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Disease-resistant apple varieties

Heirloom apples

One of the reasons I'm excited to experiment with a high density apple planting is because it will allow me to try out more varieties.  When grafted onto standard or semistandard Rusty Coat applerootstocks, apples require a lot of space, and I only have room for four in our forest garden.  Being able to test several more varieties to see how they handle our microclimate and disease pressure will be very valuable (and tasty).

On the other hand, I've learned the hard way that it's not even worth trying apple varieties on our homestead if they aren't resistant to cedar apple rust.  Your neck of the woods may have its own apple Achilles heel, but the following varieties went onto my short list due to their disease resistance for my area:

Variety
Scab
Cedar apple rust
Mildew
Fire blight
Ripens
Notes
Akane





Dessert, cooking, or drying; precocious; broad disease resistance
Arkansas Black
Resistant (or susceptible)
Resistant
Resistant
Resistant
Late fall
Storage apple;  best cooked; blooms avoids frost
Arlet




August to September
Disease tolerant in humid climates
Ashmead's Kernel




October
Dessert; stores until March; relatively disease tolerant
Baldwin
Susceptible
Very resistant


September to October
Good for dessert, cooking, or cider; stores well; needs pollinator; biennial
Belle de Boskoop
Resistant
Resistant
Resistant
Resistant
September
Dessert or cooking; needs pollinator
Black Limbertwig
Resistant
Resistant
Resistant
Resistant
October
Dessert, cider, and cooking
Bramley Seedling
Immune
Resistant
Resistant
Susceptible
October to November
Cooking or cider; blooms avoid frost; needs pollinator; stores well
Chestnut Crabapple





Small but sweet; disease resistant
Duchess of Oldenburg
Resistant
Resistant
Somewhat resistant
Somewhat resistant

Precocious; best for cooking
Empire
Susceptible
More resistant
More resistant
More resistant
October
Good for dessert or cider; keeps 3 to 5 months
Enterprise
Immune
More resistant
More resistant
Most resistant
September to October
Dessert; stores up to 6 months; blooms avoid frost
Fireside
Susceptible
Resistant
?
Susceptible
September
Dessert
Florina
Most resistant
More resistant
Somewhat resistant
Somewhat resistant
October

Freedom
Immune
Immune
Resistant
Resistant
October
Stores until January; all-purpose
Grime's Golden
?
Resistant
?
Resistant
September to October
All-purpose; stores until January; best flavor in Mid-Atlantic
Hardy Cumberland

Resistant


October
Good in southern Appalachians; stores well
Hudson's Golden Gem
Resistant
Resistant
Resistant
Resistant
September
Tastes like Bosc pears; good for dessert, cooking, or cider
Jonathan
Resistant

Resistant
Susceptible
October
Dessert, cooking, and cider; poor keeper
Keepsake
?
Resistant
?
Resistant
October
Dessert; good keeper; slow to bear
Kidd's Orange Red
Resistant
Resistant
Resistant

September to October
Good flavor of Cox's Orange Pippin, but less temperamental; precocious
King David
Resistant
Resistant
Resistant
Moderately susceptible or resistant
October to November
Dessert, cooking, or cider; stores well; tolerant of abuse; blooms miss frosts; precocious
Liberty
Immune
Most resistant
Somewhat resistant
Somewhat resistant
September to October
Dessert and cooking; doesn't store well; precocious
Lodi
Resistant
Resistant
Resistant
Moderately susceptible
June to July
Better keeper than Yellow Transparent but not quite as tasty; cooking; needs pollinator
Mammoth Black Twig
Resistant or susceptible
Resistant
Resistant
Resistant
October
Dessert, cooking, drying, or cider; stores until April; blooms miss frosts
Myers Royal Limbertwig
Resistant
Resistant
Resistant
Resistant

Dessert or cider
Nova Easygro
Most resistant
?
Susceptible
Somewhat resistant
September

Novamac
Most resistant
More resistant
Somewhat resistant
Somewhat resistant
September

Pixie Crunch
Most resistant
?
Somewhat resistant
Somewhat resistant
August
Stores for 2 months
Priscilla
Immune
Resistant
Resistant
Resistant
September
Stores 2 to 3 months; easy to grow
Pristine
Immune
Somewhat resistant or somewhat susceptible
More resistant
Somewhat resistant or susceptible
July to August
Dessert or cooking
Ralls Genet
Resistant
Resistant
Resistant
Resistant
Late
Blooms miss frosts
Redfree
Immune
Immune
More resistant
More resistant
July to August
Stores up to two months
Red Limbertwig
Resistant
Resistant
Resistant
Resistant

