Apple Grafting experiment – part 1

I’ve always been curious what would happen with higher chill apple varieties in a warmer climate like north Florida. Obviously, you can’t plant a high chill tree, they won’t fruit. Without going into to much detail, low chill is typically anything under 700 accumulated hours at 45 degrees or colder. The reality is that we rarely see anything over 4 or 5 hundred chill hours in a given year.

Back to the topic at hand. Grafting, as I’ve detailed in a previous post is an excellent option if you want to experiment and something the average home gardener can do with minimal investment. Over the last year I’ve gotten fairly decent at grafting. In this post I talked about the whip and tongue method which has been the easiest for me to master. Recently I bought an actual grafting tool, $21 from Amazon. I’ve only done a couple grafts with it (more on that in a later post), but it is relatively easy to use.

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So far I’ve grafted 7 different varieties, Roxbury Russet, Pink Lady, Red Fuji, Sweet 16, Liberty, Wickson, King David.

The Roxbury Ruesset and Red Fuji grafts, both on the Dorsett Golden tree are from last year(see pics below). While the grafts have healed and the wood looks healthy, only the Red Fuji is showing signs of leafing out. Not sure whether the Roxbury is just delayed or there wasn’t enough chill for it to break dormancy. Maybe it still will..I’ll give it some more time.

 

On the other hand, the Pink Lady, King David, Sweet 16, Wickson (crab apple) and Liberty have all leafed out. These were only grafted back in February.

Won’t be until next year before I know whether they’ll get any fruiting buds. Also, we’re preparing to head into the warmest months of the year, so that will certainly put them to the test. The plan is to keep a spreadsheet of everything I’ve grafted then give each variety at least two years before pulling the plug. If a graft fails, I’ll re-graft and try again. Now the waiting begins.

Happy gardening!!

 

 

 

 

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Grafting success with Pears

As I’ve previously posted grafting different varieties of fruit trees to one another is a great way to maximize your space. It also let’s you experiment to see what will work in your zone and what won’t without the need to plant an entire tree. A lot of home fruit growers attempt to push their hardiness zones and grow varieties not necessarily intended for their area.

My successful grafts are a little more than a year old on my Dorsett apple tree. While the grafts have healed fine, some of the varieties I grafted aren’t leafing out, particularly the Red Fuji and Roxbury Russet. Could be we didn’t get enough chill hours for them, but I’ll give them some more time to see what they do.

Where I’ve been really impressed is with the pear grafts. Particularly to my Leconte pear. This tree is about 3 years old and has yet to produce fruit. Although this year is looks like we might get a few pears. In one of the pics below you can see a few fruiting blossoms.

A little over a month ago I grafted 3 different varieties to the tree(using whip and tongue) and all of them quickly took. In some cases with grafting there’s concern that the leaves are a result of residual energy and moisture left in the grafting wood, but that’s not the case here. These are clearly growing and if I pulled back the tape I’d expect to see the graft beginning to callous over. Anyway, this tree now has Ayers, Moonglow and Orient pear wood grafted to it. You can see how nicely it’s leafing out. Now I just need to wait until next year to see if it will fruit on the new wood.

Until next time, happy gardening!!

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Glad I didn’t tear out the Meyer lemon tree..

I’ve said it a number of times in previous posts. If you’re looking for instant gratification when growing fruit trees, you better pick a different hobby. Case in point, my meyer lemon tree looked absolutely horrible, something akin to the Charlie Brown Christmas tree. It was spindly, in need of pruning (this pic is from June of last year), and even though it bore some fruit, the tree was almost completely bare of foliage( I think the proper term is denuded). It was also a haven for leaf miners. It’s on the same regimen of citrus fertilizer as the other trees (which are doing fine) and I’d been supplementing with fish emulsion in between applications(good for a nitrogen fix), but nothing seemed to be working

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June of 2017

 

Was thinking it might be the soil but I have 3 other trees in close proximity side that are doing fine. So I seriously considered taking it out. Now that’s not an easy decision when it comes to a fruiting tree, especially for something you have several years worth of time invested in. Well time passed like it always does, and I never got around to removing it. Fast forward to the present and the tree seems to be doing remarkably well. Tons of new growth and it’s even beginning to blossom.

