If you are hoping to become a budding fruit tree grower of the apple variety, you’ve probably heard about rootstocks by now. While the idea of planting a seed right from an apple may seem dreamy and appealing, in actuality, it’s not quite that simple! Growing a fruit tree of any kind from seed can take upward of eight years before it will start producing fruit. Furthermore, it’s just generally not how apple trees are typically grown.
The Ultimate Guide to Apple Rootstock
Apple trees are grafted (or fused) onto a rootstock that helps determine the size and strength of your tree once it has reached maturity. Grafting is a practice that has occurred for thousands of years. More recently, immense amounts of research have resulted in a list of the apple rootstocks believed to provide the best results. The online world is full of lots of complicated information, which is why we put together this guide to help you navigate your way to a better understanding of apple rootstocks.
So What Is a Rootstock, Anyway?
In simple terms, “rootstock” refers to the base of a tree, including the roots and trunk, that a scion (or the flowering or fruiting part of the tree that you see above ground) is grafted to. For the grafting process to be successful, the rootstock and scion need to be fairly close relatives. Rootstock varieties can come from a few different places: naturally growing trees, plant mutations, or genetically bred. When a “successful” rootstock is identified, it is cloned so that it can be used over and over again! In addition to determining your tree’s size and strength, apple rootstocks are also selected based on attributes like their level of disease resistance, cold hardiness, and the type of conditions they can thrive in.
What Is The Best Rootstock for Apple Trees?
When it comes to determining what the best rootstock is, there are a lot of factors to consider! What is ideal for one grower may be different for another. There are so many different rootstock variations that have been scientifically studied, bred, and established over decades. But, for the sake of simplicity in our guide, we are going to focus on some of our favorites that you can pick up at Carolina Seasons.
B9: This is what one would consider a “dwarfing” rootstock. As we mentioned earlier, rootstock variations determine the size and strength of an apple tree, and a B9 rootstock will limit the size of the tree to about 10 feet once it reaches maturity. While they are resistant to root and collar rots, they prefer a well-draining planting site and require permanent staking. The B9 rootstock produces a tree that is resistant to fire blight. B9 is also called Bud 9 which is short for Budagovsky 9.
M111: This is a vigorous semi-dwarfing rootstock that produces a tree that grows to about 85% of a standard-sized apple tree. They are considered one of the more adaptable of all rootstocks; they are quite winter hardy, have a fairly shallow-spreading root system, and are relatively drought tolerant. They are also resistant to woolly apple aphid, collar rot, root rot, and fire blight. Trees grown from an M111 rootstock will bear fruit at a relatively young age. The M111 rootstock is also known by the names MM111 and EMLA 111.
M106: An M106 rootstock is another semi-dwarfing variety that will produce a tree that is about 70% the size of a standard apple tree. They are quite productive and do not usually need staking. They should not be planted in wet spots due to their susceptibility to root rot. Rather, if you are looking to plant a tree in your backyard and go with an M106 rootstock variety, be sure to select a location with well-draining soil. Trees on the M106 rootstock are resistant to wooly apple aphid and show some resistance to fire blight. The M106 rootstock is also known as MM106 and EMLA106.
Selecting and growing an apple tree might seem overwhelming at first, but we hope this guide has helped break down some of the general mysteries in the beginning stages of that process. If you’ve still got questions, pop into our nursery, and one of our experts would be happy to help start you on your journey toward growing and enjoying delicious apples for years to come!
How to Plant & Care for Evergreen Shrubs
From Abelia to Wax Myrtle, there is a long list of evergreen shrubs that thrive in North Carolina and will lavish your yard with color and vibrancy all year long. Caring for evergreen shrubs is also simple, especially once they’re established. Here’s how to ensure your evergreen shrubs will live a long, healthy life.
When Should You Plant Evergreen Shrubs?
Planting at the right time is the first step in caring for your evergreen shrubs. In North Carolina, you can plant shrubs in the fall, late winter, and early spring, but the best time to plant is fall.
Step-By-Step Instructions for Planting Your Shrubs
Finish off your newly planted shrub with a layer of mulch about 3-4 inches thick. Not only is mulch aesthetically pleasing, but it’s also particularly good for plants that are establishing themselves in a new home. It keeps their roots cooler in summer and warmer in winter and it retains soil moisture.
Make sure your mulch layer is flat. If you create a volcano-like mound of mulch around your shrubs, it could cause them to rot and die.