All-purpose; good keeper
Rustycoat
Resistant
Resistant
Resistant
Resistant
Fall
Tastes like Asian pear
Sansa
Immune
?
Resistant
Resistant
August
Dessert, cooking, or cider
Summer Rambo
Somewhat resistant
Somewhat resistant
Somewhat resistant
Somewhat resistant
July to August
Dessert or cooking; dependable; needs pollinator
Sundance
Most resistant
More resistant
Somewhat resistant
Somewhat resistant
September
Stores up to 6 months
Sweet Sixteen
Resistant
Resistant
Somewhat resistant
Resistant
September to October
Not as tasty in hot summer areas; blooms avoid frosts; biennial if not thinned; dessert and cooking
William's Pride
Immune
Immune
More resistant
More resistant
July to August
Dessert or cooking; keeps 1 month; best in northern gardens
Winesap
Susceptible
Resistant
Susceptible
Resistant
October
Stores up to 6 months; needs pollinator; dessert or cooking
Yates
Resistant
Resistant
Somewhat resistant
Resistant
Late
Good keeper; cider
Yellow Transparent
Resistant
Resistant
Susceptible
Susceptible
June to July
Earliest apple; dessert or cooking; doesn't store; bears young; susceptible to late frosts

The data for my table came from The Holistic Orchard, Grow Fruit Naturally, The Best Apples to Buy and Grow, and our favorite local apple nursery's website.  The astute reader will notice that heirloom varieties (like Yellow Transparent, an old Russian apple) are mixed together with modern inventions (like Sweet Sixteen, barely older than I am).  The heirloom varieties developed the hard way, standing out amid seedling apples that perished Baldwin applewhen not cared for, while the more recent apples have been bred with scientific knowlege of disease-resistant genes.  In the end, it doesn't really matter where the resistance comes from, and I decided to try some out of each category.

Of course, I also wanted to spread my harvest out throughout the year, so I ended up choosing Yellow Transparent and Pristine as early apples, Zestar (not resistant, but we wanted to try it anyway), Summer Rambo, and Sweet Sixteen for early fall, and Enterprise, Empire, Grimes Golden, and Mammoth Black Twig as late apples/keepers.  In a few years, I'll probably learn that some of those apples thrive in our climate while others are losers.  Then it'll be time to cut out the bad trees and go back to the drawing board to experiment with some other disease-resistant apples.

An automatic chicken waterer allows you to leave town for several days without worrying about your flock.



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Our land came with a dozen or so elderly standard apples - Grimes Golden is easily the best among them (others are VA Beauty, Cortland, and Gana.) We don't seem to have the Cedar Rust but it is a healthy tree and bears the most. We call it the Deer Tree because they congregate under it (right up until Opening Day!)
Comment by De Thu Oct 4 09:11:27 2012
I like your "short" list.
Comment by Brian Thu Oct 4 10:00:19 2012

Hi,

Did you consider pears. In Concord, NH they often grow without bugs or other problems by themselves?

Wiz

Comment by wiz Thu Oct 4 10:26:38 2012

De --- I have heard really good things about Grimes Golden. I steered clear for a long time because I'd read it was one parent of Golden Delicious, which I consider insipid. But reports on the internet and in books suggest that Grimes Golden is ten times tastier, and your experience seems to bear that out.

Brian --- I know --- I was laughing at myself as I typed that. But, really, there was a longer version! :-)

Wiz --- You're right --- we need to explore more heirloom pears too. They definitely get a lot fewer pests and diseases than apples. The trouble is, I've yet to find any as tasty as apples, but I'll admit I've tried far fewer heirlooms. I'm going to work harder at grafting onto our two pear trees this winter in hopes of finding some varieties that win a taste test.

Comment by anna Thu Oct 4 12:03:40 2012

Hi Anna,

I have been watching local apple and pear trees planted in various public spaces. I found one pear tree that has been producing quite a bit of fruit for 2 consecutive years. Though hard fruit, most pears from this tree are quite sweet and bug free. I picked the first this year one or two months ago and have been picking them weekly just to see how long the production phase of that tree is. So far they still taste good and are not obviously 'going by'.

There is a golden delicious type tree nearby. Much buggier fruit and it has pretty much gone by now. An Austrian friend says he remembers that pears were grown much more than apples in his youth.

I just bought a fruit picker to reach the higher up pears as I have picked all the low hanging ones :).

I am planning to try to germinate its seeds to see if I can grow another.

I wonder what your research will show?

Wiz

Comment by wiz Thu Oct 4 12:12:16 2012

Wiz --- Sepp Holzer talks extensively about pears too, which made me guess that at least in his part of Europe, they might be a bigger deal than over here. I have had some homegrown Asian pears that were top notch, but most of my experience with locally grown pears was either Bartletts (good at peak, but get mushy and awful fast) or gritty old-timey pears that have a great taste but are sometimes painful to eat.

I love hearing about your wild apple and pear harvests! I did that in town a lot as a kid.

I'll look forward to hearing about your seed-grown pear experiments. At worst, they'd make great rootstocks to graft onto.

Comment by anna Thu Oct 4 13:02:16 2012

I must say I am really excited about all of the talk on your blog about apples lately (and especially excited to see that you're using "The Holistic Orchard" as your next book club book - it's on my Christmas wish list, so I won't be able to participate much, but I will enjoy reading about your thoughts on it! We're planning on planting our orchard in the next couple of years (nothing too big on our little plot of land, just two or three apples, a pear and a berry patch), and it sounds like now is when we need to start laying the ground work!

