Starting Your Own Fruit Trees Written by Thomas Leo Ogren
*Note: This article first appeared in Grandiflora Magazine.
Starting Your Own Fruit Trees
Thomas Ogren I flat out love growing fruit trees and have been crazy about them all my life. Or at least, as much of my life as I can remember. Actually, very first thing I can clearly recall involved fruit trees. I was about three, possibly four years old. It was a warm, lazy spring weekend and my older sisters were gone somewhere with my mom, but my dad was home, working in garage. I wasnít allowed to cross street by myself, but down block, across street, was a beautiful pineapple guava tree growing in middle of some grouchy old manís lawn. The tree had a huge crop of large, green, totally delicious fruit, but owner wouldnít let any of us kids pick guavas from his tree, much less climb it. He claimed that we would break branches. He would however let us have fruit that fell on ground, but these guavas were generally too soft and mushy. That day I walked down street by all by myself, seeing no adults or even any other kids around. I looked at that tree and dashed across street. The old man was nowhere around and I climbed up his guava tree and started stuffing big, fat guavas in all my pockets. I picked as many as my pockets could hold and climbing back down I did indeed break a few small branches. Looking both ways (of course!) I ran back across street with my loot. Back at home I found my dad still in garage and I showed him my stash, expecting him to yell at me for crossing street. But dad never did make connection and thus my first episode of crime was all in all, a total success. Some fifty years later I now have five guava trees growing in my own yard, all grown from seed. I also have many other fruit trees, all of them homegrown ones.
Fruit From Cuttings Some fruit is so easy to propagate I always wonder why everyone doesnít try it. Grapes, figs, mulberries, and pomegranates are all easy to grow from directly-stuck cuttings. I cut off a piece of dormant wood, 12-18 inches long, and I bury almost all of it in ground where I want it to grow. I leave at least one good bud above ground. Sometimes to insure a better take, Iíll stick five or six such cuttings in same spot. If they all grow, then next winter I dig up extra ones and give them to friends. I use cutting wood that grew last year and find that wood that is about pencil thickness or somewhat thicker roots best. I recently accidentally discovered a way to get plum wood to root for me. I used a long whip of plum branch (dormant wood) as a stake in a one gallon pot of some fancy gold heart ivy. To my surprise plum wood rooted and started to grow next spring. I now do this on purpose, using plum wood that is from last yearís vigorous growth. I select plum whips 2 to 3 foot long, with no branching on them, and stick each one all way down into center of a gallon pot of some well-rooted perennial flowers or herbs. A surprising number of these plums grow, and since they are "on their own root,Ē they donít need to be budded or grafted. Try it.
From Seed I have a spot in my backyard next to my compost heap, and here I toss any and all old pits from plums, apricots, peaches, and nectarines. I toss apple and pear seeds in here too. At end of summer I shake an inch or so of old compost over area and see what grows. Since I do this every year, I always have a ready supply of seedlings each year. In winter months, or in very early spring months if you live in a zone 4-7 area, dig up some of these year-old seedlings, bare root, and pot them up one to each one gallon pot. I use a 50-50 mix of potting soil and garden dirt. I then water pots, set potted seedling on a table, clip off most of top, leaving 4-6 inches of trunk above ground, and then cleft graft seedling. Cleft grafting is, I think, easiest method and it works well with apricot, peach, plum, nectarine, quince, apples and pears. I use a thin bladed knife and tap it (tapping back of knife blade with a small hammer or a piece of wood) directly into center of cut seedling, going down only about one inch. I cut scion wood (whatever you want to convert your seedling to) that is from last yearís growth. I like to use scion wood that has a diameter that is slightly smaller than diameter of seedling Iím going to graft it to. The grafts, or scions, should be about 3 to 4 inches long and each should have several good, dormant buds. The scions can be cut to shape with a sharp pocketknife. Try to get your scions cut smoothly, with a gradual taper. The scions are then tapped into place in split