Monday, September 6, 2010

Fruit Tree Propagation

 If you are looking to reproduce fruit trees... you may want to take a course on grafting. Even though my daughter knows this.. it in now way slows her down from shoving apple seeds or peach pits into her pocket after lunch to experiment with later. Or forget about it entirely until Mom discovers her little treasures in the washer or dryer.

 A lot of fruit trees like apple, citrus, peach, pear, plum, avacado are reproduced by means of grafting.  Haas avacado trees.. came from 1 mother tree.. which actually died just a few years ago.

 Anyways, apple in particular is one that offers rather squirrely odds. Apple trees require another tree to pollinate, and preferable of a different strain. That makes for a lot of genetic possibilities in the following generation, especially with the fact that the next generation is able to produce something that is not anything like the parents! 

I know.. it seems odd. Apples are crazy like that, which makes them fascinating to me. Just their scale also makes it out of my reach to mess with... for now. Heirloom.. when it comes to apples.. means an old cultivar.. it does not mean it is open pollinated. No such thing as an open pollinated apple! Aside from grafting.. some apple trees send out buds (or suckers) which hold the possibility of actually being different from the parent.

 If you are limited on space.. seeds are not the way to go. If you have tons of room and just as much time.. then go for it. Keep in mind you could plant thousands of apple seeds and potentially only get 1 good tree out of the lot. By means of seeds however is one way new apple tree cultivars are created.

Just expect the unexpected. Russeting, varying storage capabilities, yields, coloring, shape, tartness, acidity, sweetness, size, disease resistance, etc. etc. are all a big gamble. You won't know the pay off for quite a few years until it fruits.

Just something to think about when you see an apple and all the varieties. Now maybe you'll see them like I do.. an amazing moment of genetic luck and truly something special.


  1. I have the worse luck planting trees.

    It sucks

    They always die :(

    Except for the ones I dig up locally they seem to always live.

  2. I'm curious as to whether you have any thoughts on rooting apple or other fruit trees from soft wood cuttings? We have had a lot of luck doing this with berry bushes but I have yet to try it with apple trees.

  3. Shrubs and canes are a different ballgame than trees.

    Apple trees can be rooted, but not all cultivars are the same. Has it been done.. yes, but very very rarely.

    With fruit trees, while the limbs determine the crop, the roots determine the size of the tree, the soil conditions it can handle, disease resistances and winter hardiness to name a few.

    If you have the time, space, resources, etc. to do it.. then go for it. You won't know until you try. Those with limited space or don't have the years to experiment may want to opt for a more predictable means of propagation.

  4. Thanks Anne, I will probably try this but won't have very high expectations. I have picked up a couple books on grafting and am looking forward to delving into that form of propagation over the next couple years.

  5. The last time I grafted I was 13 or 14 years old and was sent over to go assist the elderly neighbor farmer that we adopted. He was fast at it and my job consisted of "here hold this".

    Reading about it.. seems daunting. Watching it or ideally helping and suddenly you realize.. I can do this.

    I may be ironically reliving this.. the neighbor's orchard was made by him hopping over the fence and "borrowing" some scions. We had 1 amazing pear tree. Huge.. really old.. crazy productive of these imperfect and not too pretty pears that were insane sweet and when you bit in juice ran down your face. Our tree got nailed by lightening.. but he took a bunch. He passed away a few years ago and now I may be back there.. to hop the fence and "borrow" some scions if I can locate them.