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Midwest Fruit Explorers
Garden Club for Backyard Fruit Growers
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Introduction Blueberries North Apple Bed Panaromic View Dwarf Conclusion
Gene's Answers Train a Mini-Dwarf Favorite Apples Map of Backyard

MidFEx, short for Midwest Fruit Explorers, is a non-profit organization of amateur backyard fruit growing enthusiasts.  Most of our members live in the counties surrounding Chicago.

Gene’s 40” apple tree (click to take a tour)
We are crazy about the best tasting, most flavorful fruits that grow well here. We are also interested in growing special, superior and unusual fruits regardless of their appearance or commercial appeal.  This includes little known varieties of apples, peaches, pears, plums, grapes and nuts; and more unusual fruits such as the pawpaw, mulberry, persimmon, fig, juneberry, Asian pear, and hardy kiwi.  Our members locate, graft, propagate, test, grow and swap these superior fruiting plants, and then get together and share their knowledge.

MidFEx has a video depository located at midfex at vimeo.com.  Here you will find videos covering topics such as t-bud/chip bud grafting techniques.

Members receive the Grapevine, our periodic newsletter.
The June 2022 Grapevine was distributed to email recipients on 6/25/2022. The print version was mailed to USPS recipients on 6/28/2022. Archived copies of the Grapevine can be viewed on the Members Only page.
  • Orchard Tour
    Event Description: Jeff & Bernie have a small 1/3 acre yard that exhibits Jeff’s interest in fruit growing as well as their shared lifelong interest in gardening with ornamental plants and shrubs.  Their yard is equally divided between shade and sun gardening with grass paths that lead one through it.  There are 30 espaliered apple trees (all self grafted, some 25+ years old), espaliered pears, grape arbor, blueberries, mulberries, raspberries, and blackberries.

    Date: Sunday July 10, 2022
    Time: 1pm - 3pm
    Location: See Grapevine or Members Only page
    Directions: See Grapevine or Members Only page

    Event Details: This event is for members and guests of members.
  • Summer Picnic
    Event Description: The Summer Picnic is a time for MidFEx to come together for a fun afternoon.  This year our host is an innovative urban farm that is educating the community about the environment, agriculture, biodiversity, permaculture, horticulture, gardening, and social justice and health issues.

    Also on the agenda for the picnic:
      
    Silent Auction:  Bring your surplus gardening related items to the picnic for auction. Examples include fruit trees and non-fruiting plants, along with books and gardening related tools. Then bid on some truly unique items and take home some bargains for your garden.  Members often graft more trees than they have room for (for insurance) and donate their surplus successes to the auction. Many also take this opportunity to divide those overly crowded garden plants knowing their donations will go to good homes. Proceeds from the auction benefit the MidFEx treasury.

    Budding Demonstration:  Get an up-close look at summer budding techniques.  Ask questions and get answers from experienced members.

    Budwood Exchange: Share budwood of desirable or unusual varieties with other members to try your own hand with summer budding.  Look for budwood collection and storage instructions in the Grapevine.

    Date: Sunday July 17,2022
    Time: Setup - 10am, Lunch - Noon
    Location: See Grapevine or Members Only page
    Directions: See Grapevine or Members Only page

    Event Details: This event is for members and guests of members.
  • Pruning Workshop

    Event Description: MidFEx pruning workshops provide a unique opportunity to hear varying pruning techniques and philosophies discussed and see them demonstrated.  We will be pruning 3 year old fruit trees planted along a public edible trail.

    Many new fruit growers are perplexed about when and how to prune their young fruit trees.  We will discuss and demonstrate stategies appropriate for each fruit type.

    Date: Saturday August 20, 2022
    Time: 10 am
    Location: See Grapevine or Members Only page
    Directions: See Grapevine or Members Only page

    Event Details: This event is reserved for members and guests of members.  See your Grapevine newsletter or the Members Only page for additional details.
  • Recent Events

  • Orchard Tour
    Event Description: Ben’s and Madeleine’s orchard is just getting started, (about a dozen apple and pear trees on dwarf rootstock, with a few peaches and berry bushes for good measure), but in addition to the trees they also have a vegetable and flower garden and a chicken coop (fingers crossed for a new flush of chickens this spring).

    Date: Sunday May 1, 2022
    Time: 1pm
    Location: See Grapevine or Members Only page
    Directions: See Grapevine or Members Only page

    Event Details: This event is for members and guests of members.  See your Grapevine newsletter or the Members Only page for additional details.
  • Kurle Memorial Lecture
    Presented as a 3-part Zoom series. These Zoom sessions can be accessed through Zoom.us or the Zoom app.


    Session #1. Lee Reich, PhD, Noted Author
    Lee Reich, PhD, is an avid “farmdener” (more than a gardener, less than a farmer) with graduate degrees in soil science and horticulture. He worked in plant and soil research with the USDA and Cornell University before turning his attention to writing, lecturing, and consulting on various aspects of horticulture. His books include A Northeast Gardener’s Year, The Pruning Book, Weedless Gardening, Uncommon Fruits for Every Garden, Landscaping With Fruit, and Grow Fruit Naturally.

    Date: Saturday, February 19, 2022
    Time: 1:00 p.m. central
    Zoom Meeting ID: See Grapevine Update notice or Members Only page


    Session #2. Jim Cummins, Retired Professor of Horticulture, Cornell University (pre-recorded)
    In the late 1960s, a “double-whammy” hit thousands of apple trees on the English clonal rootstocks that were then being planted in New York orchards.  Trees on Malling-Merton 106 were taken out by Phytophthora collar rot, and whole blocks on Malling 9 were killed by fireblight.

