Grafting 101.5 and We’re Still Here

Posted in farmers market, grafting, Grouse Mt. Farm, organic farming, organic fruit, Pruning, whats fresh with tags on May 12, 2020 by Grouse Mt. Farm

Today is May 12th, 2020. It’s been just about six years since my last pos, we are still here and still farming and trying to deal with the current situation, which is of course the Corona Virus pandemic, or Covid19.  We’re planning on being at the University District Farmers Market this Summer and Fall but with the pandemic things have changed, not sure how it’ll work for us, but we do plan on being there. But before too much of that I want to finish the thread from six years ago, the pear tree grafting..

peargraft1

Here’s a photo of the Red Anjou pear I grafted six years ago, just post bloom. as you can see, it has grown a bit. We have gotten a little bit of fruit from it, but this year is its biggest bloom and potential crop (It’s still too early to tell how many of the blooms have set fruit). A couple more pics:

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These grafts did pretty well. Last year or the year before I took off the bamboo poles and string I used to secure them. I try to prune it as if it were a regular tree, with that many scions put in, it’s easy to have too much growth in there. It’s been pruned so that there are three or four main leaders or main limbs, your basic open center tree.

We’re going to try, either here with this blog or another app or format to have a weekly list of what will be coming to the market to facilitate pre-orders to expedite the process at the newly configured market. As it is now, these are the  Neighborhood Farmers Market Associations   rules for the market as of today. Check the link for current information about  the markets.

We hope everyone is doing okay, we miss you all and look forward to seeing you in late June or Early July. It is going to be different, but it won’t last forever. Thanks.

 

 

Grafting 101.4 Follow Up – Aftercare

Posted in grafting, Grouse Mt. Farm with tags , , , on June 1, 2014 by Grouse Mt. Farm

It’s now late May/Early June and the pear grafts I did for the last post are growing well and preparation needs to be done to protect them from breaking out. If all goes as planned, the grafts will grow quite a bit this year and the graft union usually isn’t strong enough (especially with a bark graft) to support all the growth when the wind blows.

After a Little More Then a Month After Grafting

After a Little More Then a Month After Grafting

We had a good take, all the scions are growing. They could grow four to six feet in the first years growth, thats a lot of stress on the union. Some people nail supports to the tree and use twine or green nursery tape (my preference) to secure the new limb to the wood support. Instead of nailing in to the tree I tie the supports to it with twine. Figure which direction you’d like the graft to generally go, with the support (I use bamboo poles, 1″x 2″ wood or metal electrical conduit or tree branches will do) against the trunk and then tied around the tree to secure it, then tie the grafts to the supports, easy.

Tree With Supports

Tree With Supports

I like to leave the supports for at least a couple of years while the graft union grows and strengthens before removing the supports. Sometimes if, if the growth is strong, the new limbs will set fruit on the second or third year, heavier supports may be necessary for a season or two. Generally after four or five years supports are no longer needed.

Grafting 101.3 Start Cutting

Posted in grafting, Grouse Mt. Farm, organic fruit with tags , , , on May 4, 2014 by Grouse Mt. Farm

We’ll start with grafting a pear tree. We decided that after many years it wasn’t very productive for all the years and inputs we put in to it, so graft it over to another variety. This tree is on the big side of what I’d recommend doing, but it can be done on bigger trees, but it’s more effective on smaller diameter trees. The main problem with doing big trees, is that with that much wood exposed, it has a higher probability of rotting until the grafts grow enough enough to cover the wound. On a smaller tree that might only take a season or two, depending on how well the graft does, vigor of the under stock, aftercare etc. But hopefully this will get the point across so it can be applied to varying diameters of trees.

As I’ve said before, grafting is a fairly simple and straight forward process, but it can be dangerous. The knives need to be very sharp and you have to cut through the wood with a fair amount of force, and restraint, and NOT cut yourself. It’s not hard for me to imagine seriously cutting or dismembering a digit, So: SAFTY FIRST!! Always cut away from yourself and know where the knife you are in relation to each other. The following pic is how I learned and has proved safe for me and many other grafters for years.

