Some backyard orchardists just can’t resist the challenge of “doing their own” trees.
Many of our Grandpa’s Orchard customers are farmers at heart, and wish they could have a bigger “ranch”. But if the backyard is all you have, then you must use other methods to satisfy this itch. That is why fruit growing can be so satisfying, even though it is also so challenging. Growing that special variety that you can’t buy in the store can make your orchard or ranch special. Sometimes, you have to just grow your own tree from start to finish!
The challenge of grafting and raising your own special apple or pear tree can just be too much to deny! That is why we offer rootstocks for the backyard nurseryman on Grandpa’s Orchard.
Why do it yourself? Well, probably the most important reasons are:
- Just for the challenge and satisfaction of propagating a tree from start to finish!
- You have an heirloom or favorite variety, that can’t be identified, that you want to save.
- You have special conditions where you need a scion/rootstock combination that cannot be purchased somewhere. Trees for espalier are very hard to buy.
- You just can’t find a finished tree of your variety choice anywhere! Many nurseries are cutting back on their variety offerings.
If doing it yourself is in your future, here are some tips and words of advice.
- Being a nurseryman can be very satisfying, however getting the years of experience to become a good grafter and propagator can be heart breaking. There are many skills in growing a good tree that can take years to really develop. Expect some failures— but don’t be surprised if “beginner’s luck” happens! Often, out of sheer coincidence everything comes together the first time around, but then seems like it can never be repeated, no matter how hard you try! Stick with it though.
- Plan ahead. Your results will not be good if you wait until the last minute to decide to do some grafting. Good results can be directly attributed to using quality rootstock, excellent scionwood, and well- honed technique.
- Order rootstock NOW! Geneva® rootstocks are in short supply and high demand. Grandpa’s Orchard tries to have a wide selection of roots for apple and pear, as well as some for cherry and plum. Unfortunately, peach rootstock is almost impossible to find, as it is almost always grown from seed directly in the field to bud onto.
- Find your scionwood NOW! If you have a favorite tree, cut high-quality, new growth from last season as scionwood. Wrap it in moist paper towel and store in a cool place to keep it dormant. Close to 32F is good, but under 40F is necessary to slow it from breaking dormancy. If a little frost develops on it, it shouldn’t hurt it. (Just make sure it is not frozen when you graft it.) Some orchards and hobbyists will sell scionwood and graft wood. Good wood is from the previous year’s growth and isn’t “spurred up”, which is two or more year old wood. DO NOT STORE SCIONWOOD OR ROOTSTOCK IN THE SAME PLACE AS APPLES OR OTHER FRUIT! The ethylene generated by the fruit will damage or kill the wood.
- Keep notes, records, and pictures of what you are doing, so that if you are successful, you can repeat the results consistently. No matter if you are knife grafting or using Scionon® tools, practice on some wood to hone your technique and get more experience when you move onto the “good stuff”.
- Prepare for frustration and disappointment! Poor results for the novice are more common than good results. Every little step in the growing process takes time and experience. Remember, that you usually only get one chance every year to graft or bud and develop the skills; one summer season to successfully start and grow that tree!
- Start with something a little easier. Apples and pears are the easiest. Stone fruit is much harder.
If you are a real serious hobby grafter, Grandpa’s Orchard offers all of the Scionon® Grafting Shears, plus other grafting supplies. The Scionon® shears are professional tools that can’t be compared to the cheap grafting tools others offer. Don’t be fooled by the cheap Chinese “knockoff”. Cheap tools may work well enough for the hobbyist, but these well engineered and machined tools are much more expensive and designed for professionals, like me!
Go to the “Supplies and Grafting Tools” section of the store and you can order these great tools and supplies!
If doing it your self seems too daunting, but you have something you want to save, Grandpa will likely be offering a “Variety Salvation Service” this spring or summer. Grandpa often can save your variety and return 4 to 10 nice, well grown trees in a peat pot in a shorter amount of time that you may be able to. They most likely will be whips, without many branches, with caliper around ¼-3/8”, and height around 4 feet depending on the combination. Email Grandpa for more details. Grandpa can raise some nice FastFruitTrees™, but he will require some pretty good wood.