Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Apple Tree Debacle

This is a prime example of how things sometimes just don't go very well around here.

When we moved here eight years ago, there was a small orchard of apple trees out back.  They were overgrown and didn't look very healthy and bore little to no fruit.  In spite of our attempts to prune them back, there was no progress, so we chopped them down and planted new trees.

Seven.  Seven one-year-old apple trees (a.k.a. sticks) of various kinds.  We were looking forward to one day being able to use our own apples to make applesauce since we make and eat so much of it.

Fast forward 5 or 6 years and you know what we've discovered (we're obviously a little slow on the up-take when it comes to apple trees)?  At least five of the seven are beautiful, healthy CRAB APPLE TREES!


What's worse is that we weren't very good at saving receipts back then, so even though they were labeled as the fruit trees we ordered (we did make a little map showing where each variety was planted), we don't have our receipt to prove the purchase or even remember WHERE we purchased them from!

A local gardening center confirmed (via pictures Jamey took) that they are indeed crab apples and that we actually got a good deal because crab apples are twice as expensive as real fruit trees.

Yeah.  As if that's going to make us feel better.

So, what to do?  Since they are really nice, healthy trees, we might try to transplant a couple around the property- but that will take a lot of digging.  If you're local and are in the market for a nice crab apple tree (and would like to dig it up yourself), please let us know.  The ONE bright spot in all of this is that since planting those trees, we've heard that some folks have had success growing our favorite applesauce apple (Cortlands) in our area (which we did not think was the case originally).  So.  We're thinking of replanting the orchard with Cortlands this fall.

Between this, the fact that our beautiful huge Mimosa tree seems to be dying, a beautiful (large) flowering cherry we bought last fall for the front yard is dead, and the fact that our one hive of bees appears to be swarming it's hiney off (more on that later), we're a bit Crabby these days.

Pun most certainly intended.

Have any gardening or homesteading blunders to share?  It's therapeutic (albeit a little embarrassing) to put it all out there:-). Pin It


  1. Crabapples do make beautiful jelly. :)

  2. When we bought our farmstead there was a huge crab apple tree in full production with lots of little apples. To make applesauce out of them we just wash the apples, boil them whole, then press them through a sieve. Wallah! Applesauce without any peeling involved.

  3. One year I spent hours attempting to shell snap peas... http://bit.ly/12gCpg9

    1. Ms. Beet Head,
      Love your stories, but should know by now not to be drinking anything while reading them.
      Now I have to clean off the sweet tea I spit on my laptop screen before it dries!

      Sounds like I would look into some of the crab apple applesauce recipes, it won't be exactly want you wanted but might work for now. Sounds so frustrating to me!

  4. Maybe you can contact a local tree farm and organize an exchange? Since the crab apple trees are more expensive, maybe you can trade them for some similar sized apples of a variety you want.

  5. Oh how sad. On the other hand Crab Apple Jelly is delicious - though I'm not sure 5 trees might make A LOT of jelly.

  6. The Showalters Orchard folks use crab apples in their cider, I think... Maybe you could pick them and sell the fruits of your labor to the Showalters? Just a thought. :-)

  7. Oh no!!!!! I'm so sorry. I would be furious! How frustrating that you don't have a way of proving the nursery's mistake (or even who to call to task over the ordeal). I like the idea of exchanging them with some local nursery since they are supposedly more valuable. You'll have to let us know if that works out!

  8. Sorry about this... we have only two apple trees and were so looking forward to getting fruit for the first time this year... but now have discovered spots all over one... so we're in a learning curve here, too!

  9. We planted 6 blueberry bushes last summer and we've harvested about 6 blueberries THIS summer. We planted them in planters along with lavender, which is doing uh-mazing by the way. Maybe a little too good! Too bad we can't EAT it. ;-/ love, Michelle (Give a Girl a Fig...this is my hubby's account I just realized!)

    1. It takes about three years before you will get a real harvest from berry bushes. Hang tight and give it another summer or two before feeling like you've failed.


  10. I ordered from Seed Savers Exchange one year from a man that advertised these great blackberry vines. Got my vines and planted them. Two years later those things made the biggest blackberry bushes you have ever seen with huge berries. Only problem was that the thorns on them things got you from about 6 feet away. You would have to have a suit of armor to pick them. O Wise One mowed them down after that. He still harasses me about those blackberries every time I want to try something new! We have all made that mistake in gardening. Wrong seeds shipped, wrong chicks from the hatchery, etc. That's why when I find a reliable supplier I stick with it...not cheaper just reliable : )

  11. Crab Apples are great for making pectin for canning. Plus, they'll fertilize the other apple tree blossoms... I'd keep 'em around since you spent so much time growing them...

  12. Crab apples make THE BEST applesauce ever and are good for many other apple recipes, too - plus pectin. Here's my favorite crab apple recipes (including applesauce): http://proverbsthirtyonewoman.blogspot.com/2012/08/what-to-do-with-crab-apples.html#.Ucno75zjvCc

  13. You could also graft some cortland onto the crabapples. Or find someone who does that to do it for you. It's a shame to waste those healthy trees.

