Grafting – A Manual – my New Book

Books: The Manual of Plant Grafting By Peter T. Macdonald

ISBN 978-1-60469-463-5 Timber Press, London, Portland.

 

This is great addition to my library of practical horticultural books – no it is not a coffee table glossy, but 228 pages of really good advice on why, how and when to carry out grafting.

The author, Peter Macdonald, has travelled widely in his research for this book, and brought together 9 chapters covering the history of grafting, the biology of plant union processes, as well the more practical ways of carrying out grafting.

He has been able to cover both old techniques and current thinking and practises, as well as ideas where horticulturalists may go in the future. The photos used throughout are excellent, the diagrams well drawn.

As a producer of fruit trees I find almost every aspect of my operation is covered here, bar a few peculiarities which each propagator has. The relative benefits of different techniques are well recorded so no lack of information here for the aspiring student or amateur.

Of particular relevance to me is the techniques used in fruit production: whip and tongue and chip budding. On page 131 the whip graft is rightly recommended for new grafters, and a good starting point once competence with the knife is achieved. Whilst there is no substitute for seeing the techniques mentioned being carried out, on pages 133 to 136, Peter’s lengthy description, photos and diagrams of the whip and tongue are a great asset. The danger to fingers and hands is obvious in the top drawing on page 135….do get this demonstrated before you try it is my advice!

On Chip Budding, it is stated that the tapes need to be removed in 6 weeks after budding( page 153). In Scotland, I have found that no detriment occurs to the percentage bud-take even if they are left till late winter, and it fits into my work schedule to do this task later in the year.

The Appendix, ( appendices?), pages 179-203 are a very useful resource in a tabular form listing the methods of grafting for over 220 scion  / rootstock combinations plus top worked combinations and a list of current fruit tree rootstocks.

The 4 pages of references and 14 pages of index just finish off this book nicely.

The Grafter’s Handbook by RJ Garner has been the trusted grafter’s bible for 50 years, now this is a very well produced and edited additional resource for the keen horticultural students and amateurs of the future wanting to know more of the subject. I thoroughly recommend this book to these students!

 

Andrew Lear

2015.

Cider Apples

Whiteways Cider factory was about 5 miles from my home in Devon and we used to scrump rather horrible apples from their orchards as kids….probably Langworthy, and Dunkerswell Late among many others. And as a teenager of course I drunk some pretty rough ciders from big round barrels! As there is a great buzz in Scotland surrounding cider making and cider apples this year I thought I’d post a few thoughts on the subject. We have in the past grown Morgan’s Sweet, Tom Putt and Fair Maid of Taunton….and I have really enjoyed browsing through Liz Copas’s ”A Somerset Pomona” over the Xmas break. In this book there are some varieties reminiscent of my childhood climbing and scrumping trees! Cider apples come in different categories according to their taste….so don’t worry about what they look like in the books as it is the cider making qualities that are important here. In a nutshell they are categorised as Sharp, Bittersharp, Bittersweet and Sweet, and may be early mid or late ripening. At our cider sessions last year it was possible to catch these elements in different Scottish apples; getting a mix of these flavours is how to make a good cider.  Going for say a sweet and bittersharp mix would be good. Or you could make different single variety ciders and then blend before drinking. A bittersweet and sharp mix would in my mind do the same. The tannin content (the browning) of an apple is useful and the specific gravity content of the juice is important to cider making, giving you the necessary ingredients for alcohol production! Of equal importance to us here are the productive qualities of cider varieties, as there is no point in planting a cider tree that just isn’t going to produce anything under Scottish conditions; many won’t even ripen properly, and are just too late for our climate.  So, over the following year I will be propagating a small range of specially selected scab resistant, early, and precocious trees, ready for sale in winter 2015. A small amount of scab is acceptable for juicing, but not so much that the trees and production suffer. There are a few examples of cider trees in Scotland that I know of, and most are large and relatively unproductive. Growing central leader trees on a semi-vigorous stock is probably the way forward for us. Don’t be fooled by the unpruned large Herefordshire trees as a system, it would not suit us all here, unless you have a large acreage to play with. Our likely mix of sharps and bittersweets, sweets and bittersharps will be among the following: Langworthy, Porter’s perfection, Stoke Red, White Jersey, Brown’s and Slack Ma Girdle and  others.  Traditionally cider apples are grown as very big trees and they are shaken free of all their fruit. OK if you can wait 5 years for a crop, but most of our customers want to be making juice sooner. So we will be grafting some mm106 semi-dwarfing trees as well as vigorous M25 trees for sale in a year’s time. 79 Watch this space! And best wishes to all you apple tree growers for the new year…. and remember to Wassail your trees on January 17th!

