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 Dwarf vs. full-size 
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Joined: Thu Jul 05, 2012 7:44 pm
Posts: 3
Post Dwarf vs. full-size
Hi,

I'm new to the forum, so I apologize if this question has been previously answered. We bought some woods up in the hills in Yamhill County, Oregon, and plan to plant about an acre of fruit trees & perennial fruit.

My question is in regards to rootstocks- dwarfing vs. full-size. I personally really enjoy pruning trees, and my guess is that full-size trees, when properly pruned, live longer than dwarf-sized trees. Is this true? I understand the benefits of dwarf trees in a suburban setting, but in a farm setting, don't know if the benefits aren't outweighed by the downsides of dwarf trees.

I'd really like to hear some expert opinions.

Thanks!

-Rob


Thu Jul 05, 2012 7:56 pm
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Joined: Thu Jan 27, 2005 11:27 pm
Posts: 1154
Location: Yamhill County, Oregon
Post Re: Dwarf vs. full-size
Hey Rob, welcome to Yamhill County - and our Forum! Excellent question, here’s my take and experience from likely a similar setting: The YC soil is basically crap.. Grapes love it and will send roots as deep as necessary to find nutrients and moisture. Not so much with fruit trees, though of course fertility varies.

It’s difficult to find anything grafted to ‘Standard rootstock’ anymore. Though I’ve put together many a tree …I’m even too lazy to start from scratch and will buy a ‘base variety’ on as vigorous a rootstock as I can find (if known) and graft on a number of other varieties. If you order trees from a sound local or mail-order nursery (like One Green World) you can still get them on standard rootstock …at least apples.

If you enjoy pruning, like I do, then go for the vigorous ones. They’ll dig deep and fast to anchor themselves and find the nutrients they need – and – they’ll get out of the reach of deer and elk faster than a weakling dwarf (if ever). Once up and where you want them, like mine, you can prune to allow only one bud’s worth of growth a year (that’s about an inch). Combined with thinning, they’re no problem. And, if you want the majestic apple, pear and cherries trees of the mature surrounding homesteads – you can have them!

I’ve had such poor growth from several ‘dwarf’ apples that I eventually mounded soil around their base to encourage the ‘scion’ to root. I think it’s actually worked, as the trees look a bit more vigorous than the ..10 to 15 years they spent trying to suck what they needed from pottery capable (Gaston mud) Yamhill County Clay…

Hey – let me know where you’re at, I’ve had a lot of fun advising folks on fruiting stuff around here. …and don’t forget figs, table grapes, persimmons or hardy & fuzzy kiwi.. We don’t get the mildew problems of the East side, that’s why we grow the grapes and they grow the blueberries :P

PS, I got to ‘approve’ your post so got first crack at an answer, I shouldn’t be the only one..

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Thu Jul 05, 2012 10:45 pm
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Joined: Thu Jul 05, 2012 7:44 pm
Posts: 3
Post Re: Dwarf vs. full-size
Thanks Viron! I'm guessing there's a lot of opinions out there...

We're up Gopher Valley between McMinnville & Sheridan. We're hoping to squeeze some field trips in this year to cool orchards, so you being close might be make you our first visit.

And I'm definitely not forgetting all the other fruit trees. Especially cherries, pears, mulberries... everything!


Fri Jul 06, 2012 5:33 am
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Joined: Sun May 15, 2005 10:57 am
Posts: 1354
Location: Portland, OR
Post Re: Dwarf vs. full-size
I am in a suburban situation and I like semi-dwarf, usually about 12-15 feet. They anchor better than dwarf and don't necessarily need all the water. If you're in the country you could go semi dwarf or full-size. Depends on how much you like climbing ladders. Most apples and Asian pears will require some treatment to prevent coddling moth and apple maggot. From my point of view, it's too difficult to put footies on apples on Standard trees, but they do help getting out of reach of deer. You will do a lot of pruning with standard. I wouldn't do dwarf in your situation.
John S
PDX OR


Sat Jul 07, 2012 10:59 pm
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Joined: Fri Apr 20, 2012 5:01 pm
Posts: 19
Post Re: Dwarf vs. full-size
I would agree that semi-dwarf is really the way to go these days. Dwarf would be too small and full-size can get WAY too big... although not until after you are dead and gone! With semi-dwarf, you can prune all you want and the fruit should mostly be accessible from a ladder. With full-size... there's so much you can't reach at maturity, and it's dang near impossible to spray to keep all the bugs off, much less to pick the fruit and actually be able to use it for anything other than cider if it's all full of worm holes. Semi-dwarf -- final answer. :)


