New Video for All, Starting Apple Trees from Seed — 26 Comments

  1. Thanks for clearing this process up. I put my seeds in the freezer because I knew about stratifying. Oh well, I guess they are no good. Time to save some more. Have lots of time before I need to plant anyway:)

  2. Watch the video with closed captioning on! It’s hilarious! I’m watching at work and have to watch with the sound off, and it’s way off. Apparently youtube doesn’t understand your accent, Jack.

  3. If you pay attention to the seeds, some apple seeds will sprout without stratification. I’ve have a dozen or so, some of which had started to sprout within the apple, but although they grew well, none of them could survive a prairie winter. They grew well the first year inside with minimal heat but once outside for winter they gave up, even with a heavy mulch in a somewhat protected area.

    They might have worked really well for someone in a much milder climate…-35 plus windchill is a lot to ask of a tree.

    Something I’ve tried this year for the first time is sprouting chestnut trees from the grocery store and they work well, I’ve had 4 out of 5 sprout so far. I’d read somewhere that you had to plant the chestnuts immediately once they fell from the tree or they’d dry up and lose viability; I’m here to tell you that’s nonsense. Who knows how long those chestnuts had been away from their parent tree? I didn’t stratify either.

    One tip about chestnuts..where the sprout comes out of the pointed end is the ventricle and should be planted pointing down.. the first one I planted upside down and the thing had to curl up and over itself to get back into the business of being a root. I’ve got these things growing in Big Gulp cups (only thing I could think of that was tall and had lots of room for a vigorous baby tree to send out roots that didn’t cost a fortune…50 cents each) with slashes cut around the bottom of the sides and the bottom, sitting in 2 quart milk containers, they fit fine. When I transferred them to the containers, the one that was planted upside down had a long tap root already with secondary roots so it may get a bit root bound before I’ll be able to plant it outside. Next ones, I’ll run chopsticks down the sides to see if that helps direct the roots downward to help avoid that, thanks for that tip in the video!

    I’ve also started berry seeds.. strawberries, goji and haskaps, from seed. The haskap handles being frozen just fine, in fact may need that degree of cold, they come from the north. So far, not a lot of luck with blueberries. I used the goji from dried fruit and didn’t stratify that either and it sprouted and grew, but was another which didn’t cope with the winter here.

    It may be that anything which doesn’t need to be stratified won’t be able to cope with a severe winter such as ours, but when using seeds from the grocery list all it costs to try is a little time and potting soil, and the ones which work will save a TON of money. It’s also highly satisfying to see these suckers sprout and come up.

    Now if only I could get rid of the wildlife – moles and gophers and rabbits – that has moved onto the property and is munching on everything I plant – . I would be a happy camper.
    No problem sharing but they don’t just eat one plant, they chomp bits out of all of them. Suggestions would be nice.. I know moles aerate the compacted soil but they are really doing a lot of damage to the garden, everything from raspberries to potatoes (both of which were doing just fine, compacted soil or not!)

    That’s one area that I haven’t seen addressed at all by permaculture so far; it isn’t the same thing as bugs or blight, these beasts are delighted to feast on perfectly healthy plants.

    Anyway, nice video, you are a great source of information and your willingness to share is very much appreciated. Thank you.

    • I wrap my fruit trees in white heavy vinyl strips secured with twine. I got big roll of heavy vinyl film from discarded material at work. I’ve had deer bite small trees in half and rabbit girder the trunks but so far they haven’t messed with trees wrapped in plastic. Can’t say much about the moles, I have them in the garden but they’re staying out of my bushes and trees.

      In the summer a repellant spray from the hardware store works but in the winter physical deterrents is the only thing I’ve found effective. I’d fence your plants off or wrap each plant up, maybe both.

      A dog also does a decent job at keeping wildlife away.

    • We are both blessed and cursed with a lot of black walnut trees as well as the walnuts. We have on occasion harvested them, but it’s a lot of work for a little meat. One summer, we simply piled all of the walnuts in a big pile, and the following spring, had dozens of small walnut trees growing out of the pile. We didn’t need more, so gave them to a friend who planted them. AFAIK, those trees are all still growing after nearly a decade.

  4. I’ve got crabapple seeds in the fridge right now from my property.
    Didn’t think about leaving them in the paper towel with some heat on them (around 70 degrees). That’s a really good idea.

    I should do that with other seedlings as well… (rather than planting them and seeing later if they germinated).

