Best Roostock for Apples in NH - Knowledgebase Question

Bedford, NH
Question by szyjoe
November 11, 1997
What is the best rootstock for apples in New Hampshire? I have a 150' by 100' clearing on a hillside surrounded by mostly white pine and mixed hardwood. The area is on a gradual incline on a long northwest slope. This fall, I am digging holes where I can around old pine roots, big rocks etc. in what I expect is well draining poor to average soil on top of ledge.

I have a lot of deer in the neighborhood which could be a problem. I'd like to plant 18 fruit trees with 6 apple, 6 peach, 2plum, 2 pear, 2 cherry.

Answer from NGA
November 11, 1997


First of all, I want to direct you to St. Lawrence Nurseries, located in Potsdam, New York. They specialize in fruit trees for northern climates, and carry a huge variety of apples, as well as other fruits. The owner has a wonderful wealth of information. Their phone number is 315/265-6739; they have a web page at (It looks like you are located in USDA zone 5, which means you don't have to worry quite as much about cold hardiness as your neighbors further north.)

The folks as St. Lawrence Nurseries sell trees on Antonovka, which is an extremely hardy rootstock which is not dwarfing--the tree will grow to a height of 12-15 feet. You can prune a tree on this rootstock to limit its height to 10-12 feet. Standard rootstocks are generally vigorous and relatively resistant to pests. They require no staking, and are long-lived.

The M26 rootstock you mention is a dwarfing rootstock, resulting in a tree 8-10 feet tall. It is described as needing a soil that is well-drained but not droughty; it is weakly anchored and so will need staking or trellising; and has moderate winter hardiness. It is also susceptible to fire blight and burr knots.

M7, a semi-dwarfing rootstock, has a taproot, and is not recommended for shallow soils. M9, a strongly dwarfing rootstock, is sensitive to low winter temperatures.

MM106 and MM111 are two semi-standard (just slightly dwarfed) rootstocks which are more adaptable. However the dwarfing is so slight that a well-pruned standard tree can be kept the same size.

If possible, I would check with some orchardists in your region as well. They may have experience with these and other rootstocks in your climate. Remember that if you choose a particular rootstock-scion combination, you may need to order the trees well in advance of planting.

I am concerned about the existence of ledge beneath the soil surface; whether there is indeed enough soil for an orchard. Also, I would think about the deer problem--I planted 10 apple trees in my backyard last spring, and the deer have been nibbling all summer. I wonder what will happen when winter comes!

You might contact your Cooperative Extension office and see if the tree fruit specialist can help analyze your site and offer some suggestions. Your local office's phone number is 603/673-2510. You might also check out the group the North American Fruit Explorers--they have a publication called Pomona that is filled with interesting articles about various fruits. Their address is 1716 Apples Rd., Chapin, IL 62628.

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