Caring for Evergreen Shrubs
After you’ve planted your shrubs, it’s time to nurture them so that they successfully establish themselves in their new homes. The key? Consistent watering.
How Often You Should Water
Your shrubs could take as long as a year to get fully established, and during this time, they need to be watered frequently and regularly. For the first two weeks, very thirsty plants like Tea Olive and Wax Myrtle may need water every day or every other day. Boxwoods and Camellias don’t use as much water and may need less frequent watering. Watering once every two or three days may be enough for them. Later, you may be able to go longer between watering your new plants, but the frequency also depends on daytime temperatures and the porosity of the soil, so be sure to check the top of the root balls to make sure they are not drying out in between. Keep this up for the next few months. For example, if you planted them in the fall, keep this routine going all the way to spring. If it’s a dry spring, your frequent watering will need to continue.
Beware of Overwatering
It is possible to drown shrubs with too much water. So, keep a watchful eye on them for signs of overwatering. One such sign is leaf loss. It’s normal for newly planted shrubs to lose up to half their leaves because of the stress of being moved. However, if you give them the same amount of water consistently and they lose more than half their leaves, it’s likely because of overwatering, and you should ease off.
Wait until your shrubs are well-established before you begin fertilizing. Even after they’re established, they may not need fertilizer if they’re growing in high-quality soil or in a lawn that’s fertilized regularly.
That being said, fertilizer for recently established shrubs is proven to speed up their growth. The best fertilizer for such evergreen shrubs is the slow-release type. This type of fertilizer gradually releases nutrients. Select a slow-release fertilizer formulated for shrubs, and follow the instructions carefully. Better yet, have your soil tested. The NC Department of Agriculture Soil Lab will recommend the best type of fertilizer that fits your plants’ needs. We have the supplies needed to send samples to the lab and we will help you through the process at no cost. You can also pick up the required supplies at the Pitt County Ag Center.
Over 80 Varieties of Evergreen Shrubs at Carolina Seasons Nursery
Fall is the Perfect Time to Plant Shrubs and Trees
If you want to improve your landscaping with some trees or shrubs, now is the time to do it. Fall is one of the best seasons for adding trees and shrubs to your landscaping. The more moderate temperatures, more frequent rainfall, and less intense sunshine reduce the transplanting stress for your new trees and shrubs.
The other perks of fall planting are that your trees and shrubs don’t have to worry about producing fruit or leaves. Deciduous trees and shrubs can drop their leaves and focus their energy on developing a robust root system through the North Carolina fall and winter. Having strong roots come spring will set them up for developing healthy leaves, flowers, and fruit in the spring. Planting in the fall may also result in some trees and shrubs blooming in their first summer instead of waiting until the second summer.
Guidelines for Planting Trees and Shrubs in Fall
Once your trees and shrubs are home, start getting them in the ground quickly.
When you’re adding trees and shrubs to your yard, there are some standard guidelines to follow to help ensure your investments’ success.
Before your trees are delivered, or before you bring them home, figure out where you’re going to be planting. Ensure you have enough room for the full mature size of your chosen tree or shrub wherever you’re going to plant it. Double-check where any buried cables, pipes, or lines are on your property, so you don’t hit anything when digging.
You can also start to prepare your planting holes ahead of time. Planting holes should be as deep as the root ball or pot the tree or shrub is in and about three times as wide as the root ball.
You should plant your trees or shrubs as soon as you can after you bring them home or they are delivered. If possible, plant your trees in the late afternoon or early evening on an overcast day. This will also help to reduce stress and prevent excess evaporation from the roots.
Once your trees and shrubs are home, start getting them in the ground quickly. If you can’t plant them right away, store them somewhere in the shade, and keep them well-watered so that the roots don’t dry out.
When the planting holes are ready, remove your trees or shrubs from their pots or burlap, and center them in the hole. Before you start adding soil, lay a shovel or rake handle across the hole, over the root ball. The top of the root ball should be level or slightly higher than the top edge of the planting hole. If it’s not, remove the tree or shrub and add more soil underneath the root ball.
Center your tree or shrub in the hole, and have someone hold it straight or stake it while you backfill around the root ball. Fill halfway, and water it thoroughly so the soil can settle in around the roots. Once the water has soaked into the ground, finish filling the hole and then tamp the soil in well with your heels. Creating a berm of soil 2-3 inches tall around the tree’s root ball will help keep the water soaking in over the root ball when you water, instead of draining away.
