Making Little Trees

Reader Contribution by Andrew Weidman
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A row of little trees has taken up residence in my backyard. There they stand, lined up in their pots, tucked in between the deck and the cellar entrance. Twenty-three of them to be exact: twenty apples and three pears, all freshly grafted this past March.

Grafting is not an exact science with guaranteed results. At last glance, it appears that one graft has failed, and two others look questionable. That’s not half bad, actually, when you do the math.

Most grafters gun for 95 percent success, and feel happy with 90 percent. If those two questionable grafts fail, I’m looking at 87 percent that’s awfully close to 90 percent. If they surprise me and grow, that rate jumps to the coveted 95 percent.

Surprises are pretty common, too. One of the pears pushed buds much too early, within the first week after grafting, long before the graft had a chance to knit the scion and rootstock together.

Of course the buds stalled and began drying out, a sure sign of a failed graft. Somehow, they both started growing again, a week ago. All I can say is these things want to live.

Even if some of the grafts should fail, the rootstocks typically survive and throw shoots of their own. In fact, that’s why there’s such an odd number of trees. I had three pear stocks from failed grafts held over from last year.

I don’t know why, but I usually have low success with pear grafts, even though pears are supposed to be easy to graft. This year, that doesn’t seen to apply; it appears that all three grafts are taking.

Most of those trees aren’t even for me. I only need one tree, to fill a hole in my four-tree mini-orchard. This fall, I’ll need to choose between an apple and three Asian pears to fill it in, assuming they all take. That’s a “problem” I’m glad to have!

That leaves 19 trees. If they’re not for me, then what are they for, you ask? Ten of them are for the Backyard Fruit Growers, to be sold at a local Herb Faire, hosted by Landis Valley Museum. Each year, I graft ten trees to donate to our Speakers’ Fund.

This year I grafted five Paradise Sweet apples, and five Westfield-Seek-No-Further apples. I love that name, Westfield-Seek-No-further. One of the Westfields is the failed graft, but the rootstock is breaking bud, so at least it will survive.

The other nine are part of a rescue effort, to preserve the remaining three ancient trees of a centenarian orchard in Berkshire County PA. They are three each of Winesap, Jonathan, and a Red Delicious ‘unlike any you’ll find in the store,’ according to the owner.

I know, grafting isn’t something just everybody does. That’s okay; we all have some hobby or skill that is different from the norm. Do you graft? Spin or weave? Breed unusual animals? Wildcraft? I’d love to hear about it!

Photos property of Andrew Weidman.

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