  14. If you have the space, consider keeping them to attract honeybees. I've also found that the blossoms make lovely table displays. Since moving to our farm, we sorely miss the crabapple tree in the front yard of our former home in town. I do NOT miss the yellow jackets that loved the fallen, rotting fruit, though. You'll want to pick the crabapples, or clean up the fallen ones daily.

  15. In the spirit of making lemonade from lemons (or whatever that lemon phrase is), you could make crabapple jelly. Plant more regular apples in addition.

    That's a great idea to make pectin from the crabapples. That would be another homemade item and could make sugar-free jam with it, I think.

  16. So sorry for the difficulties. I had a beautiful Mimosa that gave up the ghost years many ago and I still miss it. We haven't replanted (well, not intentionally) because they can become a reseeding problem in our area. I'm still pulling up baby mimosa trees from flower beds where I don't want them. While Mimosa trees don't live an extremely long time, they grow really fast and so maybe you get a replacement started if you want. I'm with everyone else on the crabapple jelly/pectin idea. You might be able to turn this one into a success story after all! I'm am VERY sorry to hear about your bees swarming. Our 1st hive swarmed multiple times after surviving it's 1st winter. We lost 2 out of 3 hives this past winter and still don't know for certain why. The only thing that's 100% certain with beekeeping is the bees will do as they wish. That said we have 3 hives that are thriving now and a split that's looking good (fingers crossed). I cannot wait to hear your swarm story.

  17. I can certainly understand your frustration, especially after having to wait five or six YEARS to find out that what you planted is NOT what you purchased. Ugh! But as previously mentioned, when life hands you lemons, you make lemonade. I would keep the crab apples but plant some Cortland trees as well. Who knows, the crab apples may end up being a blessing in disguise! There are obviously plenty of benefits to having them based on previous comments. There are a lot of good suggestions posted above. Be sure to let us know what you decide to do.

  18. Ha! Look at what I just found totally by accident. What a coincidence!! http://www.lovelygreens.com/2011/10/spiced-crab-apple-butter_04.html =D

  19. oh man, I would be steamed. I have LOTS of dumb gardening mistakes. One year we planted red raspberries right on top of tree roots and they don't have enough soil to really produce - so every year we get a handful of raspberries, period. And we just don't have the vision or energy or whatever to rip them out and figure out how to do it better.

    Hope you get your Cortlands! They make the delicious pink sauce, right? I think I don't use them because they are summer apples and I purely can't stand the idea of heating up my kitchen with one more thing to can in the summer. So I am satisfied with fall apples :)

    1. They're actually ready in late September/early October. And, yes, they make pink, sweet (with no sugar added) sauce:-).

  20. Bri: thebearwife.wordpress.com
    (I meant to put this in a more generic spot, but couldn't find one! sorry about the off topic. Though on a side note...that is a bummer of a gardening mistake. After so many years too!)
    I have really enjoyed your blog and think that more people should enjoy it also. For that reason I have nominated you for the Liebster award. (I can’t seem to be able to copy the logo here, but you can see it on my site). From what I’ve read the Liebster award is an informal award chain given to up and coming bloggers who have less than 200 readers/followers. ‘Liebster’ in German means – dearest, sweetest, kindest, beloved….and all the nice words you can think of. Please don’t feel obligated to continue this, I just find it a fun thing to do and a way to encourage others.
So here are the rules for this award:
1. Thank the blog that has given you the award.
2. State 11 random facts about yourself.
3. Answer the questions that the tagger set for you.
4. Choose 11 people and link them in your post.
5. Create 11 questions for the people you’ve tagged to answer
6. Go to their page and tell them.

    The “Eleven” Questions: (I only chose eight. You can add more if you like.)
1. What writers/people have inspired you most?

    2. What is your idea of a relaxing day?

    3. If you could have an alternate career, what would it be?

    4. What is your favourite season and why?
5. What is your greatest accomplishment?
    6. If you could be any character from any story, who would you be, and why?
    7. What is a great passion of yours?
    8. What advancement in society would you most like to see by the time you turn 80, and why?

  21. So sorry! But if I remember properly from my younger days (when my folks had both bee hives and lots of apple trees, both "regular" and crab apple) the earlier blossoming crab apples were great for the honey bees.
    Don't know if that's any comfort or not ;)

    I so enjoy your blog and appreciate it very much!

  22. Best of luck with replanting the orchard with Cortlands this fall. Oh! This is so sad to know that your Mimosa tree seems to be dying, also flowering cherry is dead..this is really sad! But be optimistic...hope for the best!

  23. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  24. Well I'm actually pretty surprised nobody else suggested it, but you can graft in a sorts of different cuttings (scion wood) from other fruit trees and get perfectly good apples from your crab apple trees! In fact, it's very common for apple trees to be shipped on crab apple root stock.

    Here are a few links to help you out:

    Good luck and let us know how it works out... if you try!


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