Woodhouse Coffee Shop

Hot on the heels of my last coffee blog I continue the theme here after visiting the Woodhouse Coffee shop near Kippen (on appletree business of course!).
Its very accessible from Stirling, and on a roundabout also so easy access to the large car park.
The shop was loaded with interesting goodies including many organic items, the largest pie I have ever seen from the Kippen Butcher section, teas of exotic nature, and a fine selection of interesting beers and ales. Also a few ciders from Cornwall with weird colours, a must try for the future!
Slightly puzzled at the lack of vegetables in a farm shop, though there was a ‘naughty’ sweety section….what nae spuds?
Its fab to sit on a comfy cushion in a cafe, and recycled ones too, and I love all the wooden tables, boxes and baskets etc. Solar panels on the roof also….You get a ‘hello’ as you enter and there were plenty of staff serving on a Monday afternoon.
But best of all was the list of teas you can buy! And I ordered a good latte before I read down the list. Mistake, as a ‘Gunpowder’ would have been just the ticket or a chai! Lunch of Fennel and lemon soup will also wait for my next visit.
On the way out – oops a ‘Grapevine’ pale ale for a pick me up  later tonight….it comes recommended from a local microbrewery. You do know about the old Kippen grapes, the world record holder? No, maybe the owners should put a photo on the wall? You’d be impressed. So cycle out a few miles from Stirling or pop in en route to the west and enjoy a cuppa!Woodhouse Cofee Shop

Farm Shops of Scotland

Intensive Apple Orchard at Craigie Farm

Intensive Apple Orchard at Craigie Farm

I love the fact that you can enjoy a cup of good coffee, buy a delicious local artisan oatcake or black pudding, and pick a few fruits for your pudding in one short trip. These are things you cannot do in style in the crowds and hassle of a supermarket.

My most recent trip was to Craigie Farm Shop near Kirkliston, a pyo farm, much of which was open to the public.On a Sunday afternoon it was very busy, but there are lots of seating in and outside the cafe, and I like the idea of the canine cafe! However poor Jed was banned from the fruit growing areas, the impressive polytunnels with table tops groaning with strawberries and pots of raspberries.

After viewing the grunting pigs, and the friendly Shelties, we followed the nature trail along the lines of open grown heavily laden gooseberries, and surprise surprise came upon a fabulous modern orchard. (There’s always an ulterior motive with Appletreeman! )

I have seen this square block of trees developing over the last year from the dual carriageway into Edinburgh, and was determined to check it out. It is as I thought, a very exciting new development in top fruit growing in Scotland. There are about 15 lines of very closely spaced trees, at one meter, on very dwarfing stocks of M9. It all looks very well managed, and very productive with sunset, worcesters, katy etc. all yielding fruit in this rather mixed year.

Very good to see that lines of Italian Alder have been planted as shelter belts also, a necessity for this easterly plot way down the bank, whereas some cherries further up near the cafe seem to be more exposed. Back at the shop we picked up a few punnets of fabulous rasps and gooseberries and set off home very pleased!

The farm is not organic, but allows the public to see into the tunnels so common in Perthshire, with real commercial horticulture in action, weeds and all! We will certainly be back, hopefully at a less busy time to speak to the ‘patron’ and of course for the harvest of apples!

Apple Scab Control

The Control of Apple and Pear scab by Sulphur Sprays

My James Grieve has for the past 3 years suffered some scab on the leaves. This wouldn’t be a problem, except for the fact that it can severely mark the fruit in due course and in wet seasons. By resorting to a regular spray of sulphur, I have managed to prevent it reaching and marking the fruit. Sulphur is a basic chemical, so relatively harmless to the environment. The weather conditions earlier this year in the east were very favourable for scab spores, but luckily this last week’s dryer conditions has improved the situation tremendously. In the west of Scotland it is a problem most years. Powdery mildew has also been prevalent on many apples this year also and sulphur will reduce this also. It attacks the new young leaves and slows down the growth of trees for many months.

