples: The New Pomona by Liz Copas. For French cider varieties, the best is pommiers à cidre: variétés de France by JM Boré and J Fleckinger (in French only).
Commercial Cider Orchards: for those planning large quantities of cider apples, please be in touch about special pricing and grafting.
For the ultimate cider experience join us at the annual CiderDays festival in Franklin County, Mass., held each year in early November. A weekend of workshops, panels, orchard tours, tastings, dinners and everything cider. If you are into apples and cider, it is just the thing for you. Join Fedco’s John Bunker and cider enthusiasts and celebrities from all over the U.S. and Canada for an educational—and very fun—weekend.Back to top
Stone Fruits are widely cultivated around the world and adaptable to most of New England. Not highly particular as to soils.
Years to Bearing: approximately 5-7.
Prunus avium Most are generally not hardy in Maine. Most grow into very large trees. We are currently testing some of the hardiest varieties and hope to have more of them available in upcoming years. See descriptions for pollination requirements. Plant 15–20' apart.
Prunus cerasus They’re called Sour Cherries, but they’re delicious enough to eat right off the tree. They fruit in early to midsummer and don’t mind heavy soil. They are especially good in pies. They are generally divided into two groups: Morello types have dark red spherical fruit, dark juice and relatively small compact trees. Montmorency (or Amarelle) types have light red slightly flattened fruit, clear juice and medium-sized somewhat open trees.
Pie cherries are significantly hardier than sweet cherries but can be frustrating to grow. Although the trees are fully hardy in Zone 3, flower buds may be damaged in colder winters. Some growers in Maine have reported large harvests only to have their trees die unexpectedly a year or two later. We regularly hear reports of excellent crops, so we know it can be done. We are very encouraged by our Garfield Plantation trials. Our hope is to find pie cherries that will be consistently healthy and productive. We are very interested in your successes and failures. If you have had experiences you think might be useful to others, please be in touch. Plant 15–20' apart. Self-pollinating.
Other “Cherries”Back to top
Stone Fruits are widely cultivated around the world and adaptable to most of New England. Clingstone means the fruit’s flesh clings to the pit (or stone) and a freestone pit drops away from the flesh. Stone fruits are not highly particular as to soils.
Prunus persica Northern New England peach trees can do very well. They bear young and so heavily that they may break branches if unthinned or unsupported. Trees may also die unexpectedly at any age. Up here peach trees took big hits the last two winters. Some of the trees out in the open at our place died to the ground. The survivors got pretty beat up. However, the young espaliered peach trees planted against the south side of our house look great.
Peaches are usually unaffected by pests or diseases in northern areas, the occasional exception being peach leaf curl. PLC is not a fatal problem but does need to be controlled if you get hit with it. Look for crinkled or puckered foliage in spring. Remove affected leaves and compost them. Spray the tree early the following spring while it is still dormant (before any buds open!) with lime sulfur or copper. Onion, garlic or horsetail spray while leafed-out may also be effective.
Peaches fruit on last year’s growth! Prune your peach trees in May, once they leaf out. Trim off any dead branches and leave most or all of the live wood. Never prune off all your new growth. If your tree becomes leggy, make a few bold cuts back to a vigorous branch closer to the trunk. That will promote even fruiting throughout your tree.
Plant 15–20' apart. Self-pollinating.
Years to Bearing: approximately 4-6.Back to top
Pyrus spp. are native to temperate Europe and Asia and can grow up to 100' tall in the wild.
Years to Bearing: approximately 5-7.
Pyrus communis Many of the familiar pear varieties are hardy in New England but tend to take longer to come into bearing than apples. Farther south, pears tend to bear annually. However, in Maine, where they are approaching their northern limit, some varieties tend to bear biennially.
Pick fruit when green and ripen it on the shelf. Or, for optimal eating, try Ed Fackler’s method: “…when fruits exhibit slight color changes, begin to test pressure (using your thumb) near the stem. When there is a slight ‘give,’ pick all the fruit, store at or near 35° for 7 or more days. Then remove them as needed, allow them to sit at room temps for 2–4 days which allows them to ripen to peak flavor.”
Pear blossoms are less attractive to bees than apple blossoms, so pears should be planted closer together than apples to ensure pollination, about 15–20' apart.
Although some pears appear to be self-pollinating, we recommend a second variety for pollination. Bloom dates for all varieties are similar.
European pears are on OHxF97 rootstock and will reach approximately 25' at maturity, subject to your pruning.
