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From time to time I get questions regarding people looking for “instant orchard” trees. What’s the real deal with “instant orchard” fruit trees? First, ask yourself, does anything worth investing in ever come instantly?

Here’s how the nursery trade works. First, small, 1 year-old rootstocks (non-bearing fruit trees of various species) are grafted to good fruit producing cultivars like Goldrush. Those trees are then grown in the field like row crops for 1 season, and sometimes 2 at most. They are then dug up (usually at 1 year old from grafting) and sold as high-quality, vigorous bare-root trees. This is what our nursery does. However, not all those bare-root trees sell. What to do? Well, many nurseries then put them in pots, in an attempt to keep them alive and retain a saleable product for the nursery market. While not ideal, that’s OK as long as the trees are well taken care of and sold very shortly thereafter, like in 1-4 months or so. However, many nurseries just keep holding these trees aside, either to get them bigger and bigger or because they are not selling. This is really not good. The reason being, trees several years old that have remained in pots for several seasons are now permanently disabled from producing extensive and natural root systems. They undoubtedly have undergone massive stress in the forms of nutrient, water and heat imbalances and excess/deficiencies.
The poor little root system has been strangled in a pot for years and is probably circling around and starting to girdle itself. These trees will never, ever perform nearly as well as a young, vital bare-root specimen that was raised well and planted promptly. Also, the branching structure has undoubtedly formed very poorly due to a complete lack of training and making proper angles, as is done in the orchard by the orchardist.

However, these sickly, oversized and very stressed trees, when planted in the ground, are usually big enough to begin flowering and fruiting immediately, adding greatly to the stress load that they have already undergone. Fruiting is strenuous on a tree as uses a lot of nutrients. A tree that is already stressed and has been abused, and that does not have an established root system (because of the extreme length of nursery container growing and having just recently been planted) is now being asked to fruit immediately. This is simply asking a tree to do something completely unnatural and overly difficult. Trees such as this may in fact give a handful of mediocre apples after planting, but will never thrive and will never establish very well, and will end up in the burn pile within a few years. While the neighbor’s trees that were young, bare-root apples and pears will continue to thrive for decades. They simply had the patience to wait a few years before getting apples and were not scammed by the “instant orchard” spiel.

So, the “instant orchard” tree marketing scam is simply nurseries that want to make extra money selling the impatient public a (costly) dream of instant gratification. This comes at the loss of establishing a vigorous, long-term orchard that will serve you, the customer, well for many years. And any nurseryman worth anything is very well aware of this. That’s why I call it a scam. If you’re one of these folks looking for an instant orchard, I’d suggest simply going to the grocery store, buying some decent apples, and planting some healthy, vigorous young trees and being patient. Otherwise you’ll invest in something that sounds great on paper but will just be a big disappointment in the coming years. At that point you’ll be several years out with big, poor “instant orchard” trees getting pulled out of the ground, and could be already seeing the first buds forming on healthy, naturally developed trees instead. You can see this also with other species of trees like pines or maples. Huge, 12 foot tall ball and burlap trees never grow as vigorously or as strong as a young, 2-4 foot tall whip, and the huge trees often die after planting, at great expense and effort.

So, please try to understand this reality from a professional nurserman’s experience. We all would like our fruit trees to produce fruit quickly. But, the best things in life are worth waiting for. If you are wanting fruit quickly, I suggest looking into our Dwarf M7 apples, pears grafted onto OH x 87 or 97 rootstock, peaches and berry vines. Our berries produce in 6-12 months after planting, peaches usually in 2 years and the M7 apples in 3-4. In the meantime, study orchard books, improve your orchard, and buy some good apples at the farmer’s market or organic grocery store.

And, if you’re wondering where our nursery’s unsold, large apple trees held over in pots go, I’ll tell you. If we don’t sell them within one season, they go where they belong: in the burn pile. We don’t sell poor quality specimens and we don’t like disappointed customers.