Recommended Method of Holding Scion Wood When Cutting a Graft

Recommended Method of Holding Scion Wood When Cutting a Graft

Notice that I’m holding the scion with my left hand held firmly held to my chest to stabilize it, while with my right hand holds the knife and pulls to my right to make the cut, away from me into space. Having the wood stabilized makes it much easier to make a good cut(s). Always cut away from yourself, whatever cutting you may be doing (kitchen knives, chisels, saws etc.), a rule to live by! I recommend gathering a pile of prunings (scion wood) and taking some time to practice making the cuts, over and over until you can make a fairly smooth flat cut and feel comfortable with it, like anything it does take practice. It’s too easy to make a faceted, not flat cut, which won’t work as well if at all, then a nice flat, smooth cut. Best if you can make the finish cut in one smooth motion. (It may take a few swipes to achieve the final cut)

On to the grafting: First you need to make the saw cuts and clean up the prunings, I recommend a fresh saw cut before proceeding . If you’re doing big tree, you can cut it down well before you graft, but leave the intended limb long and cut to the desired spot just before beginning to graft. Look for as smooth and straight a section to facilitate the process.

1. Cutting the Understock

1. Cutting the Under Stock, Notice the Bark Slipping From the Wood

This graft is called a Bark Graft, you need to wait until the bark is ‘slipping’, this is when the bark easily peels away from the wood, usually late March to early April here (North Central Washington State, USA). Make two vertical cuts through the bark about  the width of the scion wood you are using, if the bark is slipping it’ll peel right off the wood. With bark this thick and somewhat crusty it takes a bit of force to get through it. This cut is made with the bark knife, made from a Old Hickory type kitchen knife that has all but about 2 to 2 1/2″ cut off of it (check out the image in my previous post). I put scions about 3″ apart around the circumference of the tree, this helps to bring the callous around to begin the closing up of the wound.

First Cut on the Scion Wood, This Goes Against the Tree

First Cut on the Scion Wood, This Goes Against the Tree

Back Cut , This Side Goes Against the Bark

Back Cut , This Side Goes Against the Bark

Side View of the Scion

Side View of the Scion, Wedge Shaped

The above photos show how the scion looks after it’s cut, ready to be inserted into the cuts on the tree, or under-stock. As I mentioned earlier, you want a nice smooth, flat cut to achieve as much contact between the scion and tree as possible.

The Scion Inserted Under the Bark

The Scion Inserted Under the Bark

Scions all Inserted

Scions all Inserted

The above pics show the scions inserted and ready to wrap and paint. Notice the small ‘half moon’ portion of the scion cuts sticking just above the surface of the wood.

The Graft Wrapped

The Graft Wrapped…

And Painted

And Painted

To finish, the grafts need to be wrapped to secure them and hold them tight to the tree. Make sure there are no gaps in the taping and that it goes a bit below where the cuts start, to insure it won’t dry out. Then the paint, apply liberally around the scions and across the top of the tree, on a bigger tree we usually leave a unpainted spot in the middle in case it gets hot early and sap begins to flow, it gives it a place to escape. Push the paint down into the cuts and goop it a bit around scions. This paint works best in warm weather, it dries fast and smooth and elastic. In colder temps it can get a bit chalky. When ever you put it on, I recommend coming back in a day and re-apply to cover any cracks which may and likely will develop. Also, cap the scions with a dab of paint, but don’t cover the scions with paint, they’ll won’t breath and it ends up rotting them.

In a Couple of Weeks the Buds Will Begin to Push

In a Couple of Weeks the Buds Will Begin to Push

They will begin to show some action in a couple of weeks. Depending on how fast they grow, in late spring to early summer aftercare is important, to secure the the new, tender growth so the wind doesn’t blow them out. I’ll post more on that later.

