Newly planted baby bushes are not as photogenic as old trees, but this week I’ve been excited to be planting bushes that have been waiting for two weeks for the ground to thaw. We’ve had so much rain, that on the few non-rain days this last week, Margy and I would be outside for as long as our energy would allow. So far I’ve planted four witch hazel bushes and two winterberries (that is one in the photo, with a mulch from its shredded paper packing material) and three of the spice bushes. Two more of those to go. Margy has been planting clover in the front yard where she did a major crab-grass clearing last summer and fall.
I also took down the winter protection circular “cages” for the orchard trees, and did their first seasonal nutritional spray–a concoction I had learned about from the Holistic Orchard book. (It includes Neem Oil, Karanja Oil, a bit of dish soap, molasses, Fish Hydrolysate, Liquid Kelp, EM-1 microbes, and water, and helps to strengthen the trees own disease prevention and growth.) The orchard trees have their green tips poking out! I am also seeing new shoots of asparagus, sea kale, licorice, rhubarb, elderberry, and lots of chives.
I haven’t had a chance to mention the apple tree grafting workshop I attended at the Resilience Hub on April 7th. I won a ticket to the workshop in a raffle the day before at another event, along with a grafting knife. So, do you remember learning the story of Johnny Appleseed, when you were young? He went across the land, supposedly, planting apple trees in every town and countryside? It was news to me to learn that the apples we eat don’t come from trees that grow from seeds. Rather, they are created from branches-“scions”-of particular varieties grafted onto various root stock.
I did feel pretty clear on the concept of apple tree grafting before I actually went to the workshop–mostly from ordering our apple tree last year from Fedco. But it was harder than it seemed it would be–the actual cutting of scions and root stock, I mean. The basic idea was to form a diagonal cut on the root stock, and a matching cut on the scion of the variety we wanted, and then to form a smaller v-shape cut on each of those bare wood parts to help wed them together. We practiced on spare wood for at least 30 minutes before we started on the root stock and scions. When the cuts matched (the green edges of the bark needed to meet each other), we’d put them together, tape them with grafting tape, and then cut the scion wood to leave just two buds to grow. I am summarizing a bit here.
In the end, I brought home four apple trees that I had grafted, albeit poorly. My chosen root stock was M-111, a semi-dwarf variety, and my scions were Black Oxford and Blue Pearmain. I also learned that they could be grown in a kind of nursery bed, and transplanted to a permanent location next year. So this week, I dug them into our newly designated nursery bed, the one unused circular bed in the orchard, in which I am also growing peas, kale and lettuce (in the photo, the bamboo and string framework are there on the left to support snap peas, and the four apple trees will go in the area to the right.) Now we wait and see if any of them grow! And just for fun, I brought home some more scion wood, to try and graft it onto our ornamental crab apple trees–sometimes that works, and you can get edible fruit from the new branches. Now if it would just stop raining every day.
For several years of my childhood, our family rented a house in St. Louis from a sicilian couple who lived next door. Sam truly had a green thumb. Our little back yard was full of grafted trees: an apple tree with two kinds of apples, a tree with peaches on one side and plums on the other, and a rose bush with four colors of roses! Grafting is an amazing art. Glad you are enjoying the process!
Thanks! and thanks for the story… maybe someday I will be able to graft well–it all starts by grafting badly, I say.