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The lesson here is that sometimes you just have to be patient. Meyer lemons are particularly greedy feeders, so you have keep up with the fertilization. Then, given time even a tree in rough shape can come around.

Happy gardening!!

Spring is here in the backyard orchard!!

We had a chilly January. Was the first time in a while where the grass actually went dormant. Lost the firecracker shrubs which were great butterfly habitat and will replace them before summer, but didn’t see any damage to the fruit trees or bushes. February has been warm and for the most part dry.

All of the fruit trees save the Flordaking peach have come out of their winter hibernation. If the number of blossoms on these trees is any indication of the fruit yield, I should have a bumper crop this year. Provided the backyard critters don’t get to them first.

So here are a few shots of the spring blossoms..Enjoy and happy gardening!!

Dorsett Golden apple blossoms

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Pear blossoms on the LeconteIMG_20180228_170453315.jpg

Valencia orange about to pop..

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Sweet (potato) Success

Sweet success!! My search for a low maintenance high producing crop is over. After years of struggling with various vegetables that were a pain to grow in our hot humid climate I’ve finally found the perfect plant. Sweet potatoes. While I’m sure many of you have been growing them for years this is the first time I’ve been able to get a decent harvest of anything out of my home garden so I’m pretty excited. Aside from the fact that they’re super nutritious, they keep well and are easy to grow making them the ideal crop for the home gardener.

Started by tilling up my entire garden patch, broke up the soil really well and added in what was left of my compost barrel. If you don’t have your own compost some black cow will work well. Next I took some old supermarket sweet potatoes, cut them up, buried them and lightly watered. Then the waiting began. A couple weeks later I was seeing shoots come out of the ground and it wasn’t long before the entire patch was completely covered with runners. Other than adding a couple rounds of supplemental fertilizer and a little water they went largely untended. The biggest problem I had was keeping them in the confines of garden. Sweet potatoes can take anywhere from 3 to 4 months to grow. Mine were probably around the 3 month mark, but I really didn’t keep track of when I planted, next time I will.

Down here you don’t have to worry much about the ground freezing, but you’ll know they’re ready to come out when the leaves yellow and begin to die back. In my haste to dig them up I cut through a few of them with my trowel so be careful. My guess is this yielded close to 10 lbs of potatoes. That’s more than enough to make a couple of pies..

I’ve seen sweet potatoes grown in much smaller patches and even in barrels, so don’t let a lack of space deter you if you want to give them a try.

Happy holidays and happy gardening!

sweet potato patch 2 months in to growing.
sweet potato blossom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Update-Peach/Nectarine from seed

Here’s a recent picture of what was once a peach/nectarine seedling. Started from the pit of a peach or nectarine I ate more than on 2 years ago. Pretty impressive, huh?? I’m hoping next year we’ll see some fruit from. If not, it was a nice experiment. What impresses me the most is how healthy and vigorous the tree is. With very little input, just a couple of applications of fertilizer this summer, it’s flourished.

Over the summer I did a bit of pruning to eliminate some of the smaller limbs but it could still use a little more.

Stay tuned for more. Happy gardening!!

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Growing apples from seeds

I’ve started other trees from seed. The most successful was this peach/nectarine that I planted about a year ago. No fruit, but it’s growing like gang busters.

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My family eats a lot of apples, so I have plenty of seeds to work with. Figured why not give try growing an apple tree from seed? Let me pause at this point. If you’re impatient, this isn’t for you. Growing apples from seedling to tree will take years. My kids will probably be in highschool before I see any fruit, if I ever do. There are other potential issues. Some say the fruit won’t be true to the parent or might not taste good, but this has been proven wrong.

