I'm in the process of planning a commercial food forest modeled after mark shepherd's farm and Stefan Sobkowiak's orchard. I was curious of peoples thoughts on planting rootstalk and grafting myself.
When establishing an orchard without your own nursery stock, would you suggest planting already grafted trees, or buying rootstalk and doing the grafting yourself? Planting rootstalk would be a lot cheaper and possibly allow for a double density planting where I could thin the trees later and keep only the best trees. Planting rootstalk would also allow me to have a greater selection of varieties to choose from as I'm a bit late in putting in my order and am not going to have trees custom grown for me. Planting grafted trees, gets me good quality grafts and trees about a year older.
If you are talking about apples and pears and the like, you are probably too late to collect scion wood this year. Maple Valley Orchards, $3 a stick, might still have some, but it needs to be collected dormant, and that season's work is mostly done. Maple Valley will also do the grafting for you. I'd be on the phone ASAP to see if I could locate both the scions and rootstock if I wanted to plant this spring.
If that doesn't work, probably the fastest thing to do now would be to to order rootstocks, get them in the ground and bud graft this summer, if you can id sources for donor budwood now for the varieties you want. I haven't seen that sold on the interwebs.
Me, I ordered custom grafts because I couldn't source the scion wood locally, and by the time I did on the interwebs, the cost wasn't that much more. It doesn't take too many graft failures your first time out for the DIY cost to be more compared to paying for experience. By all means, learn the skill, but I don't want my first year's success to be dependent on beginners' luck.
Think carefully about what your goals are before planting on apple seedling rootstock. Those trees are big (think tall ladders come pruning and harvest time), slow to come into productivity, not bred against diseases in your area like fireblight, or for characteristics like good anchorage. My latest round of grafts was on MM106, a semi-dwarf with good anchorage, tolerance for our alkaline soils. It is prone to crown rot in high humidity areas, but not a problem in our climate. Seedling rootstock could work too, but there's a lot of virtue in the breeding work done by Malling, Cornell and others to breed rootstocks for your conditions. You are investing years in this project, so why not start with your best odds?
And it isn't all or nothing. Do some of each. Plant some seeds and buy some rootstocks. I lost count, I think I have 12 or more apple rootstocks now, just to try because no one else has in our area.
Ya, I'm definitely not ready to plant this spring, I'm either going to be planting this fall or next spring. Most likely this fall though.
For the rootstalk, I'm going to be going with either m-111 or b-118. I'm looking for full-size trees in the 18-20ft range. I'm going to be planting apples, pears, and european plums. Possibly cherries and persimmons as well, but still undecided though. These are going to be my canopy trees. Still undecided about what to plant underneath, definitely some berries and I have some other ideas.
I'm also worried about the risk of doing my own grafting, but I've heard apples and pears are fairly forgiving. I definitely plan on learning the skill as I will be growing my own nursery stock in the future.
Paul got the "plant for seeds" infection in my brain. I am going to get a either a hoss planter or an old 2 row corn planter and plant swales by machine. If .1% live, I am money ahead.
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