Perry is fermented pear juice—the pear equivalent of hard cider—and traditionally called “perry” in parts of England and “poire” in France. Many cidermakers in the States are now making some version of perry. Although you can use any pears, the true stuff is made from specific varieties, dry bitter astringent varieties selected over the centuries just for that purpose. These perry pears give the drink its distinctive body and flavor. Most perry pears are not suitable for dessert or cooking.
Traditionally, real perry could be made only within sight of May Hill on the border of Gloucestershire and Herefordshire in western England, which we visited in 2011. The trees were very tall and really old, and the perry was delicious. That edict has relaxed a bit and some version of perry is now being made most everywhere pears can be grown. The Orne region of Normandy is famous for its poire. We were there in 2014 and those trees looked about as old as the ones within sight of May Hill. At Franklin County CiderDays in western Mass you should be able to sample some very tasty perry at the amateur tastings.
We are also custom grafting orders for those interested in starting perry orchards.
Pyrus pyrifolia There are thousands of named cultivars in China, where they have been grown for more than 2000 years. They are long-lived and bear young. Asian pears differ from European pears: they are crisp and very juicy, sweet and mild with a nutty background, and are roundish in shape.
Although partly self-fruitful, pollinators are recommended. The varieties we offer will pollinate one another. Some European pears, notably Bartlett, will also act as pollinators.
Because they set heavily, thin the crop once or even twice during the first two months after bloom to ensure large fruit. Unlike European pears, they should be tree-ripened. When the seeds are black, the pears are ready to pick. They ripen in late summer and keep several weeks with refrigeration.
Cultural requirements are similar to European pears. Pear blossoms are less attractive to bees than apple blossoms, so pears should be planted closer together to ensure pollination. Bloom dates for all varieties are similar.
Asian pears are on OHxF97 or Pyrus betulaefolia rootstock and will reach approximately 25' at maturity; plant 15–20' apart. Although they are usually considered a Zone 5 plant, maybe they can squeak by in Zone 4.Back to top
Stone Fruits are widely cultivated around the world and adaptable to most of New England. Not highly particular as to soils. Clingstone means the fruit’s flesh clings to the pit (or stone) and a freestone pit drops away from the flesh.
Plum Curculio… and garlic
Plum curculio is a terrible plum and apple pest. Many organic growers spray Surround clay powder on their trees to combat this weevil. Many years ago we planted garlic near one of our apple trees and neglected to harvest all the bulbs. Now we have a small colony of garlic plants around the tree. Recent reports are touting garlic as a curculio deterrent. Anecdotal evidence suggests the garlic may be working at our place. Plant more garlic!
Years to Bearing: approximately 5-7.
Hybrid plums are crosses between various Asian and American species. Extremely hardy, they may have no dieback or fruit-bud damage, and produce an excellent crop, despite severe winter weather.
Hybrid plums require a second variety for pollination. Hybrid plum pollination has been glossed over—or avoided—in virtually all catalogs and fruit-growing literature for generations. Here’s what we recommend:
Plant a cluster of trees close enough together (3–6') for the branches to mingle. Our clusters number from three to nearly a dozen trees. Include native plum pollinators (pure American seedlings or varieties) among the hybrids. With some decent sunshine during bloom, you should get good fruit set. We suggest Toka, South Dakota and Kaga as the best pollinators. We also recommend planting pure Prunus americana or P. nigra seedlings or grafted trees in the orchard. We include the American plum seedling in this hybrid section because it may be the best pollinator for the hybrids.
Pollination may improve with heat. Growers in warmer districts often report better success with pollination. This may be because the heat prolongs the bloom season, increasing the number of trees with simultaneous available pollen.
A long cold spring may also help with pollination. When the plums finally bloom, they all bloom at once. (Often the pure Americans bloom later than the hybrids.)
Bloom times similar for all varieties. Not susceptible to black knot.
Prunus domestica Delicious fresh and often grown commercially for prunes. A true prune is a plum that can be dried without the pit fermenting. We’ve heard recommendations to blanch the plums for 45 seconds before drying them. European plums produce smaller fruit and are generally not as hardy as the hybrid plums, though they can handle heavier soils and are less prone to brown rot. Unlike hybrids, they are prone to the fungal disease black knot, which looks like black chewing gum and appears on branches. While not necessarily fatal, it must be kept in check by removing and destroying infected branches. Trees grow upright and are usually trained to a central leader. Although European plums are self-pollinating, planting two different varieties will improve pollination.Back to top
Cydonia oblonga 10-25' A small tree with large aromatic tan or yellowish fruit shaped like a cross between a pear and an apple. Usually eaten in stews, marmalades and jellies, and sometimes added to hard cider. Not to be confused with Flowering Quince, the ornamental shrub Chaenomeles, which has smaller fruit.