Add a Blanket of Mulch
Once you’ve planted your trees and shrubs, you can add a nice thick layer of organic mulch—aim for a thickness of approximately 3-4 inches. Organic mulch has many benefits for your landscape, besides its clean and tidy look. It helps regulate soil moisture and temperature. It protects the roots of plants from extreme weather, and over time, it actually improves the soil. Just make sure you don’t build a mulch in a “volcano” shape around the trunk of your tree, as that will almost inevitably cause rot, which could kill your pretty new plant.
If you’ve been thinking of adding some trees and shrubs, there’s no better time than the fall! Stop by our garden center today and check out our diverse collection of nursery-grown trees and shrubs.
Get Four-Season Beauty with These Trees And Shrubs
Planting some trees and shrubs is a fairly easy way to add beauty and even increase the value of your property. Having an assortment of trees and shrubs also helps support the biodiversity of plants and wildlife in your area.
Most shrubs and trees have a specific season of beauty, and then they fade into the background for much of the year. But, there are a few trees and shrubs that take beauty to a whole new level, with unique features for every season. Here are a few options for North Carolina.
Paperbark Maple is an excellent deciduous choice for four-season beauty. They're on the smaller side, usually maturing between 20-30 feet tall and feature beautiful exfoliating bark. The older bark, which is a dark purple-brown, peels back to reveal the new cinnamon red-brown bark underneath. This effect is particularly eye-catching during the winter. In the spring, it puts out beautiful dark green leaves, which retain their color quite long into the fall. These are some of the last trees to start turning, and it's worth the wait. Their leaves turn shades of vibrant red and orange, and they hang on right into the winter before they finally drop.
Serviceberries are a large group of trees and shrubs that are beautiful all year round. Also native to North America, they're deciduous, easy to care for, and can last up to 40 years once established. There are many different varieties of serviceberries available, but they all feature beautiful spring flowers, small but pretty apple-like fruits, beautiful leaf colors in the fall, and unique bark colors through the winter. Their fruits are edible and make delicious jams or jellies. The bark of most serviceberries is a unique silvery-gray and looks elegant and refined in winter.
Redbud is another easy-care deciduous tree that offers beautiful four-season interest. They feature beautiful pink blossoms in the spring that can last as long as 3 weeks. The heart-shaped leaves emerge as dark burgundy after flowering, transitioning to forest green. The leaves turn buttery yellow in the fall and leave behind interesting brown pods when they drop. These pods hang on through much of winter and add visual interest when most other trees are stark and empty.
Chinese Fringetree is an excellent but underutilized tree for the south. It tolerates the heat and humidity of our summers and it’s considered a small grower (up to 15-20 feet tall), which is perfect for today’s smaller landscapes. The springtime blooms are wisps of white fringe shaped petals. Summer foliage is a nice, deep green with hardly any pest or disease problems. In autumn, foliage turns yellow, before falling off to reveal the papery, peeling bark.
Japanese Maples are a great family of trees and shrubs for year-round interest. There are many dwarf varieties available with a wide variety of growing habits, sizes, and colors. They all feature the classic 5 lobed maple leaf, but the presentation of the leaves varies widely. Some have the typical broad maple leaf look, while others have lobes that are deeply cut and quite drapey. Then there are the types that have a feathery look with deep cuts, narrow lobes, and serrations. Japanese maples range widely in color, from bright red-almost-pink leaves to bold crimson red. There are also varieties that are shades of vibrant green, bright yellow, or nearly black. Japanese maples often feature uniquely colored bark, and when they drop their leaves they have a beautiful natural shape.
Dogwood shrubs feature pretty spring flowers, long oval leaves that turn stunning colors in the fall, and many types have colorful branches that add contrast to the winter landscape.
Plum Yew is a unique evergreen shrub. It features long, dark green fern-like needle-shaped leaves. It has gray bark that starts to peel in thin strips as it matures. There is a wide variety of sizes and shapes, from a tall narrow upright (known as ‘Fastigiata’), to a round shaped one (‘Duke Gardens’ and ‘Drupacea’), to a flatter ground hugging shape (‘Fritz Huber’ and ‘Prostrata’).
Virginia Sweetspire is native to the Southeast US preferring moist soil and tolerating drier soils. Spring blooms are highly fragrant. Fall foliage is a deep merlot color which, unlike most deciduous shrubs, persists until mid winter.
Fall is a great time to add new trees and shrubs to your landscaping. It gives them some time to focus on growing strong roots before they have to worry about putting out fruit or leaves. Stop by the garden center today and choose some beautiful four-season trees and shrubs for your yard.