    Jim began his apple rootstock breeding program in 1968, at the Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, to produce a repertoire of rootstocks that could survive under fireblight and Phytophthora pressure.

    Jim’s work has profoundly influenced fruit growing through the presence of the Geneva rootstock collection, largely a result of Jim’s research.

    Date: Saturday, March 19, 2022
    Time: 1:00 p.m. central
    Zoom Meeting ID: See Grapevine Update notice or Members Only page


    Session #3. Amy Irish-Brown, Commercial Tree Fruit IPM Educator, MSU Extension
    Amy is the go-to educator for orchardists in Michigan. In addition to 30 years of experience, she has a bird’s-eye view of research projects and resources in the esteemed Michgan State University Horticulture, Entomology, and Crop & Soil Science departments.  Amy will share some new developments in Integrated Pest Management along with years of practical know-how.

    Date: Saturday, April 9, 2022
    Time: 1:00 p.m. central
    Zoom Meeting ID: See Grapevine Update notice or Members Only page

    The Kurle Memorial Lecture is offered annually in honor of Bob and Mary Kurle, conveners of the Midwest Fruit Explorers. Bob was known as one of the top fruit and nut enthusiasts in the U.S. He networked actively with fruit and nut growers all over the world. In the 1970s, Bob’s displays at the Chicago Flower and Garden Show focused the interest of ordinary gardeners on dwarf and semi-dwarf fruit trees, hybrid nuts, and promoted growing the best fruit varieties suited to the Chicagoland area. He appeared in Organic Gardening and the Chicago Tribune.
  • Grafting Workshop
    Event Description: Find out what grafting fruit trees is all about.  Learn the whys and hows with experienced grafters.  A variety of member donated scion wood will be available.  The purpose of the grafting workshop is to learn how to graft. Nonmember beginners will learn how to graft selected apple varieties on apple rootstock.  If you’d like more information about grafting see the Grafting Page.

    Date: Sunday March 27, 2022
    Setup Time:  9:00 am to 12 noon.  For MidFEx members only to help setup or if you’ve had any problems with your past grafts or grafting techniques, then let us help. We will have some of our most skilled members on hand from 11:00-12:00 to answer questions and assist you.
    Afternoon Session:  1:00 pm to 4:00 pm. THIS SESSION IS OPEN TO THE PUBLIC and the less experienced or novice grafter. Please arrive on time. Lecture begins at 1:00 sharp.
    Location: 1000 Lake Cook Road, Glencoe, Illinois.  Go to the Linnaeus Room in the Regenstein Center building.
    Parking: Parking is free for Chicago Botanic Garden members and members of gardens with reciprocal privileges. If you are not a member of the Botanic Gardens you will have to pay the parking fee.  Visit Chicago Botanic Garden’s web pages for details on parking and membership. Chicago Botanic Garden
    Event Details: THE AFTERNOON EVENT IS OPEN TO THE PUBLIC, but only the individuals actually grafting fruit trees will be allowed in the grafting classroom.  Friends, spouses, and children are welcome to explore the grounds during the sessions.
    Costs:  Our workshop and guidance are free. However you will need to buy rootstock if you want to take home a tree. We will have a limited quantity of dwarfing apple rootstock available to lecture attendees at a cost of $5 each. Grafting requires a very sharp knife with a 2-3 inch blade. Bring your own medium-size pocket knife--we can sharpen it for you if needed, or purchase one at the workshop. Other supplies are available for purchase if you would like to continue honing your grafting skills after the workshop is over.

    Maps and directions

  • 2021 Harvest Festival  
    Event Description: The Fall Harvest Festival at the Chicago Botanic Gardens is our largest public event, fund raiser, and membership drive all rolled into one.  It’s a fun exciting experience and a great opportunity to socialize and network with MidFExers while learning the virtues of growing your own fruit.  Members take great pride in our home grown fruit display showing all that can be grown in an urban or suburban yard.  [Harvest Fest]

    MidFEx will be selling wonderful tasting less commonly known apples, fruit butters, and apple cider.  

    Styles/Images/bulletList.gif Show Date & Time: Saturday October 16, 2021 10am - 4:30pm
    Styles/Images/bulletList.gif Show Date & Time: Sunday October 17, 2021 10am - 4:30pm
    Location: Chicago Botanic Garden
    Directions: 1000 Lake Cook Road, Glencoe, Illinois.
    Parking: Parking is free for Chicago Botanic Garden members and members of gardens with reciprocal privileges.  Visit Chicago Botanic Garden’s web pages for details on parking and membership. Chicago Botanic Garden

    Event Details: This event is open to the public.
  • Apple Cider Social
    Event Description: Cider pressing the old fashioned way with MidFEx’s own cider presses.

    Date: Sunday November 7, 2021 (Note - Daylight Saving Time ends on Nov. 7)
    Time: 10am - until we run out of apples

    Location: See Grapevine or Members Only page
    Directions: See Grapevine or Members Only page

    Event Details: This event is for members and guests of members.  See your Grapevine newsletter or the Members Only page for additional details.
Midwest Fruit Explorers, P.O. Box 93, Markham, IL 60428-0093
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