At one time, every Maine dooryard had a quince. Cultivated for millennia, the “golden apple” has quite the history: in ancient times, a gift to Greek brides on their wedding day; in colonial American homesteads, a staple pectin fruit; in Edward Lear’s classic, the Owl and the Pussycat’s wedding treat.
Large white to pink flowers. The wood of mature trees becomes impressively gnarled and twisted. Quince are a rare commodity in Maine—they’re not easy to grow here, especially inland, but not impossible. Carol Armatis is successfully growing quince in Zone 4 Newport, Maine, despite some of the coldest winters in decades.
Similar soil requirements to other fruit trees: Plant in full sun, and space 16' apart. Pruned like an apple tree, and needs protection from apple borers. Susceptible to fireblight. Fruits may not ripen in the coldest areas.
Self-fruitful but planting more than one will give better yields. Native to Asia. Z4/5.
Years to Bearing: approximately 5-7.Back to top
We offer most of our apple trees on standard Antonovka seedling rootstock. We also offer a number of varieties on semi-dwarf and dwarf rootstocks.
Where A follows the item number in the apple section, the variety is on standard rootstock.
B indicates the variety is on Bud 118 rootstock, C indicates the variety is on M111 rootstock, D indicates the variety is on Bud 9 rootstock, and E is V1.
Antonovka standard rootstock produces trees that are extremely rugged, hardy, tolerant of drought and poor soils, very long-lived, and more capable of thriving under a regime of benign neglect. If you are uncertain, stick with the good old standard Antonovka. Plant 25–30' apart.
Semi-dwarf and dwarf Apples
After an enthusiastic response from customers the past several years, we continue to offer an assortment of semi-dwarf and dwarfing rootstocks.
Bud 118 semi-dwarfing rootstock produces a tree that is about 85–90% of standard size or even larger. Sometimes Bud 118 trees are called semi-standards or even standards. Plant about 20–25' apart. Considered to be more precocious (fruits at a young age) than standards, and probably more productive. Very hardy, though not as hardy as Antonovka.
- 108B Blenheim Orange
- 116B Chenango Strawberry
- 118B Chestnut
- 121B Cox’s Orange Pippin
- 124B Duchess of Oldenburg
- 126B Esopus Spitzenburg
- 130B Frostbite
- 132B GoldRush
- 136B Grimes Golden
- 140B Keepsake
- 150B Moses Wood
- 159B Opalescent
- 176B Sheppard’s Sweet
- 180B Sweet Sixteen
- 184B Trailman
- 192B Williams Pride
- 201B Zestar
M111 semi-dwarfing rootstock produces a tree that is about 65–80% of standard size. Sometimes M111 trees are called semi-standards. You can plant them closer together than standards, about 15–20' apart. M111 may not be more precocious than trees on standard. However it will likely be more productive. It has a relatively shallow spreading root system, does well in light soils, and is relatively drought tolerant. It is less well-rooted, not as long-lived, and not as hardy as Antonovka.
- 102C Ashmead’s Kernel
- 103C Baldwin
- 107C Black Oxford
- 112C Brock
- 157C Northern Spy
- 162C Pristine
- 164C Pumpkin Russet
- 167C Red Canada
- 168C Redfield
- 113C Burgundy
- 114C Calville Blanc d’Hiver
- 120C Cortland
- 131C Golden Russet
- 137C Honeycrisp
- 144C Liberty
- 147C McIntosh
- 174C Roxbury Russet
- 175C Rubicon
- 191C Wickson
- 194C Winekist
- 223C-237C All cider varieties
- 524C-533C All crabapples
V1 dwarfing rootstock produces a small dwarf tree about 55% the size of a standard tree. Somewhat larger than Bud 9. You can plant trees 5–10' apart. Trees on V1 are very hardy, somewhat fireblight resistant, sucker very little and should be staked or wired for support. We have been happy with our V1 trials. V1 (Kerr x M9) is one of several dwarfing rootstock introductions from the Horticultural Experiment Station in Vineland, Ontario, Canada, 1958.
- 120E Cortland
- 132E GoldRush
- 137E Honeycrisp
- 144E Liberty
- 147E McIntosh
For 2021, all Pears are on OHxF97 rootstock, and Asian Pears are on OHxF97 or Pyrus betulaefolia rootstock.
