There is no Spoon. Breaking all the Tree Planting Rules

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Since I pretty much take and invert the common advice nowadays, I’ve decided to lump about a million and a half tests and growing techniques into a single area that completely defy common “wisdom” (read delusion). The waterfall of singular thinking nowadays is really breath taking, and with the internet becoming ever more popular, particularly for cut and paste information sites, there is an ever increasing need to completely shatter the monoculture. Not just in plants but also in the way we interact, and think about them.

I have decided to dedicate a small test area to planting 4 apple trees in the most unimaginable ways possible, giving me a wealth of information about what to actually believe and act on. I have a number of other tests much more extreme going as well that I haven’t brought to the surface via a blog, but perhaps someday.

granny neighbors apple tree
Granny Neighbors. I would gladly give much space to this tree in honor of the family name.

The Tests

Here are the following tests and parameters that are being examined in this small plot of trees.

  • The following 4 apple trees will set fruit in Southeast Louisiana on our Farm (Granny Neighbors, Black Limbertwig, May, Yates).
  • Planting trees in the middle of summer will grow fine, if not better than in pots.
  • Trees on seedling rootstocks planted at 5 foot spacings will make an absolutely awesome productive and healthy hedge.
  • Graft unions placed BELOW soil line will allow the scion to root, but with minimal pruning will not necessarily grow to be a mammoth.
  • Bending and shaping of these densely planted trees will produce fruit faster, even being on its own roots or seedling roots.


What I Believe

Below is what I actually believe about the world and where these “tests” (natural behavior really) come from.

Apple Trees Can be Grown in any Location

Those who follow my work will see this as absolutely no surprise. After having done enough literature review, talking with apple “experts”, seeing things in the field, and my own trials, I believe apples can be grown in absolutely any location on earth. At least in the sense they aren’t limited based on “heat” or “humidity” or “chill hours” or any such other nonsense many people state as fact.

As of this moment, I have 9 fruiting apple trees right now which have been rained on more than any other location in the United States. Give me a few years when 9 turns into dozens and dozens and dozens.

Densely Planted Apple Trees are More Natural than Individual Trees Spaced Out

Its clear as daylight to see in nature that apple trees do not grow in open spaces. In fact, how exactly they would get there naturally is an extreme mystery to me as they are typically edge dwelling species (of forests) and are often growing under the top of other trees. Comparatively, the sight of apple trees growing out in the middle of a field is a bit puzzling.

When walking in a natural setting, it is far more likely to see clumps and thickets of apples than you are to find 1 apple tree, evenly spaced out not touching any branches of anything else. While it may have been shown that this has the potential to produce “the most” per tree, when taking into the health of the tree and in space taken up, I have sincere doubts.

In this particular test, I will not be leaving the trees to do anything they want, but they will actually be pruned and shaped into a hedgerow. I have not 100% decided what exactly it’ll look like, but it’ll probably be some form of a free standing espalier system.

Fibrous tree roots
Very Very fibrous root system. All the way up is roots.

Trees can Planted in the Summer time in the Southeast (Or Anywhere)

This is going to be a hard one for many people to believe, but I believe that trees can be planted any time of the year. As with all of these beliefs, there are a number of caveats to these statements; and when it comes to this one, I believe depending on how they are planted, which trees and where makes all the difference. The trees I have planted have gone into excellent deep and large beds (that used to be garden beds) and have extremely fibrous root systems produced using rootmaker pots. These fibrous rootsystems are likely to allow the tree to maintain its own moisture zone far better than anything produced via bareroot or typical pots. I am not going to swear by these pots quite yet but I would say after this test in particular, I’ll know for sure.

These fibrous rootsystems on the seedling rootstocks are actually quite interesting to note since seedling rootstocks have very very thick tap roots which in many cases, I pruned off and then let the rootmakers do what they’re supposed to do. My first take on them is “it works”.


In closing I should state that I have completely given up fear of trying things and I want to encourage as many other people to do the same. I honestly don’t care if my trees die or do poorly because they can and will be replaced. Once you give up on caring about a single event and a single individual the way you see the world completely changes allowing you to be more open to possibilities and allowing nature to actually take its course.

Knowing what you want in the end also helps drive this, and for me it is nature taking care of its own health with my job being to take care of the big vision, implementation and overall security of the system. Its my job to understand how nature works and stays healthy and to ensure that “nature” (as a whole) gets what it needs for that to happen, which can primarily be summed up as functioning and full mineral cycling occurring in timed periods. I’ll save that discussion for another time as it warrants more than a single article on its own.

Happy planting, and have no fear!

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