Orchards from Scions or Seeds, Oh My!

Last fall we selected pits from some of the hundreds of peaches we harvested from our five hardy seedling trees and placed some of them in shallow pans of sand, others in perlite. We put the trays in our sauna, where temperatures could get below freezing but mice couldn’t reach them, watering them as needed to keep them slightly moist.  We also set aside a tray full of butternuts to sprout (from a neighbor’s tree).  The excess peach pits  were simply planted in the ground in a nursery area of our garden. We’ll see how much difference in germination this causes.  A couple of weeks ago, we moved the trays into the house to warm up.  This week we saw the first 1-inch sprout and transplanted it to a pot of garden soil and set it in a sunny window where it will stay until the greenhouse is warmer.  After the last frost, the seedlings will either go to a nursery bed or to an entirely new home in another homesteader’s orchard.

Growing orchard stock from seed keeps the gene pool diverse.  But for some fruits, like apples and pears, more predictable outcomes are usually desired.  That is where grafting scions onto rootstock comes into play.  The root can be grown from seed or cloned from a variety of possible dwarfing stocks.  In our case, we have apples on M7 roots, which continue to produce suckers each year.  These need to be pruned off annually, or they can be dug out and cut off from the mother plant to make more rootstocks for grafting.  We went back to our old orchard site in the valley and got scions from a Golden Russet and Ashmead’s Kernel for making copies of these trees for our current orchard.  Working with woody plants like fruit and nut trees can be an expensive hobby if you buy all your nursery stock.  But if you start with seeds or learn to graft, orchards can cost very little and will provide even more satisfaction than a homegrown harvest, as delightful as that experience is on its own.  Here’s to your own nutty and fruitful pursuits!

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