Scion wood and Cottonwood
HOMESTEAD PROOF, Question 28. Describe improvements and give value of each. “…3 beehives – $10.00, fruit trees – $25.00. Information filled out by my grandfather January 1889.
WHEN TO GRAFT FRUIT TREES: “…when the leaves on the rootstock or tree are the size of mouse ears.” from the old-timer who taught me – it’s fun and easy to remember and it’s different every year.
Since the snow has finally melted, it was time to assess the damage all the heavy, wet snow had done. While we were having those snowstorms, we could smell the cottonwood trees losing their limbs. A quick tour of the nearest canyon yielded a quite a few broken limbs. Today we were able to gather a quart freezer bag full of aromatic buds. I tossed them in the freezer and when my co-op order comes in, hopefully with my organic olive oil, I will make an infusion, so I can make salve.
Today, the temperature was hovering at 50 degrees, so it was practically shirt sleeve weather. It was dry and perfect for gathering scion wood from our old apple trees. We have two orchards, one planted in the spring of 1882 and one that was most likely planted in 1884 or 85. The trees that have survived all this time still produce more than we can possibly use. (IF they get pollinated AND the blossoms don’t get decimated by our spring hail storms) I have been gradually starting a new orchard that will last for the next 100 years. So we have been getting some fruit from trees that I grafted and planted 10 years ago. But I want to expand the orchard to a larger size. It’s easy to procrastinate, but I know in my heart of hearts, that one silver thaw or serious wind storm could topple our old guys – so I need to get busy.
“they still got it!” These two KINGS gave us 20 boxes of apples this year!
Apple scion wood – ready for the fridge.
If you have apple trees you want to save, you need to gather pencil size growth from last year, with flat buds. The fruiting buds are fat. You don’t want those. Only select the healthiest looking wood you can find. Most likely, on old standard trees the growth you will be looking for is at the top – borrow an adjustable pole pruner. All you will need is 4″ to 6″, unless you want to topwork a tree that you already have, then you will need more. Label your treasures well, with masking tape and indelible ink. If you don’t know the variety just call it something you will remember, so while your waiting for the tree to produce you won’t forget. Wipe with a light bleach solution, wrap with a moistened paper towel and put in a plastic bag in the fridge. Check periodically for dryness or mold, depending on if you have a frost free (dry) or manual defrost (wet) refrigerator. Strive for dry, not shriveled - just like they were when you gathered them. In my experience drying out is worse than getting a little damp. You can always take them out, let them dry and rewrap. But rehydrating will never happen, once the bark separates from the wood, it will never make a good graft. I purchase my rootstock from Raintree Nursery in Washington, www.raintreenursery.com , they have an excellent catalog and a good mix of heirloom and new fruits to try for the home orchard. Rootstock type is subjective, dwarfing rootstock produces faster, but isn’t as hardy or a long lived. I’m in it for the long haul – so I use Standard. I have a few apples trees on semi-dwarf that need to be staked to keep from uprooting, so now 15 years later I’m thinking that was a mistake. I like the old varieties but there are quite a few new ones that warrant looking at.
Here’s a list of our dependable tree fruit:
Apples - Yellow Transparent, this one sometimes gets a bad rap, because most people wait too long to pick it. Pick it when it is full sized and yellowish. This is our first apple, it bears every year no matter what the weather and it makes a dynamite sauce! That first apple tastes pretty good, just like the first tomato, so I think this variety belongs on every homestead.
Gravenstein, ripens in late August – early September. Fresh eating, sauce, pies, and cider or vinegar. Too juicy for drying.
King or Tompkins King, ripens late September – early Oct. All purpose, great for baking because it is a little on the drier side. Keeps well – I still have some outside on the northside of my porch.
Northern Spy, ripens late October. Excellent flavor, all purpose and it keeps well too. I have some on my porch and some in the refrigerator. Still good. The only downside of this wonderful variety is that it bears every other year.
Jonathan, old style from the 1880′s, same as King above, only it keeps better. I just had this tree identified this past fall by our Home Orchard Society. No one was really sure what the tree was, since the “younger” orchard on our place was strictly a mail order, with one tree of each kind available at the time.
Prunes, Italian - the best for fresh eating and drying or canning. This is probably our favorite tree fruit.
Pears, Bartlett, reliable producer, good for canning and drying.
D’Anjou, new for us, but a reliable producer and good keeper.
In our area the HOME ORCHARD SOCIETY, http://www.homeorchardsociety.org/links/ has an annual scionwood exchange in the spring and a tasting and identifying fair in the fall. A great place to learn more about fruits for the home garden.
www.onegreenworld.com also has an excellent selection of fruit and rootstocks.