I use 5.6 mls in 10 litres of litres water and spray the leaves every 10 to 14 days if I can. I start at the ‘pink bud’ stage and continue until the end of extension growth, around about mid- July. It is essential to achieve good coverage of all parts of the tree, especially the growing points – they will have the appearance of a smattering of snow after spraying!

Certain varieties of fruit trees and bushes may be damaged by sulphur sprays. In the old books they called this ‘sulphur shyness’. The following are reportedly susceptible to leaf damage: Beauty of Bath, Belle de Boskoop, Cox’s Orange Pippin, Lane’s Prince Albert, Lord Derby, Newton Wonder, Rival, Stirling Castle, and Doyenne du Comice.

My Hawthornden seems a touch damaged, and possibly my George Cave, but since the first few applications, I have restricted my sprays to Worcester Pearmain and James Grieve only, the only two in my garden showing any significant scab symptoms.The Boskoop seems to be ok in my garden, and none of the pears show any damage.

I have seen scab on Scrumptious this week, and many new so-called resistant varieties usually succomb after a few years in the field unfortunately. Knowing when spores are in the air is how the professional’s are able to time their spraying; we may rely on regular pruning and good open sunny sites as the best prevention!

 

Hop production in Scotland

Hop Production in Scotland

For the beer making fraternity the subject of hops and the merits of its various clones are of great importance. To gardeners, more bent towards ornamental plants, the growing practicalities of this climber under Scottish conditions are of more interest.

What is it? Humulus lupulus is a climber related to cannabis, and has twining stems and tiny little hooks to enable it to grip onto to any upright object it can find.  It’s surprising how tough these stems are in mid season, I’m sure John Seymour would have recommended basket weaving with them!

It is a perennial, and would normally die back late in the year and send out new sprouts from a permanent root system every spring. It is a plant with purpose in several ways…the young emerging shoots can be eaten like asparagus. Professionally, four shoots are allowed to twine up from the clump of roots on 4 spaced coir strings to over 6 metres, creating a veritable vertical forest of growth by high summer.

 

Hop weed control

Well cultivated ground between rows of Hops.

I have seen an organic hop farm in Kent, where the plants are grown on a little ‘hillock’ and carefully weeded by rotavator between all the plants. The height and width of a hop wiring structure is a truly impressive structure to see!  I have also seen hop farms in Worcestershire, again on very good soil.  Overall though, the acreage is a lot smaller in the UK than even decades ago. A good deep fertile soil is ideal, perhaps the Tay Valley is the place for a Scottish Crop? Wye college in Kent developed some dwarf varieties, so the risk of wind damage might be reduced.

In late June, on the female plants, side shoots develop from the main stems and subsequently these produce the flowers which are so prized ornamentally. You don’t want male plants or you will get seeds which are undesirable!  Later the flowers form the ‘hops’ and all the stems are cut down to be taken indoors for extraction. The oast houses of Kent were once the drying rooms for the hop industry.

The hop damson aphid can be a big menace, and I’ve seen mildew on the leaves on our plant in wet summers.  Apart from that we have few problems and every year our golden-leaved hop scrambles up against a sheltered shed wall and produces little hops for us.

Propagation can be by division of the whole clump of roots, or fertile seeds can be purchased if you want to have a go of growing your own. To get a particular variety of course you would need cuttings or divisions, or layer a shoot across the ground and slightly bury it to encourage rooting. There are some lovely named clones such as White Knight, Fuggles, Goldings;  the RHS Plantfinder lists about 14 different sorts (page 365 ).

 

Hops - golden

The golden leaved hop, Humulus lupulus ‘Aureus’.

Seed grown plants can be supplied from plantswithpurpose, so what’s stopping you covering that horrible shed?

Ref: The RHS Plant Finder 2004-5, pub. By Dorling  Kindersley.

Spindlebush Apple Trees

The Spindlebush Method of Growing Apple Trees

Some of the small apple and plum trees i left in the field after i moved my nursery two years ago ( I move to a new patch every year), started to fruit this year in earnest. At the moment they have central leaders and i have the option of letting them branch out with 5 or 6 framework branches, and later cut out the leader to form open centred trees. This is an easy method of formative shaping to understand for amateurs and semi-professionals.