 

 

Grafting 101.2 Tools

Posted in grafting, Grouse Mt. Farm, Pruning with tags , , on March 30, 2014 by Grouse Mt. Farm

Grafting is a fairly straight forward process, you don’t need many tools, but specific ones. Basically a sharp knife, or knives, depending on what kind of grafts you’re doing. I love tools so I try to use good quality and try to have what I need. If you’re only going to do a few grafts then using and/or modifying what you have may be the most prudent, rather then spend money on something you may not use again. Below is a picture of what I use when I graft.

Tools I Use For Grafting

Tools I Use For Grafting

 

Starting with saw, used to cut the tree (if the tree is bigger then a lopper could handle, or to not tear a branch up too much with a lopper). Some times a chain saw is in order if the tree is bigger, although you can cut a biggish tree with the hand saw, it makes for a much cleaner cut. Once again depending on how much there is to do and how much energy you care to or can put out. Then the loppers and hand shears, basic pruning tools used to clean branches out of the way and the hand cutters for the same and cutting scion wood to size, and useful all the time for work besides grafting. The tape we use is ‘grafting tape’, but it’s basically a vinyl tape. Some people use tape with adhesive which will work, some also use black electrical tape, which I discourage because of the excess heat generated by it in the heat of summer. I like 3/4″ or  1/2″ width, but sometimes it comes down to what you can find. The green nursery tape is widely available and works well. Basically you’ll be wrapping the cuts with the tape to cinch the grafts together and to keep the cut from drying out and to keep moisture and contaminants out as well. The yellow paint is also used to seal in and seal out, traditionally  a wax mixture was used, but we’ve found it difficult to keep it in the cut during the heat of summer, and not too easy to apply. We use Farwells Grafting Seal, available at nursery supply, hardware stores or on line. It washes off with water when still wet, but when it dries it’ll stick for years (don’t wear your best cloths when applying!) Not shown is a sharpening stone. It’s important to keep a keen edge on your blades, for ease of cutting and to keep tissue damage (on the scion wood) to a minimum. I prefer water stones over oil stones (oil and water refer to the liquid used to float the steel particles off the stone), my favorite are  combination 1200 and 4000 or 6000 grit water stones (wood working supply houses).

On to the knives: Having worked as a professional grafter I ended up making my own knives to suit my needs and because I couldn’t find what I wanted commercially. They are made from a old cross cut saw blade (the ones you might see with a painted mountain scene on it in a rural cafe) it’s good steel which holds a edge well. Short of that there are other options: Victorinox (Swiss Army Knife) makes a grafting knife which is the economical alternative to the Tina brand knife. I love my swiss army knife and carry it everywhere I go but the blade doesn’t hold a edge very well, it’s made from stainless steel. The Tinas on the other hand use a high carbon steel blade which holds and edge well, but is prone to tarnish and rust if not cared for. I recommend the Tina, but they are at least twice the price. In the pic above, from left to right are a folding Tina knife, my homemade and another modified knife used as a bark grafting knife (I’ll explain it’s use in a future post).

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A few blade details: Most knives have what is called a double bevel. That is the angle that makes the edge of the blade which slopes in from both sides of the body of the blade to the cutting edge as shown below in the above image. It works well for cutting vegetables, whittling and whatever else you may need to cut with a knife. But for a grafting knife a single bevel makes the work much easier, it facilitates a smooth flat cut on the scion wood. As shown above, it’s the same bevel that chisel has, a single slope coming from the top of the blade to the cutting edge. On a grafting knife, the top of the blade depends on whether you are left of right handed. I am right handed, and looking at the blades in the photo above shows them from above, with the bevel sloping down on the left side of the blade. For a lefty, if the knife was flipped over, the slope would go from the top to the right edge.

Next post we’ll start grafting.

Grafting – 101.1

Posted in grafting, Grouse Mt. Farm, organic farming, Pruning with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 2, 2014 by Grouse Mt. Farm

I’m going to try to do a fairly complete series about grafting fruit trees, step by step throughout the spring and aftercare through the summer. For a quick read on grafting, what it is and why do it, check out this link of a blog entry I wrote a few years ago: https://grousemtfarm.wordpress.com/2010/04/23/grafting/ and look up other resources where ever they may be .

