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Posts Tagged ‘FRUIT TREES’

After attending another session on Grafting Techniques, not the ‘hard work’ graft, but the ‘joining of two pieces of wood to create a new tree’ graft, I have decided to write a blog about it. The process has always intrigued me and after my first attempts at grafting last year, when all four miraculously took, I developed the grafting bug. At first the process seems complicated, but it soon falls into place once you start practicing the cuts and understand the science a bit. So, in an attempt to hopefully demystify grafting I am going to take you through the steps.

There are different types of grafting techniques but here I am just going to cover the crudely named ‘whip and tongue’ technique as this seems to be the most popular for fruit tree grafts. To create a graft you need two pieces of plant tissue that are related, ideally in the same genus or at least family group; a rootstock [which determines the tree’s size] and a scion [which determines the fruit variety].

Scions are taken from trees in the dormant season around December up to February. Select one-year-old wood, ideally pencil-thick, and cut to around 10 to 15cm long with four to six buds visible. Put these in a plastic bag, roll up and sneak them into the bottom of your fridge for safe keeping. The grafting procedure is then carried out towards the end of February until the end of March, just as the sap starts to rise.

The rootstock is a little more complicated. It is important to select the right rootstock for the space you have available for the tree to grow…and there are many to choose from. Frank Matthews has a good guide to the different rootstocks; MM106 and M26 semi dwarfing rootstocks tend to be the most popular for apples in gardens. Rootstocks will need to be bought in and can be purchased online via Blackmoor or Ashridge Nurseries.

The science behind grafting is fascinating and for those of you who have done the RHS General memories of plant biology will come flooding back. It all comes down to the cambium tissue that lies just beneath the bark and its ability to actively divide and reproduce cells [also called meristematic]. When two separate [but related] pieces of plant tissue are joined together, it is the matching up of the cambiums on the scion and rootstock to “intimately contact” each other that will make the union successful; as the two separate cambiums will fuse together.

Locating the cambium is relatively easy as we know it is just under the surface of the bark. We just need to make sure that the cut on each piece of wood is similar in width and length. Ideally choose a rootstock that has the same size girth as the scion. However, you may have thin scions that are impossible to match up in girth size to a rootstock; this always seems to happen to me. As long as you make sure one side of the cambium [on the scion and rootstock] is matched up and in “intimate contact” the union process will still occur.

Tools. A good grafting knife that is clean and sharp is essential and a sharpening stone to keep it that way would be useful. You will also need secateurs, elastic rubber to bind the two stems together and some grafting tape [some people use heated wax] to wrap around the secured join to protect from infection and lock in moisture. See Blackmoor for supplies. Oh, and a first aid kit would be wise.

So for the cuts. Starting with the scion… the aim is to make a smooth diagonal cut from one side of the stem right through to the other. Practice this as much as you can until you are happy with the cut [see my practice cuts below]. The tutor of the grafting course at Reaseheath, Harry Delaney, advises keeping your elbows tight to your side to help keep control of your knife and cuts. Some prefer to make cuts away from the body but Harry teaches cutting towards…hence the tight elbows…and the first aid kit.

Once you are happy with your practice cuts on your scion you need to make sure that a bud is present on the back of the cut side as in my practice cut below [see top diagram too].


Next, make a small, straight notch in the wood [in image scion is on the left, rootstock on the right]. This will slot into another notch that you will make on the rootstock and will form the union [helping to keep the pieces together].



For the rootstock, cut just above a bud [diagonal cut sloping away from the bud] to leave you with about 15cm for the stem height; you are also aiming for a bud to be present at the back of the cut on this too. You cut the rootstock differently to the scion as you don’t need to cut from one side of the stem through to the other. You just need to take the surface off to reveal the cambium. It is also good practice to measure your cut length on the scion against the rootstock, to get a good match. You are aiming for a little gap or ‘church window’ at the top of the join [left image] as well as the bottom [right image].