Why I’m doing this..There’s something about growing your own tree that intrigues me. Each one of those seeds is imprinted with a genetic code and everything it needs to grow. I just need to provide the soil, water and sun. Most of them probably won’t make it, but seeds don’t cost anything so there’s really nothing to lose.

The process is simple. When you finish with an apple, collect the seeds and store them. We’ve been eating a lot of Pink Lady /Cripps Pink (Pink Lady is a variety of Cripps Pink) which happen to be one of my favorite apples. I put the seeds in a ziplock bag and store in the refrigerator until I’m ready to plant. The refrigerator helps to stratify the seeds. Essentially it replicates the natural dormancy process the seed goes through over winter. You’ll find that some seeds you collect might have already started to germinate, like the ones below. This can happen when an apple is kept in cold storage for an extended period of time.

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Planted some of the seeds I collected about a month, month and a half back and it was already pretty hot. Not sure that this is a problem for growing the seeds. However, when I’m ready to plant the actual tree I’ll want to wait for much cooler weather. Between the two pots I used 10 or 12 seeds. Nothing fancy, just regular potting soil and kept them moist and out of the direct sun. This is what I have now.

Pink Lady Apple Seedling
Pink Lady Apple Seedling

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The Pink Lady/Cripps Pink should do well here. The tree originated in Australia so it’s used to the heat. Not sure about the humidity, but we’ll just have to wait and see.

Stay tuned for more updates. Happy gardening!

Thank you squirrels, no apples this year

Those wonderful tree rats, AKA squirrels made sure that we wouldn’t get a chance to taste any apples from the backyard orchard this year.

In a previous post I showed the apples that were growing on my largest tree, a Dorsett Golden and how I thinned them to help the tree put on more growth this year.

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In the end I left 4 apples. Unfortunately, over the course of the next 4 to 5 weeks the apples disappeared until I was down to just one. Then about a week ago the last apple was taken. This is all that was left. I was more than a little bummed. But I’m a human an apex predator, top of the food chain. There’s no way I’m going to be outdone by a rodent. This is the part where I will pause and tell you my wife and kids think I’m absolutely “nuts”, no pun intended, and have a squirrel obsession. Maybe, but I will say that I’m in good company. There are many other fruit growers out there with the same frustrations and “malicious” intent towards squirrels.

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Queue up the creepy voice…**WARNING READ THE REMAINDER OF THIS POST AT YOUR OWN RISK, NOT FOR SQUIRREL LOVERS OR THE FAINT OF HEART**

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What can you do about the squirrel scourge?? The honest answer is not much, there are too damn many of them. If you see 3 or 4 there are probably more like 20. In most major cities they’re considered a nuisance. Some will trap and relocate. That’s a joke because they simply become someone else’s problem. An air rifle works fine. However, depending on where you live that may or may not be an option. Then there is lethal trapping. The tube trap is a popular style and the one that I recently started using (pictured below, no squirrels were harmed..cough cough). A company called WCS sells them, which is where I bought mine. I’ve had a lot of success with this trap and it seems to have slowed them down a bit. Maybe I’ll get lucky and they’ll decide to relocate to a more squirrel friendly location. Time will tell.

Happy squirrel free gardening!!!

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Red Navel Orange

About a month ago I purchased a red navel orange from our local citrus nursery it came in a 10 gallon pot(Flying Dragon). Wasn’t really intending to get another orange, but I tasted the fruit and was impressed with the flavor. No seeds and the one I had was sweet but not overly and just juicy enough. Let’s face it, living in Florida you can never have enough citrus..

The red navel or cara cara is thought to be a cross between a Washington navel and a Brazilian Bahia, so it was essentially a genetic mutation. Not all mutations are good, but this one is definitely a winner.

Here’s the young tree, the foliage is much darker green than my other citrus. Not sure if that’s the nature of the red navel or it’s just healthy. It does have a few small fruits on it and you can see in the second picture that it’s getting ready to blossom. Hoping this will be an orange making machine.

Happy gardening!

 

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