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Dorothy Collins column: Many apple varieties do well in our climate

Almost everyone who has a yard and garden would love to have an apple tree. If their children are little, they can grow up having an apple tree to climb; if their children are beyond the climbing age, everyone can watch the tree grow and sit in i...

Almost everyone who has a yard and garden would love to have an apple tree.

If their children are little, they can grow up having an apple tree to climb; if their children are beyond the climbing age, everyone can watch the tree grow and sit in its shade.

Of course, the biggest reason is they can enjoy the fruit.

But as everyone who has grown an apple tree knows, fruit trees are not like other trees -- they require care and are attacked by enemies. And sometimes you can have an apple tree for a couple years, and then, lo, winter takes them to the better land.

There are, of course, answers to the questions people pose about the undependability of apple trees.

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The first one -- requiring some care -- means that one should see that no insect or disease is descending and see that they are pruned, if they need it.

The second -- treating problems like insects or disease -- means that measures should be taken to prevent or treat those insects or diseases.

The third question -- hardiness -- means you should plant trees that are fully hardy. Those won't usually be the apple trees you see at supermarkets; they are grown in more suitable places for the full gamut of apple trees -- Red and Golden Delicious, McIntosh, Jonathan, Wealthy and Beacon. Also, dwarf trees are not very hardy because of the tender rootstocks upon which the tops have been grafted.

One of the best apple varieties for this area, and one which has been used for many years, is Haralson, or Haralred, which is a red sport of Haralson. The apple is juicy and a bit tart, but it is good for eating and cooking, and stores well for several months.

The tree is very hardy and moderately resistant to fire blight, a disease where the limbs suffer dieback before killing the tree. I lost a Haralson to fire blight, so it isn't completely resistant, but more so than other varieties. It bears early, about Oct. 1.

Another recommended variety, Hazen, which was developed by NDSU, has a milder taste than Haralson, and is good for cooking and eating. The fruit is dark red and is ready in late August or early September. The tree is a natural semi-drawf that bears at a young age and is moderately resistant to fire blight.

One recommended by Dave DeCock, Cass County Extension horticulturist, for early cooking is Dutchess or Red Dutchess.

DeCock says it is a popular variety for pie, sauce and jelly, but too tart for eating. The tree is moderately resistant to fire blight and the fruit is ready to be picked in late August. It will store for two weeks.

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Other varieties which DeCock says will do well in our area include Sweet Sixteen and State Fair. These are introductions from Minnesota that are moderately resistant to fire blight, but they do have susceptibility to apple scab. Others from Minnesota that are highly recommended but haven't been fully tested are Honeycrisp and Zestar.

If you would like to grow other fruits in addition to, or instead of, apples, there are a number that are hardy. They include crabapples, pears and plums. However, sour cherries and apricots are borderline in hardiness.

When planting fruits, find sites with wind protection as well as choice of the best varieties. Fire blight resistance is very important. One of the limitations on varieties is the shortness of our growing season.

For information on varieties of other fruits, call DeCock at (701) 241-5707.

Collins is The Forum's garden columnist. Write to her by mail at The Forum, Box 2020, Fargo ND 58107, or direct e-mail to her at drhodes@forumcomm.com

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