Starting your garden plants from seed is one of the most rewarding gardening projects you can take on. From the first time they pop their little green heads above the soil, to harvesting beautiful flowers or delicious veggies, it's amazing to know that you raised them from day one. If you've never started your own seedlings before, this is the year to start! It's easier than you think, and with a few handy tips and the right equipment, you can get a head start on your garden this season!
Here is a handy guide for starting seeds in North Carolina.
Seed Starting Essentials
Seed starting mix particles are finer than regular potting soil and many people prefer the texture of the seed starting mix. I find that as long as I’m using a potting soil mix with peat and pine bark fines, it works well. A potting soil mix with only pine bark fines stays a little drier than I prefer.
Seedling starter pots come in a variety of different styles and sizes. Generally, they're 2-3" deep pots made from thin plastic with a few small drainage holes. This makes it easy to transplant into bigger containers later. You can also repurpose small plastic containers from the kitchen and punch a few drainage holes in the bottoms. Depending on what you're growing, you can also use individual starting pods or peat pellets. You can rehydrate the peat pellets with water and sow your seeds straight into the peat. Later, when you're ready to transplant your seedlings to the garden, the whole pod goes straight into the soil.
Clear plastic tray covers or plastic wrap are helpful in germinating seeds. The clear plastic keeps the environment near the seeds humid. Once seeds have sprouted, plastic covers should be removed to allow air circulation. Without air movement, damping-off disease can be a problem for young, tender seedlings. It is important to note that clear covers should not be used in direct sunlight—the greenhouse effect heats the inside quickly and will kill seedlings. Think about how hot it gets in your car on a sunny day; that’s what happens under a plastic cover!
The right light is crucial when starting plants indoors during the shorter days of the year. Once they've sprouted, your plants need consistent bright light for 8-12 hours per day. If you don’t have enough direct sunlight, you can use grow lights. Grow lights should be reasonably close to the plants, but not close enough to make contact between the bulb and plant material. When your seeds are just starting to sprout, your light should be just above the top of your tray covers. As they grow, you'll want to keep the light an inch or two above the leaves. If the light is too far from your plants, they will start to get "leggy" and visibly weaker.
The right temperature is also required for seed germination. It’s like having the right key to unlock your front door. Cool-season vegetable seeds normally have low soil temperature requirements. Around 55˚F is sufficient for them, so normal room temperature accomplishes this. Many hot season vegetables require warmer soil temperatures to get going. For example, peppers need a 75˚F soil temperature to germinate well. In this case, you will need a heat mat to get soil temperatures up this high.
Staggering Your Seeds
Naturally, good-quality seeds are essential for starting your own plants indoors. It's totally up to you what you'd like to start, but some of the easiest ones to start with are tomatoes, marigolds, lettuces, and kales. Some varieties need to get started earlier in the year than others, so it's important to make a note of when to plant each resident in your indoor nursery.
Cool-season veggies and herbs like parsley, cilantro, broccoli, spinach, and lettuce should be started in early January for transplanting out in mid-February.
Hot season plants, like tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, basil, begonias, and impatiens should be started in mid-February for transplanting outside in mid-April or later.
Starting Your Seeds
Seeds can be tiny, so it's easiest to start with damp soil since watering can wash them around in the tray.
Fill your pots with damp starter soil, or pour water on dehydrated peat pellets. Water thoroughly to tamp the soil and make the surface even and firm. Leave about 1/2" to 1" of room between the soil and the top of the container.
Read your seed packages carefully and spread the seeds evenly in the starter pot. If your seeds need to be buried under the soil, add a thin layer of potting soil over the top. Mist any soil added on top of seeds to moisten lightly with a spray bottle.
Then, place your clear covers over the tray and wait. If you started with moist soil and you have covers, you shouldn't need to water again until your plants begin sprouting, but keep an eye on the soil anyhow. If your soil seems to be getting dry, use a spray bottle to mist on enough water to thoroughly moisten the soil. The gentle mist from the spray bottle will help moisten the soil while keeping un-sprouted seeds in place.
That's it; your seeds have been sown for your garden this year! Now, you only have to endure the waiting game. We check our trays for sprouts every day because it's so exciting to watch them start to pop up!
Think you can handle it? (Hint: you definitely can!) If you have any questions, call us or come by our nursery to see how we do it.
Carolina Seasons Nursery