seedling (the rootstock), making sure that cambiums of both scion and rootstock match on at least one side. The cambium is thin green layer of wood that is just inside outer bark. To keep your work from drying out, cover entire finished graft with a thick coating of grafting tar or grafting wax. I also put a dab of tar or wax directly on exposed cut tip of scion. Be careful as you do this, not to knock scion out of contact with rootstock cambium. Now, unless a kid, bird, or a cat bangs into this graft and knocks scion askew, if you did it right, come springtime scion will sprout and grow. Voila! Youíve got a grafted fruit tree. You can graft peach onto almond, apricot, plum, peach or nectarine rootstock, and visa versa. For sandy soils peach or nectarine make best rootstocks, but for heavy clay soils, plum is by far best. Apples can be grafted on apple seedlings, as can pears. Pear can also be grafted on apple stock. If so inclined, scion wood from quince can also be grafted onto apple or pear. An apple or pear grafted onto a quince rootstock will be a dwarfed tree. If your soil is clay, a pear rootstock grows best. If sandy or loamy, apple is preferred. I grow these new fruit trees on in gallon pots for a year, making sure to cut off any sucker wood that arises from below graft. Keep them well fertilized and watered and they will often grow 3-5 feet in one summerís time. The next year either plant them or give them away to friends. If you have a potted fruit tree seedling where graft fails to take, simply cut off unsuccessful grafted part. You can re-graft it next dormant season. If you have year old seedlings left in ground that you wonít get around to digging and grafting, consider chopping them off just above ground in late fall. The next spring these seedlings will grow up with multiple trunks. The next winter dig your second-year seedlings with multiple trunks, thin them back to strongest 2 or 3 stems, and then cleft graft each of stems to something different. I have made many three-in-one trees this way, part plum, part apricot, and part nectarine. These make extra nice presents. You can of course just as easily graft each branch to a different cultivar of same species, such as three different kinds of plum on same rootstock. A tree like this is often very fruitful, since it will cross-pollinate itself.
Insecticides & Fungicides/Spreader-stickers, Wetting Agents: Getting the most out of Your SpraysWritten by Thomas Ogren
Spreader-stickers, Wetting Agents: Getting most out of Your Sprays
Spreader-stickers or if you prefer, sticker-spreaders, are agents we can add to garden sprays to make them more effective. These additives are commonly used in commercial horticulture and in agriculture, but for some reason are as yet relatively unknown to most gardeners. Sticker-spreaders can be made of many different components, organic or inorganic. Often actual ingredients in a particular brand of sticker-spreader will be kept secret, as a proprietary formulation known only within company producing it. Some brands use silicone-based surfactants, oils, emulsifiers and buffering agents, while others may use odd combinations of things like fish oil and fatty acid soaps. Several are made entirely from some sort of emulsified soybean oil. Actually, common dish soap will act as a sticker-spreader, it just wonít be as effective. To be totally technically correct here, sticker-spreader is a combination of two adjuvants. Adjuvants are materials added to spray mixtures to increase effectiveness of main active ingredient. If we want to be completely correct with our terminology here, we probably ought to note too that spreaders are adjuvant surfactants. Surfactants are adjuvants that reduce surface tensions of solutions, helping them spread and cover leaves more effectively. Stickers are adjuvants that aid in attachment to a surface. The water-soluble wax product often used to spray Christmas trees to keep them turgid, Wiltpruff, is also sometimes used as a sticker-spreader. I recently did some comparison spraying of roses in my own garden. I was spraying roses with a homemade combination to keep darn deer from eating them into ground. With both batches of spray I used, per gallon of water, two raw eggs, four cloves of garlic, and a cup of skim milk. I blended all ingredients in a blender before putting them in sprayer. I sprayed two different sections of roses. In first section I used above mix, with addition of 6 tablespoons of dish soap. In second section of roses I used same mix but used two tablespoons of a commercial grade sticker-spreader.