I’ll be working with common fruit trees: apples, pears, peaches, plums, apricots, cherries and walnuts. Some fruits are easier to graft then others. Apples and pears are probably the easiest, with the soft fruits a bit more finicky (mostly timing) and difficult to get a good take. Walnuts are the most difficult for me, I’ve only had scant success grafting them, but we will try… The techniques are similar with other species then those I’ve mentioned, mulberries and persimmons are fairly easy. If you want to try something else, I recommend looking up the specifics for the species on the web or library etc.

The first step is to collect scion wood (pronounced sign or sine). The wood must be collected when the tree you’re collecting from is dormant, mid to late winter is good. If early is the only possible time, as long as it’s dormant and you provide good storage it should be fine too. If it is collected too late in the winter/early spring, the scion will begin to grow after being grafted before it has fused with the tree you’ve grafted to and in short order exhausting  its reserves and drying out. When all goes well, the tree and scion form a connection then as the wood comes out dormancy it’s tapped in to the tree to provide the energy it needs to grow and survive.

Gathering Scion Wood

Gathering Scion Wood

Moderately vigorous one year old wood is optimum for scion wood. That means a branch that had grown in the previous season. Sometimes called suckers, generally upright growth about the size (diameter) of a pencil or slightly bigger, much bigger just makes for more difficult cutting when we get to the knife work. I’ve marked (rather crudely, I admit) an approximate point where you could cut scion wood from, on this particular tree (this tree was grafted two years previous, note the tape and paint on the trunk).

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The second photo shows, in my opinion, optimum sized wood. The piece to right and apart from from the grouping of three is the top of the piece cut, this is usually soft and pithy, it may work , but I usually discard it. The others are firm mature wood ready for storage. I wet a few pieces of newspaper and wrap the scion wood in it, place in plastic bag and in to the refrigerator. Not too wet, but you don’t want it to dry out either, and protect from freezing. AND, remember  to label as to what variety it is, it all looks the same when grafting time comes!

I usually begin grafting cherries in late march or early April because cherry wood doesn’t keep well and begins to sprout while in storage. Apples and pears in April here, and the other soft fruits the third to fourth week in April, during a bit of a warm spell, if possible. The walnuts I’m still trying to figure out, but more towards the end of May when the weather has warmed up. I’ll write about tools in the next post.

Pruning Kiwi Vines

Posted in Grouse Mt. Farm, organic fruit, Pruning with tags , , , , , on March 31, 2013 by Grouse Mt. Farm

Hardy Kiwis are a treat and a somewhat unusual fruit we grow. Unlike their bigger and  fuzzy cousins (Actinidia  deliciosa) most everyone is familiar with, we grow the Actinidia Arguta, or Hardy Kiwi, which are smaller and are fuzz-less, about the size of a big grape. I think they have a more concentrated flavor then the big ones and are easier to eat (no peeling necessary) but I may be biased.

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Hardy Kiwi or Actinidia Arguta

I usually prune our vines in late winter, as soon as I have a day when I can work without  having to wear gloves to keep my hands warm. It takes a bit of detail work and lots of unwinding and de-tangleing the vines, so full dexterity is a must. We have cold snowy winters, so sometime in late February to early March is when it’s warm enough. In warmer climes anytime during the dormant season would be fine. I always try to get to them before the buds begin top pop out, all the tussling required will knock off a lot of the buds if they’re beginning to bud out, the new buds will make the growth that will have fruit on it for the current season.

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Kiwi Vine beginning to bud out

Our vines are on a trellis about six feet high with six wires about 10 inches apart, with the vines secured to the wire with plastic snap clips made for this purpose, the clips also work for grapes, raspberries etc. (see below) After a years growth the trellis is a mess of plant, kiwis are a vigorous grower and much of time it takes to prune the vine is devoted to untangling and organizing the vines.

