Those are our apple trees when they were just sprouts. This photo is probably from early winter 2008 (there's snow out the window in the background), and the seedlings barely had their first true leaves. Links to our previous posts about the apples are at the end of this post, but I'll recap:
In the fall of 2008, we got a gigantic apple from Len's Wisconsin cousins, and we saved its seeds to plant. We later found out from the cousins that it was a Wolf River apple, and we did get to see the "mother tree" on their farm last September. (Will our trees produce apples similar to their parent variety? Hopefully, time will tell.)
Our research showed we should refrigerate the seeds in a damp paper towel to germinate them. After weeks in the fridge, our seeds looked the same as ever, so we just put them into some soil in a six-inch pot. The photo above is what happened soon after. Six of the seeds had sprouted. Whether the refrigeration helped that along or not, we just don't know. They seemed to grow rather slowly over the next several weeks, but then we separated them, and after that, they grew a little faster. By April 2009, the tallest of the six was eight inches high.
We kept them in the house until late spring or early summer and then put the pots outside to enjoy direct sunlight, summer heat, and fresh air. Sometime over the summer, or just before, we lost one of the six trees. The other five continued to grow, and we re-potted them—the smallest two into only slightly large pots (10-inch, probably), and the other three into much larger containers. And they continued to grow. For the winter of 2009, they would all stay outside but would be protected in some way: In November, as the young trees began to shed their leaves, we buried the smaller two (in their pots, most of the stems/trunks still exposed) in the mulch in our front garden bed, and we brought the larger three into the garage, where we wrapped their pots in layers of newspaper and blankets—to insulate the roots against freezing through.
All five trees made it through the winter! In March 2010, the trees were waking up from their winter nap, so we brought the large trees out from the garage back to the sunny (but still snowy) front yard. We kept the small ones buried a while longer since their roots were more vulnerable in those small containers to the unpredictable nighttime temperatures of early spring. Rabbits had nibbled down the stems of those two buried outside, but they bounced back and sprouted as many leaves as their stubby little stems could hold.
I believe it was in the summer of 2010 that we gave our smallest two trees to Len's aunt, and they are steadily growing in her backyard. Then we re-potted our three remaining trees one more time into even larger containers (but containers still small enough to carry into the garage for the winter again).
Once again, when the winter temperatures led the trees to dormancy, we moved them into the garage and wrapped them in newspaper and blankets. Once again, the trees overwintered successfully, and we moved them in their giant pots out to the front porch again in the spring. We knew they couldn't stay in their pots forever, and that even in the pots they would eventually become too large to keep moving back and forth, but what were we supposed to do?
Our small and shady backyard already had a tree. Could we get away with digging it out and replacing it with one of these apple saplings? Not likely. Not very practical, either. Our front yard was even smaller than the back, but it did have enough space for planting small trees. In fact, each of our next-door neighbors had a tree in their front yard. Those trees were part of our neighborhood's very tidy pattern for trees in the front yard—every other house. Would our homeowners' association let us break the pattern with our apple trees? Also not likely, but it was our best shot.
Late in the summer of 2011, Len submitted the paperwork, and against all odds, the association approved our request! Next hurdle: call the utility hotline to see where we could safely dig. Eesh, it was tight. And maybe that's what the association was counting on; maybe they approved our request to seem accommodating, figuring we'd discover there was no place to plant the trees anyway. Ha! We squeezed two trees in, one at each corner of our big front porch. I should say, Len squeezed the two trees in. He did all of the digging to plant those suckers—holes nearly twice as big as the large pots they were in—and that is no easy feat when the earth here is mostly heavy clay and chock full of rocks.
Now only one tree remains in a pot, and it spent its third winter in the garage. It is back on the front porch now, enjoying the southern exposure with its siblings. Those two spent the winter outside in their new, permanent locations. They are looking healthily bushy this spring, so I think we'll do our first pruning in the fall. And, now we wait to see if the trees will flower in the springs to come.
In the meantime, we need to find a home for that last potted tree.
Our apple tree history:
April 21, 2009 (seedlings)
November 3, 2009 (winterizing)
March 20, 2010 (after winterizing)
March 4, 2012 (pruning)
Shared at Eat Make Grow