Fruit Tree Grafting- Step by Step

Fruit Tree Grafting- Step by Step

I went to a fantastic grafting workshop in the weekend.  I love all gardening workshops. Even if you think you know it all, going to a workshop and hearing someone else’s thoughts and opinions can be really helpful. Hands on workshops are also the best way to learn since you try your own hand at it at the same time as you’re being taught. I thought I would give a step by step run down of two grafting techniques and encourage you to go find some sticks to practice on!

Rootstock and Scion Wood

Before I go into detail about graft types, I will quickly explain the two sorts of wood you need.

The rootstock is plant with an already established root system. It’s usually just a stump. The rootstock is what determines things like how big the fruit tree will grow, what conditions it can grow in and the fruit size.

The scion wood is a piece of wood from the tree that you would like to propagate and grow. The scion wood can be grafted onto the rootstock via many different methods. The rootstock and scion wood must be compatible for the graft to take and a good way to know compatibility is to graft within the same genus of fruit. (e.g plums, nectarines and peaches are the ‘Prunus’ genus so are all compatible with each other. An apple is from the ‘Malus’ genus so would not be compatible.)

The scion wood must always be dormant (no burst buds!) It is collected in the winter and should be stored in a fridge, wrapped in wet newspaper, until you use it.

Whip and tongue graft

This is a dependable and solid graft with a bit of careful skill required. When grafting it is essential that the cambium layer of both the rootstock and the scion wood match and grow together. To ensure a good match it is important you cut smoothly and cleanly using a sharp grafting knife like this one.

Grafting Knife

Take your rootstock and make a long slanting cut across an internode (the space between the buds). Either place the rootstock on a chopping board and press down hard with a grafting knife, or hold the rootstock away from you and with one hard stroke, slice, off an angled slice. Try get the longest possible cut and as smooth as possible to create an oval face.

Find scion wood of a similar size in diameter and do the same thing.

They should match as closely as possible when held together.

There’s the whip graft, now for the tongue.

Keep your thumbs nice and close together for better control with the knife. About 1/3 of the way down from your cut, slice down into the face. Do this slowly and carefully as this can be quite tricky and you don’t want to press down too hard and cut yourself!

Do this in both the rootstock and the scion. Those cuts create the ‘tongue’ and this is what will help hold the rootstock and scion together. Carefully match them together.

Now the graft needs to be securely tied with grafting tape. Grafting tape stretches as the tree grows and keeps out water and diseases. This step is just as important as a clean cut! Cut the top of your scion wood off so that it has only 3 buds remaining. Plant your finished rootstock, preferably in the open ground.

Chip budding

This grafting technique is one that can be done all throughout spring and even summer. It involves grafting only a little bud of the scion wood onto rootstock. This means you get a lot more use out of one piece of scion wood.

On your rootstock, in the internode. Make a little cut, about 3 mm deep.  1cm above that, slice down to meet the little slit you previously made.

On your scion wood, you want to do the same thing except on the bud.

Once you have sliced the bud off, keep it sitting on your grafting knife to avoid touching it with your fingers and contaminating it. Carefully place it onto the rootstock, matching the bud with the cut you made before.

When wrapping this graft, wrap the bottom of the bud first and only cover the tip of the bud with one layer of tape. Plant your rootstock, preferably in the open ground.

The above two grafts were prepared on a bare rooted rootstock. This is a lot easier than grafting on a rootstock in the ground as you can move it around when cutting.

Machine Grafts

If cutting with a grafting knife isn’t your thing, these grafting shears do the hard work for you. 

  1. The scion wood and rootstock match easily with these grafting shears that cut the wood in a V , U or Ω cut. You can buy this tool on trademe.

Once you have planted your rootstock, keep it well watered. If your graft is successful, you should be able to see the buds on the scion wood grow and swell within a couple of months.

Happy grafting!

Spring in the Garden- September to do List

Spring in the Garden- September to do List

Spring is finally here! Spring blossoms are everywhere and all my daffodils have flowered. I am just waiting on my tulips.

Though it’s a very exciting thought to start planting everything in the garden RIGHT NOW! Try hold off a little longer with planting any summer crops as New Zealand spring can be very unpredictable and a rogue frost could ruin all your hard work. Now is a good time to really ensure your soil is in top notch condition and that your garden is all cleaned up for when it is planting time.

