Apple Orchards – Apple Trees at a fraction of the Cost!

Starting an Apple Orchard can be very expensive, but there is a way to cut the cost drastically. How, by grafting scions or buds to rootstock and growing your own trees. Now you may think grafting is too difficult to learn, but you’re wrong, Apples are the easiest fruit trees to graft and it’s more difficult to do a bad graft than a good graft.

Here I will lay out the steps I take for growing my own trees from Rootstock. Grafting using scions, and/or buds is easy and the results are seen within a few weeks. I recommend using Scions as this is easier and quicker than bud grafting.

Step 1 – Choosing & Ordering Rootstock

The first step is to determine which type of rootstock you want for your trees. There are several different types which take into consideration; climate, tree size (dwarf to standard), soil type, and disease resistance. To make things easy for you many Orchard websites list their rootstock and give clear characteristics of each. So choosing your rootstock has been made easy for you, here is one example Raintree Nursery

Step 2 – Collecting Scions Or Using Buds

The next step is to find trees with the type of Apple you like and want in your Orchard. Note; When grafting, your Apple Tree will produce a perfect clone of the apple you took the scion or bud off. This is also how you produce different varieties of apples on the same tree.

Scions can be taken in November, December, or even March, just placed them in the refrigerator until you’re ready to start planting in the Spring. Store the Scions in a zip-loc bag with a small moist piece of paper towel, then place them in the fresh food drawer until your ready to plant. If you prefer Bud Grafting then this is done in Mid-Summer, between July 15th and Aug 15th, but you will need to have your rootstock already planted, thus why I prefer using Scions when Grafting. The best Graft for Rootstock is the Whip & Tongue Graft then the Cleft Graft, followed by the Bud Graft.

Step 3 – Preparing Your Rootstock Plot

When growing your own Apple Trees from rootstock you will need to prepare a small area to plant and protect them in. These trees will be in this protected plot for two to three years before planting in the yard or orchard. To protect them from the Deer put a 5ft fence up around the outer perimeter, then just inches away from the new trees place chicken-wire to keep the Rabbits out, and lastly right before winter place white tree trunk tubing around the base of your tree to protect them from the Mice. Tip- To help keep the soil most and rick add a layer of wood chips on the ground and spread some fertilizer.

Step 3 – When To Transplant

When should you transplant your Apple Trees in the yard or orchard, when they reach a height of three to four feet. This may only take two years in the protected plot for some of the trees, but diffidently after their third year in the plot you will want to transplant them.

Maple Syrup Season – 2019

It’s been a hard Winter, but that could not keep the Maple Trees from providing one of the best years of sap that I have seen. Maybe it was the amount of snow we got hit with this year, but whatever the reason we are thankful. The Maple Syrup turned out GREAT!

Collecting The Maple Tree Sap

With the steep hills we decided to take advantage of gravity and used more tube-lines this year on our taps, bring multiple lines down to our buckets. The tube-lines worked great and even made it safer, eliminating the occasional slip or fall when collecting the Sap on those hillsides. It also made it easier to haul the Sap to the evaporator since we could drive the 4-wheeler right to the buckets.

How Much Will A Tree Produce

Each Maple Tree on average will produce between 9 and 13 gallons of sap. However, the sugar concentrate will vary depending on the Maple Tree Type. Our sugar percentages ranged from 2.2% to 3.2%. Our estimate for sap to syrup ratio is 57 to 1 with a sugar concentrate of 1.5%, 40 to 1 with a sugar concentrate of 2.5%, and 25 to 1 for a sugar concentrate of 3.5%. We do use a Sap Hydrometer for this and figure we are using 30 to 35 gallons of sap to 1 gallon of syrup.

Boiling Stages

Our evaporator setup is far from being professional, but it works great for those of us who are only making a few gallons of Maple Syrup for family and friends. In our system we boil in three stages, making it easier to control and produce that great tasting Maple Syrup. The first stage is the evaporator, here we estimate the number of gallons of Sap we are boiling and boil down to a ratio of approximately 30 to 1 (typically it takes ~40 gallons to make one gallon of syrup). We start with 150 gallons of sap and will boil that down to ~5 gallons. We will then take this 5 gallons and put that into a Turkey Cooker, which is our second stage of boiling. Here we will boil that down unit it starts to foam over. At this stage the syrup is close and we move this into the kitchen for boiling a few more minutes and then filtering and storing into Mason Jars. Even though we have a Syrup Hydrometer we do not use it, as it’s easier in our setup to watch the temperature and for the foaming.


Maple Syrup

How do we know when the Maple Syrup has turned to the right concentrate? Well, we do not use the Hydrometer, as this takes time and when the syrup is at the right temperature you need to remove the heat right away or it will crystallize, giving you a lot of Maple Sugar. So we use a good cooking (Candy) thermometer, which has the jelly mark on it (shown in the video) and complete foaming over the top, also shown in the video. The temperature we are looking for is 219 (Jelly mark is at 220) and when it foams over the top remove it from the heat source.