I also just wanted to mention that, particularly when it comes to heirloom varieties, one should never count out a parent, just because one doesn't like the child (i.e. not wanting to try Grimes Golden because it is probably a parent of the very blah Golden Delicious). Red Delicious are one of the most insipid apples out there, but if you can get a hold of the original Delicious apple, they are beautiful both in looks and flavor, with an enchanting crispness and a skin that has just enough "chew" to add pleasantly to the experience; of course, they're still quite worthless as cooking apples, but eaten fresh, they live up to their name.

Similarly, if you want a pear tree, make sure you get samples of the fruits before you plant (and don't look down on one tree just because you think you know what it tastes like based on supermarket pears). I hated pears from childhood; I just couldn't stand the mealy texture and generally thought the flavor was quite poor. Then I moved into an apartment which had a huge pear tree growing very happily in the backyard. Those pears were sweet and succulent with a smooth flesh and a thin skin; I couldn't get enough of them. So imagine my surprise when a knowledgeable friend took a look at the tree and the fruits and said, "well, it's just an old Bartlett." "But," I stuttered, having been offered numerous Bartlett pears from the grocery store, "these pears taste good!" Perhaps my tree's fruits were so good because it was such a happy tree, heh.

Anyway, keep those orchard/apple posts coming; they are much appreciated and all getting bookmarked so that I can find them again as we embark on our own orchard journey!

Comment by Ikwig Thu Oct 4 22:02:04 2012

Sounds like your narrowing your cultivar options down but the million dollar question is what are your sources for these (local, online, mail order)? Assuming B9 or M9 root stocks with a row spacing of 3' X 10'?

I have some recommendations for sources if your interested.

Comment by BSmith Fri Oct 5 07:52:17 2012

Ikwig --- I highly recommend the book as one to buy and read slowly. There's a lot of information to digest.

I'm curious to hear what is going in your little orchard? Or perhaps you haven't chosen varieties yet?

I had a similar experience with Bartletts, but the apples were delicious only at their peak, and there were bushels of them! Soon, they were nearly as insipid as the storebought. (I guess that's a reason to graft multiple varieties onto a pear so they don't all ripen at once.)

BSmith --- I actually went ahead and ordered our apples already, but would love to hear your suggestions for future reference! You can read about my plans here.

The short answer is 3 foot spacing on bud.9 for most of them, which I ordered from Grandpa's orchard (mostly because they had a lot of great varieties to choose from on the rootstock I wanted, and I bought some peaches from them two years ago that came with awesome root structures). I also ordered a few semi-dwarf trees from a local guy to test one reader's suggestion that you can prune a larger tree down and have a healthier tree.

Comment by anna Fri Oct 5 08:13:32 2012

Anna TWO thumbs up for Grandpa's Orchard! I agree their product is top quality especially if you are looking for particular rootstock and variety at a low volume.

I've also had good success with Adam's County Nursery. I'd also recommend Stark Bro's if you can get a deal and work through the commercial side of the company not retail. Miller Nursery and many others have been hit or miss for me.

Good Luck!

Comment by BSmith Fri Oct 5 11:55:45 2012

BSmith --- It sounds like your experiences line up with mine very well, although I haven't tried Adam's County Nursery yet. They were actually the other company I was considering, though, because I like their selection and rootstock choices. Who do you prefer between Grandpa's and Adams County?

I've had a bit of hit or miss with Starks Brothers, but that could just be that I didn't research disease resistance of the varieties well enough. Another reader suggested that Starks grows their plants in several different locations, and some do better than others.

I had a winner and a loser from Miller, but that could have been variety selection again.

Comment by anna Fri Oct 5 19:01:57 2012

Anna it really comes down to volume for the difference.

I prefer Grandpa's Orchard for low volume orders if I have one or two unique cultivars expire out of a particular row/block otherwise I usually go with ACN for higher volume.

Grandpa's Orchard is good on short notice but ACN usually needs advanced notice. There's always pro's and con's but both of these companies will take care of you if you have a problem and that's what counts!

You may want to follow Jon Clements (UMASS) on Twitter for updates on the tall spindle and fruiting wall research he has been doing. The look of commercial orchards will be changing in the next decade to high density plantings. There is a higher initial cost but the returns can be seen sooner and the maintenance is lower.

P.S. - If I was you I'd go with some Sweet Cherries such as a Regina or Black Gold on Gisela 5 from Grandpa's Orchard. You know there's always room for one more cultivar ;-) Enjoy!

Comment by BSmith Fri Oct 5 20:48:07 2012

BSmith --- It sounds like I made the right choice for now, then --- thanks for the followup. I've been reading various websites by Jon Clements, but still have more research to do on care of our high density apples, so I suspect I'll be reading much more this winter. :-)

I actually got very disappointed by dwarf sweet cherries. I nursed a White Gold Cherry for years, but it was always completely defoliated by Japanese beetles and it never set fruit. I did my best to knock the insects off, but the cherry was by far their favorite, above the grapes, raspberries, etc. Everything else seemed able to handle a bit of Japanese beetle nibbling as long as I picked the beetles once a day during the worst period, but the cherry couldn't handle it, and I wasn't willing to spray, so I finally cut it down.

Comment by anna Sat Oct 6 07:53:56 2012