Breathing new life into the orchard

replanting 2 croppedOn my farm we have a general policy to replant five percent of our farm every spring, which means that our oldest trees are only twenty years old. There are a couple of different factors behind why we do this. First, as trees age they suffer more from disease and they produce less fruit, so production on these acres slowly decreases. On the big old roots, which result in the classic full size apple tree, productivity can remain high for close to a century. But, while our new dwarfing roots and small, highly managed apple trees make harvest easier and use fewer inputs, we see productivity decline after only a couple decades, so replanting is one way to maintain fruit production!

The other reason we invest time and energy in replanting is to take advantage of new varieties and to adapt to evolving consumer tastes.  When my family first bought our orchard back in ‘94, it came with a mix of Red Delicious, MacIntosh and Spartan.  We cut down the last of our MacIntosh trees three years ago to be replaced by Honeycrisp, a relatively new variety.  As new people move to North America, our demographics change, and we have seen the demand for tart apples decline, as consumers’ preferences tend toward sweeter, juicier varieties.

So that is why we replant!  Let me know if you have any questions and I’ll try my best to answer them.  The next big job on the farm is hand thinning, which is pulling all the small and ugly fruit off the trees to improve the quality of the remaining fruit.  It should keep me busy for the next month or so!

Replanting 1


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About Joel Carter

Joel, son of founders Neal and Louisa, has seen Arctic apples evolve from an idea to a delicious fruit, and even helped plant the first orchard! Joel’s lifelong experience in the orchard and with Arctic apples makes him the perfect fit to head up field operations.


  1. Lon Ridgway

    Hello Carter Family,

    I am glad to read that you invite questions. Being a man from Houston, Texas, I know nothing of tree orchards. However, I enjoy eating apples and am looking forward to eating Arctic Apples if they will become available in Houston. The recent image from Twitter shows a row what may be newly planted apple trees. Are these normal small trees or are they different by human engineering, such as splicing together cut pieces from separate plants? Is that a black irrigation hose at the base of the tree line? Do you drip the water at the base of your trees? Sorry for what must seem obvious to you professional orchard folks. I find orchards to be fascinating biological systems.


    • Jessica Brady

      Hello Lon!

      Thanks for your questions, we love talking about orchards and agree that they are fascinating biological systems!
      All commercial apple orchards depend on grafting to produce their trees, this allows for a strong root stock and the best quality fruit from a genetically true source. You can learn more about grafting in this blog post: As well, the trees are pruned to maximize apple output and quality, hence their size and shape. We use both the irrigation you see in the picture, as well as underground drip tape irrigation. The irrigation system you are asking about helps water the trees, but is also used to cool the orchard so that the trees will continue to respire during hot days, ensuring better quality fruit. The grass in the lanes of the orchard also helps with cooling.

      Have a good day,