However, with the advent of dwarfing rootstocks, in the early 1940’s in Germany, and later in Holland, the growing of high density spindlebushes was becoming of great interest to growers. We in the uk were still growing very large trees on M7 rootstocks at a very wide spacing, and it was only post – war visits to Germany which opened our eyes to developments there.

So here are a few jottings on the subject:

So what are spindlebushes?

Its similar to my cordon grown trees, in that it is all about having fruiting wood in abundance and basically nothing else! Those of you who have attended my workshops will be familiar with the need to identify fruiting wood.

 

Its advantages are as follows:

Very high rates of production per hectare.

Small trees, enabling pruning, spraying and harvesting from the ground.

Very efficient use of land and available sunshine.

 

They are normally grown on very good land, and M9 rootstocks, a very dwarfing one. Basically, there is a central stem and lots of wee laterals to carry the fruiting buds. A tall thin pyramid is required. Thicker pencil sized laterals are cut back to 4 buds, anything thinner to 2 or 3 buds. Cut to downward facing buds always. So horizontal wood is the aim, use spacers if necessary. Unlike some methods I teach, this one requires very severe pruning. The leader is pruned – that is the new growth to 4 or 2 buds on a weak tree.

The common mistakes are to not cutting back the leader hard enough and allowing too much fruit early on leading to stunting of shoots. The aim is to have lateral branches with lots of fruiting spurs and no gaps along the branches.

Red George Cave

Fruit from my 2 year spindlebush tree

In late July, the new growth from the stubs are tied down to form horizontal fruit wood. Be careful not to droop the ends below horizontal if possible. Prune back all sub-laterals in summer

(‘Lorette pruning’), or next winter if you forget! You can allow your laterals to branch to fill the space a little, such as if theres a gap in your tree you want to fill. Tie a higher one down to fill a space if necessary. Keep the pyramidal shape by pruning harder if necessary your top laterals. Each tree should yield 10 lbs of fruit by the 4th year. The original spacing recommended was 10 feet ( 3m) and 435 trees per acre. In you have an acre, you could be producing 4.3 tonnes of fruit by your 4th year! Using an m26 rootstock in most areas of Scotland, and tieing to stakes or wires in North-South lines is probably ideal. A modification is the Tall Spindle, which is allowed to grow to 3m and planted 1m x 3m spacings. It must have up to 10 short feathers ( branches) already from the nursery. Visit your nurseryman and select your trees personally!

If you want to know more about pruning workshops, please see our google calendar on the website http://www.plantsandapples.co.uk.

 

References:

Wertheim, S.J., The Training of the Slender Spindle of Four Apple Varieties. Nov. 1970

Golschmidt and Delap, The Spindle Bush Method of Growing Apple and Pear Trees, The RHS Fruit Yearbook, 1950, pages 54-66.

The RHS Encyclopaedia of Gardening , ed C. Brickell, page 380.,1992.

http://fruitgrowersnews.com/index.php/magazine/article/The-Tall-Spindle-System-Apple-Orchard-Design-For-The-Future

Fruit trees and Frost

Frost protection of Fruit

All gardeners are aware of the dangers of frost on young opening leaves and flowers of many types of fruit in spring. An orchard owner in the Clyde valley told me the story of how his father used to light barrels of oil under his plum trees on frosty nights! And in the late 50’s wind pumps and heaters were being used in some countries. The 2012/13 winter in Scotland was very prolonged, but it turned out to be very beneficial.The apple blossom was almost a month later than usual, missing damaging frosts, and many varieties flowered at the same time. The effective pollination period was thus very short but very effective! The harvest of 2013 was superb! its the more usual erratic springs which cause us the problems.

Our main worry is the early frosts catching Oslins and Scots Dumplings, and the late frosts in mid-May which can destroy the later flowering Worcester and Cambusnethan trees chance of fruit.

 

How do professionals overcome this?

1-The best answer of course is not to plant your trees in risky areas such as frost hollows or the bottom of slopes.

2-Secondly, choose known hardy varieties for your area, i.e. not fruit that is grown widely in the warmest areas of France or the South of England. Hardy varieties have been bred and are grown in places like Poland, Norway and Canada, and some well known British varieties are very hardy: Keswick Codlin, Golden Spire, Emneth Early for example. We are actively propagating a few very hardy Swedish and Norwegian summer apples…so look out for them in our catalogue.

