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I'm working with my campus garden and we're thinking of putting fruit trees next to our garden as an excellent addition to our repertoire of fruits and vegetables. However, as the garden is in Buffalo in a field that is very well know for being in an open (wind-swept Hoth-like hellscape of a) field. Usually it pretty windy, and in the winter it's snowy and pretty cold.

What kind of considerations should go into choosing fruit trees for a colder, open field? Are there ways that the trees may suffer that we should consider?

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    Did you consider using dwarf trees, and trellising? That would keep wind from breaking branches. – J. Musser Apr 1 '16 at 6:27
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Apples are a traditional crop however

Apple trees are best planted in areas that are protected from high winds as they are generally shallow rooted (roots within the top 12 inches of soil are the most functional) and therefore could fall over in high winds.

From here. For fruit and similar plants which do not do well in summer with strong winds you could:

  • plant dwarf or trellised (espalier) plants as jmusser suggests. More maintenance with pruning but less chance of damage to tree or crop in high winds
  • plant cultivars hardy to at least one zone colder than the site.
  • plant a fast growing wind break on the side where the coldest, strongest winds tend to come from. Cedar is the usual choice but arctic willow will grow like a weed as well. You could even borrow from permaculture and plant a tough fruit crop as a wind barrier. Wait a few years then plant apples. See here for more ideas.
  • research heritage plants that have grown in your area. The crop may be less suitable for large scale agriculture but may have other strengths such as:
    • apple trees that flower later and don't have the bloom nipped by frost
    • fruit that bruises less easily
  • it is difficult to evaluate grower's claims for fruit crops as much depends on where they are grown and how they are grafted but this site and this one are relevant
  • don't limit yourself to traditional fruit crops. Hazelnut shrubs are tough once established. You do become a patron of the squirrels.
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  • Blue Arctic Willow (Salix purpurea 'nana') is an incredible choice. If you prune once or twice a season you can maintain whatever height you need. Beautiful plant!! Bends and moves with the wind! You could even build 'screens' that the wind can blow through but is slowed down and the screen won't be pulled over when the wind is able to flow through. Very beautiful btw. I use Blue Arctic Willow for ornamentals/skeleton plantings. Simply spectacular plant. Easy to prune/hedge! Nice choice Kevinsky. – stormy Apr 5 '16 at 23:55
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Any windbreak would be a good idea, along with the rest of Kevinskys'answer. It's beneficial effects can be felt for about 10x its height in distance. Make it semi permeable and it will slow the wind down sufficiently to do the good it needs to. If it's too windy, pollinators like bees will not fly. Would you have enough space or the right location for beehives? Espalier or step over trees are always an option too.

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  • I like the idea of a windbreak in addition to Kevinsky's suggestions. Any suggestions? As there has been a garden that has flowered and fruited right nearby, I don't believe a lack of pollinators will be a problem – Throsby Apr 4 '16 at 1:53
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    What do your neighbours nearby grow for hedging? Choose something similar and native to the area, that way is more likely to survive and be durable in your climate. A mixed hedge would give different invertebrates and pollinators a habitat. In the uk generally a mix of blackthorn, hawthorn, wild roses, field maple, honeysuckle, viburnum, elder. Some with blossom, and then berries for making sloe gin, rose hip jam, elderberry jam, elderflower cordial or champagne. So your hedge needn't be unproductive for your either, and feed the wildlife too. – user13638 Apr 4 '16 at 6:33

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