Our struggle to save, protect and nourish this heirloom Chestnut crabapple tree

Our struggle to save, protect and nourish this heirloom Chestnut crabapple tree

My FAVORITE tree is a crabapple tree—a Chestnut crab. It's right in my front yard by the sidewalk. 

Developed by the University of Minnesota it was released in 1946. It's an heirloom variety.

Our's has seen its better days. Fire blight and carpenter ants have taken their toll. My worry is that we’ll lose this wonderful old crabapple tree.

My Mom had two crabapple trees like this one on the farmstead where I grew up. Every year us kids would help her pick crabapples to make applesauce. Precious memories!

When I was a teenager my parents sold their farmstead and moved to another. We planted what was supposed to be a Chestnut crab but when it finally produced fruit, the apples just weren’t the same. 😝

Fast Forward
Imagine my delight when I discovered that the farmyard my husband and I purchased as a newly married couple had that exact same Chestnut crabapple tree from my childhood years! What a treasure!

Heirloom Chestnut crabapple tree in full bloom

Our Chestnut crabapple tree in full bloom!

To the best of our knowledge this tree planted during the 1950s or 60s—making it at least 60 years old now. My kids grew up with the same applesauce I enjoyed as a kid!

My Mom is no longer with us and that applesauce is treasured all the more. Every fall I supply my sisters and a niece with crabapples to make their family's applesauce. We all have a stake in preserving this tree.

In the early spring of 2022 we cut some scion wood from our precious crabapple tree. We sent it to NDSU to have it grafted onto some root stock. 

Last fall I planted two newly grafted Chestnut crabapple trees on the south side of our yard in full sun. They overwintered well!

My newly grafted Chestnut crabapple tree at Prairie Road Organic Seed

A newly grafted Chestnut crab planted last fall and successfully overwintered.

I’m working to nurture these little crabapple trees, keeping them healthy and safe. That means feeding them and protecting them!

Feeding them!
I've been studying organic fertilization methods. One insight that I’ve gained is that trees are fantastic accumulators of a lot of fertility.

They have a massive root system that goes deep in the ground. The duff that accumulates around a tree is nature’s recycling system-- of course!

The leaves themselves do not have a lot of nutrients in them because they translocate the nutrients they photosynthesized during the growing season to the tree, as they change colors in the fall. The apples, however, have a lot of fertility-- fed by the leaves and by nutrients mined by the roots.

In the leaf duff is a fungal decomposer called leaf mold. This and other decomposers break down the organic matter into usable nutrients for the tree as it awakes in the spring. So efficient!

This spring Dan and I piled the fallen leaves and apples under the nearby lilac bushes—still well within our crabapple's root zone. This mulch is tailor-made for my newly planted crabapple trees—compliments of its parent tree.

I gathered up some of this mulch to mulch around my new trees! It contains all the nutrients these newly grafted crabapple trees will need. 

Mulching around my newly grafted Chestnut crab at Prairie Road Organic Seed

Mulching my little Chestnut crab with tailor-made fertilizer from the old crabtree.

Protecting them!
Now to protect these little babies from the marauding deer! These destructive browsers can do a lot of damage in short order. 

We’ve deployed a little device called a 'Predator Eye' on our farm. It’s a solar powered device that has two red lights that start blinking as soon as the light starts to wane in the evening. The deer see these flashing red lights and think they are the eyes of a predator blinking.

Predator Eye device to protect from marauding deer at Prairie Road Organic Seed

Deploying the 'Predator Eye' devices to protect from browsing deer!

We had a hard time finding the exact ones we've order in the past. But these have worked very well for us.  The challenge is to determine where the deer trails are and which direction to position the devices for best effect.

You can find these devices on Amazon. Here’s a pack of four:  https://amzn.to/3P741D2

And this is a pack of twelve—for those of you who have a lot of ground to cover: https://amzn.to/3CtqHFT

I treasure this Chestnut crabapple and all the wonderful memories it has and continues to make for our family! You can watch our companion YouTube video here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l5Zi5LETf6s. (Please like the video and subscribe to our channel. Much appreciated!)

I’d love to hear your stories of plants that have nurtured your family and graced your table with good food!

Our best to you,
Theresa & Dan

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