Sow from seed this month:Beetroot, broccoli, radishes, coriander, celery, carrots, silver beet, spring onions

Sow from seedlings this month: broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, cabbage, potatoes, silverbeet, spinach

Prepare your soil

If your soil in general is friable and dark looking, you can just a little compost and sheep pellets to it to replenish some of the nutrients lost in winter. If your soil is looking a bit lack luster, adding some vegetable Mix as well compost and sheep pellets will give it the boost it needs to grow a bumper crop.

Spring Clean around the garden

Pick up any dead leaves or plant debris and chuck them in the compost. Take this time to do some weeding too as the soft spring soil should make it a bit easier to pull them out. Don’t put any of the invasive weeds in the compost though. The compost won’t get hot enough in this weather to kill them and they’ll grow back with a vengeance.

Quick Sow Spring Seeds 

September/October can be a little bit of a lull period in the garden, food wise. There’s not an awful lot to harvest from winter as you’ll be emptying your garden beds  for summer crops. I like use this time to direct sow quick growers like radishes, baby turnips, spring onions and  beetroot (where I use the leaves in salads as I wait for the actual root to grow). They can be harvested in as little as 30 days so you can at least have something fresh to harvest while you wait.

Feed existing plants

Feed your garlic and your rhubarb now, both are heavy feeders! For rhubarb, apply some compost and sheep pellets, or well rotted manure around the crown of the plant to feed it and retain moisture. Feed your garlic with a fertiliser high in nitrogen and add a side dressing of blood and bone. Take care no fertilisers or manure touch the garlic plant itself.

Feed strawberries now and all other berries with Strawberry food. Feed your citrus trees now with Citrus food.

Feed your deciduous fruit trees now with Fruit tree Fertiliser. Check the soil around the trees and see if it needs attention. The rough winter weather can play havoc with the earth. Add compost if you need to around the base of the tree (make sure it doesn’t touch the trunk). Mulch your fruit trees.

Let your plants bloom

Some of your winter crops may be flowering now. If you want to give the bees a treat or you want to save seeds for next year, let them flower away. Let the flowers of whatever plant you’re seed saving from,dry out on the plant and then remove them and place in a brown paper bag. After drying them out further for another week or so, inside, give the bag a good shake to remove the seeds from the seed head. Label the bag and store in an airtight bag until you want to plant.

Some plants like parsley or coriander are excellent self seeders so you can just the let the plant do its thing and new plants will pop up next season.

Attract bees

Have your broad beans been flowering but there are no beans in sight? Each little flower needs to be pollinated and because of the wet weather the bees aren’t as active. We can try and attract them to our garden by planting beneficial flowers that bees love. Read more here –> Beneficial flowers in the garden.

Start Seedlings Inside

Zucchini, capsicums, chillis, cucumbers… these can all be started inside now so you can get ahead when it’s time to plant them out. Traditionally labour weekend is a safe bet to plant them out as the risk of frost is gone. For help starting seedlings inside, read more here—> Starting seedlings indoor.

Potatoes

Plant potatoes now so you have fresh spuds for Christmas! Generally you can harvest potatoes after they have flowered and died back but not all potatoes flower so this is not a sure fire method. Keep dates of when you planted your potatoes and what variety and then go from there.

I have listed a few common types and their harvesting times.

  • Rocket- 60-70 days, this a quick growing variety
  • Cliff Kidney- 60-90 days (depending on baby potatoes or if you want bigger ones)
  • Agria- 150 days for fully matured potatoes
  • Jersey Benne- 60-70 days, another quick growing variety
  • Highlander- 80-90 days
  • Red rascal- 90 days
  • Swift- 70 days
  • Liseta- 90 days
  • Purple Passion- 70-80 days

Happy Gardening!

Winter Garden Update

Winter Garden Update

It has been nearly three months now since I first set up these vegetable gardens and a lot has changed so it is time for a winter garden update.  I started this little garden project to show you can harvest fresh vegetables all year round with a bit of planning and not much hard work.

Winter Garden Update
Before
Winter Garden Update
After

As it’s been winter, growth hasn’t been super quick but there was still a lot to be harvested, including pak choy, celery and all the assorted lettuces.

winter garden update

When some of the pak choy were pulled out, it made room for broad beans which I planted at the start of August. I also sowed some carrot seed as well as planted garlic bulbs at the end of June. I prepped the empty space in the second bed (between the broccoli and Kale) for potatoes with plenty of Tui Sheep Pellets and planted an early potato variety in the middle of August.