The simplest way I know for knowing when the Maple Syrup is done is to trial a small batch first. Using a Candy Thermometer let the temperature reach 219 F. and then wait for the top to completely foam over. As soon as it foams over remove it from its heat source. Now you know what to watch for and what to expect and can move on to much larger batches with confidants.

Tapping Maple Trees

Tapping Maple Trees can start as early as mid-February and continue through early April depending on the weather. To tap a Maple Tree drill a hole slightly larger than your tap diameter, 2 – 4 feet above the ground. The hole should be drilled at a slight upward angle to a depth of about 3 inches and above a major root system going into the ground. Use a hammer to lightly tap the spike into the tree (two inches is good).

How To Get Started In Making Maple Syrup- 2018 Best Taste

How To Start Making Maple Syrup

If you’re interested in making your own Maple Syrup you may want to start out small and learn everything you can the first year with minimal cost. I recommend setting your goal at 1 to 2 gallons of syrup, which will require ~80 gallons of sap (40 -1 ratio). What will you need; taps, buckets, evaporator/pans, fire/stove and a planned process, all which we will describe in this article.

Tapping The Trees

The first thing we need to do is tap and collect the sap, so how do we do that. Start by purchasing a few taps (24), a few buckets/pals (10), and a few feet of tubing. Next drill and tap your trees using a battery drill and small hammer. For our first year we gather 100 gallons of sap (10 trees tapped) then pulled our taps. Again we were in the learning stage and set our goal to 1 – 2 gallons of the final product “Maple Syrup”.

Sap Collecting

We started by tapping ten trees, putting in two or three taps per tree. Smaller trees use only one tap and very large trees can have up to 4 taps. We then used our Vinyl Tubing and Tee Connections and fed the tubing into our buckets (drilled hole in lid). In the first week we had plenty of sap to start boiling. You will want to filter your sap before boiling to remove wood, bugs, etc.. and filter the final syrup to remove the sugar sands.

Boiling Down The Sap

We collected 100 gallons of Sap and boiled off 95% of the water or down to 5 gallons, which gave us a very high concentration of Maple Sugar Sap. The first major boil-off was with our homemade fire pit and evaporator, using dead elm for firewood. The next step was to take the 5 gallons of Sap up to the house and boil that down to 3.5 gallons in a Turkey Cooker. Next we divided those 3.5 gallons into 3 pans to finished our boiling on the stove where we could control the heat and boil to perfection (Maple Syrup).

Fire Pit & Evaporator Boiling

Here you will need to design your own stove and evaporator. We use bricks for the stove and stainless steel pans for the evaporating. In our design we used two pans and six concrete blocks per side (recommend 9 blocks per side and 3 pans). The stainless steel pans are 6” deep and 20” long.

Materials:

Cement Blocks @ $1.05/ea
Stainless Steel Pans @ $30/ea
Turkey Cooker @ $108.99
Tree Taps “Fleet Farm CDL Maxflow 5/16” clear smart spouts (12 PK)” @ $4.29
Tee Connections “Fleet Farm CDL Maxflow 5/16” Tees (12 PK)” @ $5.29
Vinyl Tubing (10 trees 40 ft) @ $0.32/ft.
Ten Buckets with lids @ $3/ea
Filters @ $2/ea

Stages Of Boiling

Stage 1 Fire pit & Evaporator “See pictures, video & design layout”.
Stage 2 Turkey Cooker “See video”
Stage 3 Stove “See Video”

Results “Maple Syrup”

We found that the Maple Syrup was light in color (Amber) for the big leaf Maple Trees and much darker for the other Sugar Maples, as seen in the pictures.

Learnings:

We found once you’re set up and have the initial cost that collecting the sap and boiling it down in the woods is nothing but time spent. So 100 gallons or 1,000 gallons would not of been any more cost other than time and cutting more firewood. We also found out that when burning Elm we only use 30 – 40 logs for our 100 gallons and we had plenty of wood to do 5 times that. It took us 9 hours to boil our 100 gallons down and with 3 pans we may of be able to cut that to 5 hours? We did have great weather for boiling, but a Sugar Shack would help shorten the boiling time even more. We also discovered that making Maple Syrup is easy to do and was much less work than we thought it would be. As for knowing when the syrup was ready we watched for the foaming and color and took it off the stove at that time (did not use a thermometer or barometer). We must of guess correctly each time as the taste and thickness were great/perfect on each batch.

When Do You Prune Fruit Trees – Pruning & Grafting Apple Trees.

When Do You Graft & Trim Apple Trees

Warmer temperatures are here, which means many of our activities we outdoors enthusiast love are upon us, such as; time to start tapping trees for Maple Syrup, cutting Scions, Pruning Fruit Trees (if not done in November), Cutting Firewood for next season, Clearing Downfall from Winter, preparing for the Spring Turkey Hunt, and well you get the point more activities then we have time for.