  5. In a southern climate you need low chill hour varieties of apple trees. Using seeds from grocery store fruit may result in a great growing tree that rarely sets fruit. Best to use apples from local trees in this case.

    • Yawn, so many myths about this stuff. I have seen almost every variety of apple gown in Texas. Especially north Texas. I don’t think people really get what this climate is like, our zone is 7B. Yep despite the hype about global warming we have been downgraded from 8a to 7b.

      We get on average 800 chilling hours a year. Plenty for most apple varieties.

      South is a relative term. I keep saying it and people don’t get it, this is a tough climate. We get winters like Missouri and summers like Southern California.

      • Agreed.

        This is more of a problem for a person like myself sitting at 8b-9a (and further south) where we’re looking at 300-600. 800 chill hours on average is definitely good to go for most varieties of any plants.

        Planting from seed, particularly more chill hour requiring species, just means that you didn’t have to pay money for plants that are marginal in your area, and will probably one day do well. Better than paying 20-35 dollars per individual tree.

  6. Great video. Good focus. Good audio, even in the wind. Very important.

    This year, without this video but unwittingly doing the same thing, I tried to sprout 6 seeds from an etrog. (It’s a type of citrus fruit. Looks like a lemon. Used for religious purposes, mostly, but I thought it would be fun to grow.). I succeeded by accident because I’m lazy. I left the seeds in the refrigerator NOT because of any advice Jack gave me, but because I never got around to experimenting with the seeds but when I decided to start planting, I noticed one seed had germinated.

    I put 6 seeds in potting soil. 5 germinated but one of the sprouts was so small and sickly that I decided to cull it. The 4 are now about 5 inches tall and growing straight, not spindly. I am growing them inside for now.

    I have one lemon tree that my wife bought from the store. It’s outside and I’ve been trying to keep it from freezing to death in the Texas weather. I built a teepee over it with some old branches and plastic sheeting and ran my garage light out to it to provide heat. It’s helping but I’m not sure it will be enough. We’ll see.

  7. In the video you just used the term “dirt.” What would be the best medium to use; such as a sterile seed starting mix, compost, potting soil or just good old garden dirt?

    • You can just leave them in stratification and store them that way. Now will they store like a normal seed and then stratify say a year later? I have to say, I don’t know.

  8. I found that pear seeds will germinate in the fridge faster than apple seeds. I had baby pear trees (first true leaves) in 42 days from seed. 34 days in the fridge until germination and 8 days planted with the help of a heat pad. The trees are about 4 inches tall now.

  9. As for planting apple trees without grafting, many of the Apple trees now native to large parts of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois and what is now known as West Virginia, were planted by John Chapman (AKA JOhnny Appleseed). Yes, he’s a real person and the Johnny Appleseed Museum is only about an hour from my homestead. These apples may not be fancy, or breed true to some hybrid; but, they are a great way to inexpensively have an orchard that’s climatized to your area.

  10. Had a grafting and air layering workshop this past weekend with a local permaculture instructor that has a diverse background in orchards.

    Very excited to be learning as many propagation methods as possible.

    I truly hope that you beat the odds with your seedlings. Statistically, apples from seed that taste good are the exception instead of the rule. Knowing you, the problem will be the solution even if they’re not.

    Keep up all the great work Jack. Unlike some, I’m glad you spend lots of time on permaculture – you’ve opened the eyes and minds of so many… including my family.

  11. I put apple seeds in frig for stratification they have now sprouted. I am having to leave for work out of state for a month and a half. How long can I leave the seeds in frig with shoots coming off them.

  12. Don’t know, but this is what I’d try: I’d put them into a pot with some soil and leave them with an open ziplock bag hanging loosely over them in a cool place out of direct sun. Most fridges try to evaporate the moisture out so I don’t know if they would do well left in the fridge or not. The cold might help keep them from getting too rambunctious. Wherever you put them, the ziplock bag will help stop the soil from drying out too much from evaporation. Has to be left open so air can circulate or you’re likely to come back to a mouldy mess. (I think)

    You could try putting a cotton rag partly into the bottom of the pot and then putting the tail end that’s hanging out into another bowl of water so water wicks up as needed. (Cover the second bowl so all the water doesn’t just evaporate out)

    A month and a half is a long time to expect the seeds to hang around without doing anything when they have already sprouted and are on their way…perhaps best would be if maybe a reliable friend or neighbor will care for them for you? Drying out likely the biggest threat.