Mon Jul 09, 2012 5:46 am
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Joined: Sat Apr 07, 2007 11:28 pm
Posts: 485
Location: Willamette Valley near Scio
Post Re: Dwarf vs. full-size
I put a bunch of kinds of interstems (Bud-9, M27, P22) on seedling and other standard roots. It is dramatic how a foot or so of dwarfing interstem knocks the wind out the trees vigor. Not a real good idea when deer are plentiful. For that you need a taller tree, or alot of fencing and stuff.

Bracing myself for the onslaught of 30.06 rifle comments!


Wed Jul 11, 2012 5:27 pm
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Joined: Sat Apr 07, 2007 11:28 pm
Posts: 485
Location: Willamette Valley near Scio
Post Re: Dwarf vs. full-size
dmtaylor wrote:
full-size can get WAY too big... although not until after you are dead and gone!

Not quite! Seedlings on average soil go to 15 feet in about 3 years or so, they are scary. I cannot imagine working safely on the same tree ten years into its life. Note to self: review life insurance asap.


Wed Jul 11, 2012 5:29 pm
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Joined: Sat Apr 07, 2007 11:28 pm
Posts: 485
Location: Willamette Valley near Scio
Post Re: Dwarf vs. full-size
There's a guy in Yoncalla that plants most of his new M-26 stocks about 3 feet apart, it used to be 5 feet apart. Things are a bit crowded, yes.


Wed Jul 11, 2012 5:31 pm
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Joined: Tue Sep 18, 2012 6:19 pm
Posts: 14
Location: Nova Scotia, Canada
Post Re: Dwarf vs. full-size
This is a very interesting conversation. I am in the process of starting a small orchard on my 5.5 acres in Nova Scotia, Canada. Nursery trees are to expensive for what I want to do and I can't find dwarfing rootstock for sale anywhere. I am looking at the wild apple trees behind my house (hundreds of them) and thinking about grafting onto wild rootstock. I would prefer dwarfing rootstock or even semidwarf if I could find it. Is it possible to keep a standard below 15ft with diligent and ruthless pruning?


Sat Sep 22, 2012 8:43 am
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Joined: Thu Jan 27, 2005 11:27 pm
Posts: 1154
Location: Yamhill County, Oregon
Post Re: Dwarf vs. full-size
Welcome, cmarchan;

There’s more value in rootstock than just dwarfing, there’s a disease resistance you don’t find in seedlings. I lost two beautifully grafted and trained Gravenstein apple trees to what I suspect was oak root rot. Whatever it was that killed these 30 year old specimens, it didn’t touch the neighboring trees on ‘commercial rootstock.’

As vigorous as any apple tree I know, I did keep those Gravenstein’s in check, allowing only one bud’s length extension (about an inch) per year. So that part works …but the invisible problems underground made them short lived trees.

If I couldn’t find commercial rootstock …I’d purchase some cheap bagged ‘semi-dwarf’ trees from a large retailer next spring and graft them over to whatever you want. Purchase a base Yellow Delicious tree and you could have one limb as a YD pollinator and the rest can become whatever else you want. Do that to several apple trees with different bloom times and you’d likely have pollination covered.

But before that, I’d continue to search for a source of commercial rootstock.

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Sat Sep 22, 2012 1:47 pm
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Joined: Tue Sep 18, 2012 6:19 pm
Posts: 14
Location: Nova Scotia, Canada
Post Re: Dwarf vs. full-size
Thanks for the advice. You have answered a number of important questions. I have to admit that I am a bit overzealous at times. Part of the problem is that the only thing available in this province seems to be bare rooted or potted trees at outrageous prices. I have dug up a few suckers off my dwarf Honeycrisp. There were about 5 of them. I think it is M7 rootstock. I potted 4 of them but they seem to be failing. I should have waited until dormancy. Maybe they will rebound. The largest one had a very large, healthy section of root attached and I transplanted it into my veggie garden where the beans were this summer. It is doing well. I have decided to use that one to start a stool bed. I will continue to search for semidwarf rootstock. I realize this is a rookie question but will most companies send rootstock by mail/courier?


Sat Sep 22, 2012 5:51 pm
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