3-Thirdly, you may try to cover your trees on frosty nights with fleece or blankets. I tried this one winter, but realised that a lot of buds get damaged in the process of constant removal – you have to let pollinating insects in to do their work every day!

 

hanginggardens1

Some experiments in the 1950’s proved that covering is ineffective by and large. They tried using an electric heater and running a hose every 15 minutes over the branches. By far the most effective treatment was to provide a fine mist spray over the flowers as the temperatures dropped.  In essence, the water prevents the temperature of the flowers going below freezing by latent heat of evaporation.

These spraying experiments, by JH Jeffree ( RHS, 1950), resulted in achieving a good crop on adjacent sides of two apple trees that were receiving spray. The far sides of each were bare of fruit come the summer! The effectiveness of, and the spray coverage, was improved by using a rotating spray head on a long pole.

If you want to try this next spring, be aware that a lot of ice can form on the twigs and branches so watch they don’t break under the weight! A few props for the weaker branches may help. You may need to be doing a few night shifts from early April to mid May this year!

 

References

Jeffree,J.H., 1950, RHS FRuit Yearbook, 1950.pages 100 -104.

Some notes can also be found on : http://hos.ufl.edu/extension/stonefruit/frost-protection-orchards-0 and http://ucce.ucdavis.edu/files/repositoryfiles/ca1208p4-64660.pdf and also:

http://fruitgrowersnews.com/index.php/magazine/article/protecting-your-fruit-from-frost-and-freeze

Apple Trees and Flooding

Many of you will be planting new fruit trees this spring and will be wondering what effect all the rain will have on your trees. At present your trees are dormant and most likely you are planting them as ‘bare root’. It is well known that up to 90% of your trees roots may be killed when they are lifted out of the nursery and replanted, so it is very important you keep the roots moist and frost free to preserve what’s alive.

Tree roots need oxygen, and prolonged wet conditons will create anaerobic conditions and many more roots will suffocate. In spring, your trees will have a hard job growing new roots and getting the nutrients necessary to grow, flower and fruit.

Another worry is a fungus disease called Phytophora or collar rot which can attack your trees in the summer after a very wet winter.  So don’t exacerbate this situation avoid those wet hollows in your garden, don’t pile masses of compost around the roots,  and look forward to a nice dry spring and summer!

Also many beautiful productive fruit trees can blow over due to wet soil, so see to your drainage!

Windblown Tree

Medlars

Medlars are rather plain looking trees – admittedly they are rosaceae, but the flowers are just white amongst many other better rosaceae, so why are they of interest? They have been cultivated for thousands of years, and its very likely the Romans brought them here.
Well its the fruit, which is not quite like anything else! They are actually pomes, and are brown, earthy tasting and either hard or soft and almost rotten! They are about 5cm across and brown.We tried some at The Harmony garden at Melrose once, and they were definitely an acquired taste. They are in fact a useful late fruit as they aren’t ready until mid- winter.
So what are they used for. Traditionally they need to be ‘bletted’ i.e. until the frost has softened them. Some suggest this isn’t actually necessary.However, the best use of them is to make into jam or jelly.
They will grow almost anywhere, I have seen them at Kellie Castle in the lawn, and in a hedgerow at Broughty Ferry. Remembering where they are and getting the fruit is important if they’re in a hedgerow.

Medlars

Varieties generally available are the Dutch ( largest fruit), Nottingham ( more upright), and the Royal ( better flavour). Also Breda Giant and Russian clones. We sell Nottingham. All are self-fertile.Named varieties can be grown on Pear, Quince or Hawthorn. They come from the Caucasus, so cold winters and hot dry summers are a clue to their requirements. The dry warm soils of Broughty Ferry is probably about right. Bob Flowerdew suggests only remedial pruning as they fruit on the ends of shoots.

The RHS suggest the following: ‘’pick when the stalk parts from the tree in late Autumn, and dip the ends in in strong salt solution to prevent rotting…..store with calyces downward, on slatted trays. Use when the flesh is brown and soft’’.

Ooh I almost forgot to mention, they have lovely autumn colour!

Refs:
Flowerdew, Bob, Complete Fruit Book, 1997, page 169.
RHS Encyclopaedia of Gardening, Ed. C. Brickell, 1992, page 387.
Tree Fruit Growing, Raymond Bush, 1962, pages 288-289.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mespilus_germanica