The remaining pak choy are starting to bolt because the weather is warming up so these will be harvested soon and make room for the spring seedlings that will be planted in September.

A continuous cycle of planting and sowing will ensure the beds are never empty and there is always something to harvest. The cabbages, broccoli and cauliflowers that I planted from seedlings in June will be ready to harvest at the end of spring. I also sowed seed alongside the seedlings and these should be ready to harvest in autumn. This ensures a staggered harvest so you don’t have 8 cauliflower ready at once!

When planting a continuous amount like this, it’s important to keep up the nutrients in your soil by adding lots of organic matter. I routinely add Tui Sheep Pellets as I plant new plants and as spring arrives I will add a bag of Tui Organic Compost and Tui Organic Vege Mix into the garden beds, just a bag of each split over the two beds. I will also rotate the crops so the same kind of vegetable isn’t  depleting the same soil.

Then I’ll mulch, mulch, mulch with nitrogen rich pea straw.

Spring Planting

Come September I will be adding tomatoes, cucumber, zucchini, beans and spring onions. It will be a tight squeeze in there for a while!

A Slideshow of the Garden Progress

 

Getting ahead in the Garden- Starting Seedlings Indoors

Getting ahead in the Garden- Starting Seedlings Indoors

One of the best ways to get ahead in the vegetable garden and save money is to start your own seedlings inside, from scratch.

In the garden centre, the seedling punnets can be pretty expensive at $2-$3 for only 6 or so seedlings. A packet of seeds is that price but for 100 seeds! What you are really paying for is the time that was spent growing the seedlings.

A little preparation and planning now can mean a full vegetable garden for only a little money.

Spring Seedlings

I start my spring seedlings nice and early, about halfway through August but I won’t physically transplant the seedlings into the garden until mid October, when the ground is warmer. Depending on where you are situated and the chance of frost in your area, the date of planting in the garden may have to be pushed out later. You want to start your seedlings about 6 weeks before the last frost date in your area.

What you need:

  1. A warm and light space. Warmth is most important as the seed germinates, but light becomes vital when the seed pops through the soil. If your seedlings don’t get enough sunlight they’ll become thin and ‘leggy’ as they search for the sun. If you don’t have a sunny window, invest in a grow light like this one. They aren’t too expensive and the LED red and blue lights mimic the sun.
  2. Seed Trays- There are many different sorts you can get, including biodegradable ones like jiffy pellets that can be planted straight in the ground. I will explain more down below.
  3. Seed raising mix- If you’re not using jiffy pellets which include the soil, an organic seed raising mix like Tui’s Organic Seed Raising Mix will give your seeds their best start.
  4. Labels (for what you planted and the date)- As much as you think you’ll remember, trust me, you end up forgetting what you planted and where and when. Labels are essential!
  5. Watering- Something that waters gently, like a spray bottle, so the soil doesn’t move around too much and disturb the seed.
  6. Seeds- of course, you need seeds.

Soaking Seeds

This part isn’t compulsory but I like to pre-soak my larger seeds before planting. It shaves off even more time as it will soften the protective seed coat and let the seedling emerge quicker.

Seedlings

Place them in a bowl of water for 8-10 hours. After soaking, take care when handling the seeds as they’ll be more delicate and plant them in your seed trays straight away.

Seed Trays

There are many different seed trays available, including using what you have at home.

A plastic container with a few holes punched at the bottom will work fine, but I definitely prefer disposable containers that can be planted in the garden without disturbing the seedling roots. This is especially important if you’re starting seedlings like beans,beetroot or artichokes inside which don’t transplant particularly well.

Disposable seed trays could include cups made from newspaper, egg cartons, cardboard boxes or my favourite, Jiffy pellets They are little, compressed pellets made from peat. They expand as you add water and provide all the nutrients your growing seed needs until it is time to transplant in the garden. Once it is time, you can pop the whole thing in and it will decompose in the soil

Seedlings

To keep things extra warm, I place my seedlings in mini green houses.

You can buy them like the one pictured above, or make your own.

D.I.Y Greenhouse

Place your seedling trays in a large container that can that has higher sides than the seedling trays. Cover that container with plastic wrap and punch a few holes in it for aeration. 