Once you are happy with the cut, which should be as smooth and as straight as possible, check that the two pieces of wood fit together with no gaps between the two surfaces. Now line up the cambiums, whether matching to both sides or just one [as in above right image] making sure the notches [graft union] are ‘hooked’ together [see diagram at top] and fasten the elastic tightly around the join and tie. You now need to stretch and mould the grafting tape around the join or dab with melted wax.

That’s it. Label with the variety and rootstock and you are ready to plant up. By April, if the cambium union has worked you should see the buds starting to burst. Very exciting. I shall be holding my breath for my grafts; three Quice ‘Vranja’ on rootstock Quince C [below] and one Apple Norfolk Beefing on M26.

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Here we are hurtling through November, the October blues are over and I have my fairy lights pinned around the outside of my greenhouse. Everything is sparkly again. You would think that as an Autumn baby I would be happy at this time of the year. Instead it’s all gloomy as summer has slipped away at break neck speed and it’s dark outside. Oh, and I always get some weird virus and the snot monster attacks. C’est la vie but at least I know I’m not alone.

So sparkly lights and pots full of winter bedding plants have cheered me up. I still have loads of apples, some are being stored, some are destined for the chickens [yes I have fruit-loving poots too] and some will be used to make even more of River Cottage’s irresistible Bramley Lemon Curd. Fruitshare has been bigger than ever this year, thanks to Twitter and the lovely people out there that have supported it. But there is a long way to go yet before it becomes a truly successful initiative.

The Newsround feature didn’t come off. The move to Salford and a change of heart with the producer meant that the cameras didn’t roll. I was disappointed. I felt awful that I had lined up a small team of willing children and fruit sharing mums to have to call it all off. The idea was to follow a fruit sharing journey, where apples would be collected from the garden of one family and given to another. Then, the fruit seeking family would get stuck in, aprons on, scales out, to transform the free apples into lovely puddings and jams.

Well, as it happened, it was decided that the fruit sharing journey would be recorded anyway! Not quite by a camera crew but by my trusty old camera instead. Kim Carmyllie [Mum, baker of fabulous cakes, Cub leader and IT Manager] was [and is] my Fruitshare star from sunny old Bolton who was still up for doing a fruit sharing rendezvous. I had recently discovered an untouched crop of the most delicious apples too and desperately needed someone to pass them on to!

The meeting took place over half term so I could get the kids to help out. Our first mission was to pick the apples. The tree is in the midst of a construction site for a self-build project [potential client] so the picking became more of an adventure. Mud and diggers everywhere. The son was in his element. After sliding down an embankment of excavated soil…we all fell silent; spell bound. No, not with more construction machinery, we had disturbed a young Roe deer who had been hiding in nearby undergrowth. We watched for a while before it bounded off across the fields. Magic. I have to point out that this plot of land is surrounded by busy roads just on the outskirts of Bury!

On with the apple picking, nettle stinging and embankment sliding we went and filled all our baskets. I am not sure what variety of apple it is but they are good eaters [and cookers as we later found out]. The tree has a beautiful shape and the branches fall all the way down to the ground; I have never seen one like it. The area used to be a small orchard and this is one of two trees that remain. I hope they decide to plant more.

With kids prepped to be on their best behaviour, off to Kim’s kitchen we went with our bounty. You can tell Kim enjoys her baking; a kitchen table full of baking goodies; home-made jams; chutneys; an apple jelly in the making; cupboards crammed with flours, sugars and spices. What would we make? This important decision was left to the kids…apple cake followed by apple and ginger jam. We all got stuck in; weighing, mixing, peeling, beating, pouring, sprinkling and the inevitable spoon licking!


I’m not sure on the exact recipe Kim used but I have located one that is similar here [we didn’t add the toffee]. Once the cakes were poured into their cases the kids piled on an extra ingredient, demerara sugar, to give it a lovely sweet and crunchy crust. We popped them in the oven for around 40 minutes and boy those baking aromas were delicious!

Next, the apple and ginger jam. I have found a recipe, again similar to the one Kim used, on another blog here. Kim used stem ginger though and added in the syrup too. We chopped the apples and put them in a pan with the water and waited… and waited… and waited for them to turn into the pulpy texture we were expecting. The mystery apple seems to hold on to its texture when cooked…so a ‘chunky’ apple and ginger jam it was to be!