Today I find myself in the Apple orchard cutting new Scions for starting my own Apple Trees on the 64 acres of land I just purchased. The land needs some adjustments and one of those adjustments will be to plant a few hundred apple trees throughout. Yes since I have many different types of mature apple trees, which produce hundreds of new Scions each year (root-stock is less than $2), I will plant dozens of apple trees in selected areas. Down in the Valley I will plant mostly Connell Reds, with a few HoneyCrisp mixed in, since they do not require much work, are hardy to diseases & weather, and produce a lot of apples.

How to Create Better Deer habitat

In the pastures (fields) between the wooded areas I will only place a few trees (Conned Reds & HoneyCrisp) and let most of the pasture grow for deer bedding and the Pheasants. I will keep the grass trimmed around the trees, but only mow the field once every two years. All trees will require fencing, so I will buy 5ft Galvanized Welded fencing and make a 5ft diameter around the tree. I will use electrical fence post (3 post) to support the fence. Once the trees have been in the ground for 3 – 4 years I will cut the fence in half, double the circumference, wrap chicken wire around the tree’s base (very loose), add another electrical fence post (4 total), and move the fence up off the ground by weaving it on the 4 post. This will help protect the trees until they’re large enough to survive any damage the deer or rabbits my cause.

*Note; I put all my new trees (root-stock with sciosn) in a fenced off garden for two years before transferring them to the orchard or field. Currently I have just over 100 trees ready to be transferred from my garden.

On this new land I will start two different apple orchards, one close to the new home I’m going to build and the other on one end of the tillable. These two Orchards will include Connell Reds, Wealthy, HoneyCrisp, Sweet Sixteen, & Zestar. I will also plant White Spruce, Norway, & Blue Spruce in the deer crossing corridors to help reserve these crossing and to heighten the Deer’s sense of security.

When To Prune Apples Trees

Next weekend (Feb 18th) I will start trimming my apple trees in the orchard since the weather is warmer than usual. Typically I like to do this in November or the first of March, but with the warmer temperatures this year I will get an early jump on it. Once done with the Orchard I will get back out to the new land and continue to clean up the woods.

How To Improve Your Woods For Hunting

Another way to improve your woods, other than planting trees is to cut down some trees. By taking down dead trees, cleaning up downfall, cutting up trees that are leaning, and making brush piles you can improve the floor of the woods greatly. The brush piles will create cover for game such as rabbits and grouse, while cutting up the trees allows for more sunlight to penetrate to the ground/floor and improve vegetation and new tree growth. You can also thin out smaller diameter trees to allow for the larger and more mature trees to grow and develop faster. Both of these techniques will enrich your woods and make it cleaner and easier for walking and hunting.

*Note, be careful in sloped areas or areas of erosion. If you have questions or are concerned about Forestry Management consult your DNR Forestry Dept.

How Do Honeybees Make Honey!

Collecting Nectar & Pollen For Winter

It’s Oct 24 and there are only a few warm days left for the Honeybees to gather nectar and pollen for their Winter food supply. So this is why you see so many Bees working aggressively during these final warm Fall days. Yes, Honeybees use both Nectar & Pollen for a food source and here is why!

Collecting Nectar

To make Honey a honeybee needs to fly to several hundred flowers to gather its Nectar. To collect this nectar the bee sucks it from the flower and stores it in its Nectar Sac, or a separate stomach for just storing nectar. When the nectar sac is full the honeybee will return to the hive and pass the nectar to the indoor bees via their mouths. These indoor bees will do the work of reducing the water content down by chewing the honey and passing it on to another bee until the water content is only 17% – 20%. To evaporate more water from the honey, the bees will place the honey into the honeycomb and fan it until the correct water content is reached, then the comb will be sealed with wax and stored for Winter use (food).

The Honey Process

So how was the honey made and where did the water come from. The water is in the Nectar the flower produced, but the honey is made as the bee sucks the nectar into its mouth. There the bees have glands that secrete an enzyme into the Nectar (sucrose), which generates glucose and fructose honey. Sounds gross right, but it does taste good! Note, Honey produced by Honeybees has a low pH that is inhospitable to bacteria, mold, and fungi, allowing it to last for years without refrigeration.

What If The Honeybee Gets Hungry

If the honeybee gets hungry and needs energy during its travel is can open a valve in its Nectar Sac, allowing a portion of the nectar to passe through to it’s stomach. At the hive the bee can eat honey already produced if needed. Note, A bee will produce 1/12 of a teaspoons of honey in its lifetime, so you can see it takes a lot of Honeybees to make a quart of honey.

Why Do Bees Collect Pollen

Pollen is used as a food source, but it does not produce the Honey we all know so well and like. The honeybee also stores the pollen on its back legs instead of in a special sac like the nectar, as you can see in the picture below. But how is it used? The bees will mixed the pollen with honey making a Bee Bread (food), which is rich in protein and the main food source for both the larvae and new baby bees. Note, A bee can collect about have their body weight in pollen.