If you’re not using jiffy pellets which include the soil, fill your seed trays with seed raising mix and use a spray bottle to moisten the soil. Sprinkle your seeds over this moistened soil and gently press the seeds into the soil. You can add a small layer of soil over the top of the large seeds but for the smaller ones, you won’t need to cover them. Pressing them down will suffice.

Keep your soil moistened daily or as it dries out, but don’t wet it too much that it gets waterlogged.

Make sure to label what you have planted and include the date that you planted the seeds. This is so you can keep a record of how it is growing and know when it should be ready.

Transplanting and hardening off

As your seedlings emerge, the first set of leaves it grows are the seed leaves and aren’t considered the ‘true leaves’, the next set of leaves it grows however are. Once your seedling grows two sets of true leaves, you can start hardening it off to prepare it for life outside.

Place your seed trays outside on a calm day for 3-4 hours so they get used to the sunlight and outside temperatures. Decrease your watering to every second or third day. Slowly increase their exposure to cooler temperatures.

As the ground warms and there is no risk of frost anymore, your hardened plants can be transplanted. Don’t rush this step though, it’s not worth the risk transplanting them too soon only to lose them to a cold snap.

After transplanting your seedlings, water them well with Seasol to avoid transplant shock.

Happy gardening!

August in the Garden- End of Winter to do List

August in the Garden- End of Winter to do List

Buds on deciduous trees are swelling, there’s an abundance of citrus and spring bulbs are standing tall ready to show their faces next month. August is just so close to spring that you can practically smell it.

What to sow this month from seed: broad beans, carrots, broccoli cauliflower, bokchoy, onions, peas, rocket, lettuce, radishes, silver beet, spinach

What to plant this month from seedlings: asparagus, onions, broccoli, cabbages, garlic, silver beet, lettuce. 

August in the Garden

Prepare garden beds for spring planting

With the harsh winter weather nearly behind us, we can asses the damage it has done to the soil. The pounding of the rain will have compacted it as well as people stepping on it when it’s wet.

Take time this month to prepare your vegetable beds and return them to their former glory by adding organic matter to the soil in the form of compost, sheep pellets, aged manure, and by cultivating it well. Take care not to dig over your garden too much, unless absolutely necessary, as this disturbs the intricate Eco systems set up below the soil.

Enjoy your citrus

Home grown citrus is at its best right now. If you’re overloaded with fruit, there are an over load of recipes out there to make sure it’s all put to good use. Try middle eastern preserved lemons to add a citrus kick to roast chicken, salad dressing or pastas. Tui Garden Products has a great recipe on their website. You can find it here.

August in the Garden

Plant salad greens in containers

Things can still take a little longer to grow as the sun doesn’t stay up as long as it will in spring and summer. Growing salad greens such as rocket in containers means you can place them in the sunniest spots and move them around if need be. They grow quickly and offer a ‘cut and come again’ harvest so you can be eating fresh salad greens as you please.

August in the Garden

Start a compost bin

If you haven’t got one already, setting up a compost bin will help you get rid of all the fallen leaves and plant debris as well as kitchen scraps, vacuum dust, pet hair and newspaper. You don’t actually need a physical bin, if you have a room to make a compost heap do so, as the bins do fill up quickly.

A compost heap needs a mix of ‘brown layers’ and ‘green layers’. The brown provide the carbon and are things like twigs, dead leaves and newspaper. The green provide the nitrogen and are your fruit and vegetable scraps, grass clippings, eggshells etc.

You want to layer your compost like a lasagna. For each layer of brown, add a layer of green. Try make sure no pieces are too big in your compost as they’ll take longer to break down. Then you wait as the worms do their thing and break it down for you. To speed things up, cover the compost to keep it warm (with a lid if it’s a bin or a burlap sack if it’s a heap) and add an occasional sprinkle of Blood and Bone.

Start seedlings inside

You can get well a head in your spring planting by starting seedlings inside. I will do a more in depth post on this later on this month.

Plant Fruit Trees 

It’s still a good time to plant deciduous fruit trees right now, but do so before they start to blossom. Garden centres should have them on special now which is an added bonus.

Treat Leaf curl 

My nectarine and peach trees were affected by leaf curl last year. If yours were too, treat them now with an organic copper oxy spray such as this one. If you don’t, it’s most likely that your trees will get affected again by the fungal spores left over winter.

Happy gardening!

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