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Kiwi Vines before pruning

The first thing I do is unsnap last years growth off the wires. Kiwis will fruit on two year old and older wood, but we’ve found that we get better quality fruit form one year old  vines. After I unsnap the two year old vines I cut them off back a ways, being cautious not to cut too far back yet, mostly to get them out of my way. Then I go about untangling the one year old growth, which is fairly time consuming, but these are the vines which will have this years fruit on them so be gentle and patient.

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The top two vines are one year old wood, the bottom are two year old

It’s easy to tell the difference between one and two year old wood, the one year old is smooth and the two has the spurs which had fruit on them last season. The new growth on the one year wood will make the spurs and flowers and fruit if all goes well. So basically we’re cutting the two year wood off back to where the the new wood comes out and then training the new down to the wires.

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The vines untangled and old wood cut off, but not yet trained to wires

I usually put two vines on one wire, sometime three depending on how much new wood I have work with. Having a lot of new wood is good, but leaving too much, and hence too much fruit, can stress the vines by over-production and result in less new vines for next year. Generally I figure that if I’m getting a lot of new growth and a good fruit load then the proportion of what I’m leaving is okay.

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Pruned and trained Kiwi Vine

After pruning and training it doesn’t look like theres  much left, but by next year it’ll be a fine mess, with plenty of growth and potential.

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Another view of trained vines AND the clips we use to secure the vines to the wires

Elephant Heart Plums

Posted in Grouse Mt. Farm, organic fruit with tags , , , , , , on January 14, 2013 by Grouse Mt. Farm

It’s been almost five months since I harvested the Elephant Heart plums, September 18, 2012 to be exact. It wasn’t much of a harvest, often times it isn’t with this variety, for us anyway. We have three big mature trees that usually bloom prolifically but more often then not, just don’t set fruit. We’ve planted a few more varieties of Japanese plums to help with the pollination (Plums can be fickle this way) and when the weather is conducive to bees getting out and visiting the flowers, we have gotten good crops from these trees. The weather is a huge factor here too (as with most everything), it’s  often windy, cold and rainy in the spring, so bees don’t have a chance to get out and  do what they do. Other plums we have seem to never have an issue with setting fruit; Santa Rosa, Shiro, Burbank, all pretty much bloom around the same time and are consistent bearers. The Elephant heart is one of a few varieties we grow that customers ask us about when we get back to the markets in July, months before they’re ready, a favorite.

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Elephant Heart Plums, in January !

 

You might be wondering why I’ve chosen now to write about this illustrious fruit now? As I mentioned above, we didn’t get much of a harvest last fall, but we did get about a box (20+ pounds or so) which we kept for ourselves, and I’ve been eating them with my breakfast since, one or two every day. I just ate the last ones today; January 14, 2013, no foolin’! Not all were in great shape, they begin to break down with browning around the pit spreading to the skin, some of ours had browned a little, but still good to eat. Thats right, FIVE months since harvest, for a soft fruit! I wouldn’t attempt to market them this late, but to know they can last this long is a revelation to me. The longest we’ve kept them before was to just after the Thanksgiving holiday (late november) and then to just before Christmas, but into January now. Our method of storage is that I turn off the refrigerator unit in our walk in cooler when it gets cold out (November) and use the cold outside air to cool it, basically a refrigerator.

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This coming season, if we get any to set, I’d like to pick some a week or ten days before when I usually harvest them and see if they last any longer or hold up better in storage, and if they’ll ripen. It’s a bit of balancing act with fruit harvests, when a variety is destined for a long term storage it gets picked sooner then if the fruit is intended for immediate  consumption, but care must be taken to make sure the fruit is ripe enough to mature when taken out of storage and also not to pick it too ripe off the tree and too far along the ripeness spectrum as to be past prime. (Ever had a peach from the grocery store that never get sweet or ripen properly, they were picked to soon. Conversely, if you leave a peach on the tree just past it’s optimum picking window, it gets mealy and loses sweetness ) And of course it varies dramatically from fruit to fruit and also from variety to variety within the same fruit. But, Japanese plums in January that weren’t shipped halfway around the world, Yeah!!