These rootstocks are subject to change based on availability and we are unable to accommodate pear rootstock requests.
Stone Fruit Rootstocks
Our stone fruit trees are typically grafted onto the following rootstocks:
‘Mazzard’, ‘Mahaleb’, ‘Maxma 14’ and ‘Gisela 12’ for pie and sweet
‘Bailey’ and ‘Lovell’
for peaches, Prunus americana for hybrid plums, and
Prunus americana and ‘Myrobalan’ for European plums.
These rootstocks are subject to change based on availability and we are unable to accommodate specific rootstock requests.
Click here to see the rootstocks sold for grafting, for both pome fruits and stone fruits.Back to top
We consider these to be some of the best rootstocks for home or commercial use. Even without grafting, any of these produces fruit suitable for wildlife. For rootstocks not listed, or for larger calipers or larger quantities, please write for information. We also offer knives and grafting supplies in the Organic Growers Supply branch of Fedco.
Please note! We do our best to provide ¼" caliper stock. Because of factors beyond our control (such as weather!) stock may be 3/16–3/8". We cannot guarantee scion or rootstock diameter.
Because of the way they are propagated, clonal rootstocks (B118, M111, G11, B9 apples and OHxF97 pear) rarely come with more than a few roots. You may have better luck planting clonal rootstocks for a year in your garden or nursery before grafting them.
Rootstock is shipped at two times: with scionwood, around March 16, or with the rest of the Tree order in the first half of April. Stock numbers ending with A are shipped in April; stock numbers ending with B are shipped in March.Back to top
We offer scionwood (twigs for grafting) from a wide selection of fruit trees including many listed in this catalog. Price is $5.00 per stick (about 8") plus shipping. Deadline for ordering scionwood is February 19, 2021. We will ship around March 15. Rootstock can be sent with your scionwood order in late March.
We sell scions (pronounced SIGH-ons, not SKY-ons) in two ways. For those grafting up to 3 or 4 trees of a variety, one 8" stick will suffice. Each single 8" stick comes with a small paper ID label. This is how most of our customers purchase scionwood. For commercial orchardists and others grafting large numbers of trees of a particular variety, we also offer scionwood by the foot ($4.50 per foot, minimum order of 10'). In our own nursery work, we are usually able to graft about 6 or 8 trees from one foot of scionwood.
We collect the scionwood in winter and store it at about 40° until shipment in March. You can graft right away or store it for later use. Stored properly, it will keep quite well for several weeks. It needs to be kept in the fridge or in a cold dark basement, root cellar or shed. Storing scionwood at freezing temps can be okay (we have friends who stick theirs in a snow bank), but the very cold temperatures in a freezer will kill it. It will also die if it dries out or is stored without special protection from ripening veggies or fruits. We recommend triple-bagging your scionwood in plastic bags, no matter where you store it. There is no need to dampen the scionwood or to insert wet paper towels before bagging it.
Scions are not trees!
Scions are twigs, not trees. They have no roots and will not grow if you plant them. They are cuttings from branch tips collected in the winter to be grafted in the spring.
Is grafting easy to do? Yes and no. It is an acquired skill. Experienced grafters often have 100% “take” (success rate) with their grafting. Beginners often have less than 50% take—or even zero. While you can learn to graft from a book or video, we highly recommend the old-fashioned way of learning: find a real person to teach you. The Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA) has grafting classes every spring. Other organizations around the country do as well.
There are two general ways to graft. You can bench graft by grafting scionwood onto bare-root rootstock. Generally we do this indoors in late March or early April. We keep the little grafted trees packed into a bucket of damp sawdust in a warm spot in the house (77–86°) to break dormancy and promote callus development. Then we harden them off in a cold (but not freezing) place for a week or two before planting out in the nursery in mid-to-late May. In a couple of years when the trees are 3–4' tall, we plant them in the orchard. You can grow your own rootstock from seed or purchase it from us. You can also topwork scionwood onto established trees. We do our topworking after the trees have begun to show some green growth, usually about May 10 in central Maine.
Can you collect your own scionwood? Of course! Grafting can open up a whole new world for you. You can purchase scionwood from Fedco and several other suppliers around the country. You can trade scionwood like you would baseball cards or recipes. And, best of all, you can collect your own scionwood from your favorite trees. We’re always on the lookout for interesting varieties to graft. Before long, you may even become completely obsessed like many of us at Fedco!Back to top