In which I use the tricky manipulation of grafting 3 different apple varieties together to create trees that are small yet drought resistant
A long time ago fruit tree grafters selected certain rootstocks that would create smaller trees for small gardens and special purposes like espalier training. Dwarfing rootstocks are naturally small varieties of trees that confer their diminutive size to the fruit varieties grafted onto them. Early grafters had to make due with a limited selection of these dwarfing stocks, but these days there are ever smaller and more improved dwarfing rootstocks selected for size, rooting characteristics, disease resistance and ability to confer early fruiting to the variety grafted to them. Some of these modern stocks make trees of only a few feet in height. Last year I picked apples in a 30 year old orchard that had been grafted onto the dwarfing rootstock Malling 7. The trees were only about 7 to 8 feet tall making picking and maintenance very easy. These trees were also heavily loaded with fruit. One drawback to using dwarfing rootstocks is that they tend to be shorter lived than normal sized fruit trees. I’m planting trees for posterity and not just for myself, so I usually gravitate toward larger and healthier stocks. After observing these ease of handling with these small trees and noting that they seemed to be doing well after 30 years I figured maybe there was a place for some dwarfed apples here.
Dwarfed trees may tend to be shorter lived, but they bear at a younger age and can give higher yields per acre when planted at closer spacings. That’s a nice advantage. I decided to put in a group of dwarfed trees grafted to varieties suitable for hard cider making. First I looked for a good dwarfing stock in the 9 to 12 foot high range and decided on the newer Geneva 30 rootstock. Alas, everyone seemed to be out of it because it was late in the season. Then I got onto the idea of using an inter-stem.
In inter-stem grafting (also known as double working and interstock) a normal sized vigorous rootstock is used for the roots of the plant, a second variety of dwarfing rootstock is grafted on top of that, and the fruit variety to be grown out is grafted on top of the dwarfing inter-stem. The result of this strategic placement of genetic materials is a fruit tree of the variety you want, dwarfed by an inter-stem but with a full sized root system to feed it. Read more »
Every spring in most parts of California, the rains come to a stop and a long hot rain free period begins. In these regions summer rains are very rare and, in the rare event that one occurs, it is usually not substantial enough to soak more than a useless 1/2″ or so into the soil. I live in such a region at the headwaters of a creek which feeds the Russian river. Like most california creeks in the coastal ranges it is a spawning stream for Salmon and Steelhead. Any water that I don’t use goes to feed the creek and keep the baby Salmon and Steelhead alive. If someone doesn’t suck up the water which I conserve here when it gets further downstream in order to water their lawn, flush their toilet or irrigate their wine grapes it keeps the Russian River full and cool and livable for these and other fish. I have planted over 100 fruit and nut trees and more are on the way, but there is no way I can irrigate them all. Not only do I like to conserve water but I also don’t have much to work with as the spring we use drops to a modest, but so far adequate, 1/2 gallon per minute by the end of the summer in a normal year. A small percentage of trees that require extra water for one reason or another might be irrigated in the future, but the rest will have to make it through the long dry summers using whatever moisture is stored in the soil from the winter rains.
I’ve conceived an idea for a dying mulch system using perennial flower bulbs under fruit and nut trees. If it works the system would provide a permanent solution to soil moisture conservation with a minimal amount of work investment. In addition it will have the added aesthetic value as well as bulbs and flowers which can also be sold to provide additional income.
Imagine this: as the fruit tree loses its leaves in the fall and the rains begin hundreds or thousands of Narcissus bulbs start pushing up leaves from the ground. The leaves grow rapidly with the benefit of the stored energy of the bulbs choking out slower growing weeds completely. In the middle of winter sometime, the ground beneath the tree is a sea of fragrant flowers. In the early summer as the tree is growing rapidly off of the moisture stored in the soil, the Narcissus leaves are withering up and dying in the increasing heat leaving a thick carpet of dead leaves which will protect the surface of the soil from the baking sun and the evaporation of moisture it would bring. Narcissus and another currently favored candidate Amaryllis, are long lived plants dividing into crowded colonies that endure for decades and not unlikely even hundreds of years, so this could be a fairly permanent system. Read more »
In season I eat a ton of artichokes. I pick them young so the hairs (the choke) are soft and edible. I don’t envy anyone their store bought chokes so overgrown that they require shaving before consumption. I have quite a few plants and however many I harvest at a time it’s never really enough, because any that aren’t just eaten steamed will be pared down to only their tenderest parts and canned up as marinated artichoke hearts. The plants in my garden, a row of them, are 7 feet tall at least, maybe 8. They sprout from dormant roots with the fall rains. They grow slowly but steadfastly through the winter. Snows crush them down, hail hammers at their leaves and freezes occasionally damage some of the growth. But they continue on. By late winter they choke out the weeds in their exuberant growth protecting their spot of soil with shade and dying leaves… a forest of artichokes reaching skyward with hungry leaves and buds. By May buds are forming and in June the plants are covered in buds 30, 40, 50 to the plant. They fall over of their own weight and keep growing, turning up and growing on with elemental force. They are attractive, they are tasty, they produce large amounts of compostable material. Dude, Artichokes are awesome! And although they’re a high value item in the stores (and at a lower quality), reasonable conditions permitting, they are very easy to grow. Pretty much all I do is select a good site, pick the right variety, help them get established and pee on them during the winter. That’s it. They seem to have few pests and I water them lightly if at all. Their fucking weeds for the lack of god! Beautiful aggressive tasty weeds. Read more »