Over the past couple of weeks, in between lessons, work, and innumerable outdoor projects, I've been busy researching my newest obsession: heirloom apples. My interest in apples actually goes back several years to when I first read The Botany of Desire (a fascinating book!). However, during our recent "mini unit" for Johnny Appleseed's birthday, my interest was renewed.

I'm finding it absolutely thrilling to dig through old books researching the hundreds (really, thousands) of apple varieties that exist, or once existed. And in my research, I've stumbled upon dozens of equally interesting "rabbit trails," from Roman orchard management, to the history of apples in Kansas. I even learned about the two apples grown by Almanzo Wilder at his Rocky Ridge Farm in Mansfield, MO (an article about the orchard, written by Laura Ingalls Wilder, can be found here), which I found interesting.

Carefully I've drafted list upon list, trying to determine the varieties that I would most like to grow. With equal care, I've drawn up a map of our property...planning out proper spacing and where each tree will go. There's much to learn, and much to do. Finally, this was the list for our initial fall planting:


  • Ayers
  • Moonglow

This spring, we'll be adding the following:


  • Autumn Strawberry
  • Bee Bench
  • Green Horse
  • Ice
  • Haywood June
  • Forward Sour
  • Sal
  • Virginia Beauty
  • Yellow Horse
  • Yellow Winesap
  • Smokehouse
  • Sops in Wine
  • Pink Pearl
  • Court Pendu Plat
  • Winter White Pearmain
  • Ashmead's Kernel
  • Wickson Crab
  • Irish Peach
  • Madeleine
  • Beurre Gris d'Hiver Nouveau
  • Belle Angevine
  • Rousselt de Rheims

All in all, we'll have 35 semi-standard trees, and 20 (?) or more dwarf trees. I'm considering a handful of peach, cherry, apricot and plum trees as well, to add a little variety (and a Medlar tree!). A number of the varieties I've selected (in particular, the 4 French pears) will be a gamble - there was no data to document their success/failure here or disease resistance, so I'm taking a chance on their survival.

This winter, my goal will be to learn as much as possible about organic and low-spray orchard management, including farmscaping and integrated pest management. I'm hoping to add chickens (who will free range in the orchard) and an apiary next spring as well!


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