We were with Kim for a good few hours and enjoyed every minute; so a big thank you goes out to her 🙂 We even got to take home some jars of jam and one of the apple cakes…both utterly delicious!

The harvest season is practically over, although I know there will still be thousands of trees out there hanging on to their fruits. The Fruitshare website will have some new features added for next year and I’m hoping for bigger and better publicity too. No doubt I will keep you all posted. Thank you again to all those that have supported this very new initiative x

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 Article adapted from November issue of BL Magazine.

I have a not-so-secret mission to temp and persuade as many people as possible to grow fruit. Any birthday presents I give tend to be of the fruiting kind, pots stuffed with strawberries, a pair of blueberry bushes, a fan-trained cherry, each adorned with a great big bow. I haven’t had any complaints yet. And the best thing is is that these gifts will continue to fruit their socks off for years to come, perhaps a lifetime. Perfect.

Part of this mission involves conquering those that are non-gardeners by giving them a little insight into choosing, buying and planting a fruit tree, without frightening them away.  Now happens to be the perfect time to do this, buying and planting trees that is… unless you are frozen solid in a winter wonderland!  The dormancy that winter brings allows fruit tree growers a great window of opportunity. Over the next few months sleeping specimens can be carefully dug up, with roots loosened of any soil [hence ‘bare root’] and transported far and wide, without causing too much trauma to the plant.

Buying bare root at this time of year gives you the most choice in terms of varieties and will be cheaper as there is less packaging and so lower transport costs. Choosing the variety of fruit will be the most challenging decision and I would recommend requesting a plant list from a specialist nursery or doing some research on the internet [see contacts at bottom].

Once you have set your heart on a particular type and variety, just check which pollination group it falls into or whether it is self-fertile. The pollination group is categorised by numbers [1 to 7] and refers to the time the variety blossoms. The idea is to choose another variety in the same blossom time to ensure pollination or, if self-fertile, a better crop.

One last decision to make is what form of tree to buy and how big you want it to grow. For a smaller garden you may want to buy a ‘trained’ form like a fan or a tiered espalier, or if you prefer the standard tree form choose a less vigorous rootstock.

Rootstocks!?  Without getting too technical here…fruit trees [mainly apples and pears] are propagated by joining two separate trees, one being the variety you want to eat and the other being the rootstock which determines how big the tree will grow. The clever part is…you can have your favourite variety of fruit on any of the available rootstocks.

There are a number of rootstock definitions that specialist growers will be very familiar with and they will be more than happy to advise you. However, to give you some examples [and make you sound knowledgeable] for apples ‘M106’ is a semi-dwarfing stock that is suitable for small gardens [up to 3m], ‘Quince A’ is the best dwarfing stock for pears and quinces [up to 3-6m] while ‘St Julian A’ is the best dwarfing for plums [up to 4m].

 The next step is to order your bare root specimen[s] and wait, patiently, for them to arrive. As soon as it is delivered, unwrap and plant out. If you’re unable to do this straight away make sure you keep the root system moist and protect from frost.

When you do find the opportunity to plant, there are a couple of things to remember. Dig a hole slightly larger than the root system. Fork over the bottom to open up the soil [roots don’t like compacted soil]. Make sure the trunk isn’t sitting too low, aim for the same level it was planted at the nursery [ look for  the ‘join’ of the rootstock and variety and make sure this is clear of soil level].  Back-fill, firming soil so there are no air pockets left between the roots. Stake, I opt for the angled approach [facing into wind so it pushes the stake into the ground].

That’s it. A fifteen minute job and a lifetime of pleasure to look forward to. You’ll be tentatively watching for the first blossom to erupt in spring, the first bee to pollinate, the fruitlets to develop, the swelling and changing of fruit shape and colour and finally the first taste…for many many moons to come.

FRUIT TREE SPECIALSTS

Orange Pippin Fruit Trees  

RV Rogers 

Ornamental Trees

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