On this date in 1904, the Hope Pioneer observed that the finest looking apples in Grand Forks did not come from the famed apple-growing states of Washington or New York. Instead they came from the local orchard of Oscar Wick, only a mile outside the city.
North Dakota has long been known for quality agricultural products from beef to wheat. Apples are not usually associated with a state not widely known for growing fruit. The newspaper was confident that Mr. Wick’s success with his orchard would change that. Wick sent a shipment of apples to exhibit at the St. Louis World’s Fair. He also brought samples to show off in Grand Forks. He grew varieties not widely known today, with names like “wealthy” and “duchess.” The duchess apples were described as “large, perfect in form, beautifully colored and ripe.” He also grew several varieties of crabapple.
According to Wick, his success was proof that North Dakota is not too far north to raise fruit. He said that windbreaks were important to protect the fruit, but not in the way most people would think. Instead of needing protection from the cold north winds, the apple trees needed protected from the south. That’s because the early spring sun would force sap to flow too soon. The freezing nights were sure to ruin the trees. He also maintained that the strong southerly winds of May would destroy the blossoms before trees could bear fruit.
The Carrington Research Extension Center has examined growing apples in North Dakota. The Center describes apples as one of the easiest crops and one of the most popular with backyard gardeners. The best trees for the state are full-sized tree varieties rather than dwarf trees. Several are suitable for North Dakota. The Hazen grows quickly and bears every year. The Honeycrisp doesn’t ripen until October and bears fruit every other year, but the fruit keeps well and stays crisp. Sweet Sixteen also ripens late. Its fruit has a unique cherry flavor.
While apple trees require attention in the form of pruning and mulching, they will reward the careful North Dakota gardener with an ample crop.
Dakota Datebook written by Carole Butcher
Hope Pioneer. “Apples.” Hope ND. 10/6/1904. Page 3.
North Dakota State University. “Carrington Research Extension Center. https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/CarringtonREC/northern-hardy-fruit-evaluation-project/fruit-index/apple Accessed 9/9/2020.