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Propagating a favorite apple

 
Luke Townsley
Posts: 131
Location: Dugger, IN Zone 6a
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By a railroad crossing close to me, in the right of way, there is a grand old apple tree presumably started many years ago from a seed thrown out the window by a train engineer.

It is a tall magnificent tree, has good apples, and bears well.

I want to get some starts from it to eventually plant in my own yard. I'm thinking of active pruning to maintain an appropriate size.

What do you think about rooting cuttings from that tree directly in a soil or solution, and if it works, how long does it take and what should I expect?
 
Jordan Lowery
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Location: zone 7
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there are two things at play here. one its a wild tree. this means its resistant to local diseases and pests. both above and below ground. because of this, there is no need to graft. most commonly plants are not bred for fruit quality and tree quality. thus why we graft weak but high quality fruited varieties onto strong rootstock.

now since this is a wild tree and it passes all tests. you can root them and grow them on there own roots. most will say you can not. i found a tree similar to the one you mention, it was about 10-15 years old when i took cuttings. and even though i know how to graft very well, propagating apples without grafting would make things so much easier.

so a few years ago i rooted some cuttings, planted them, watched them grow and thrive. and put rest to the theory of a tree HAS TO be grafted.

now this wont work with all apple trees, it has to come from wild trees, preferably older to prove resistance to problems, and has good fruit.

one thing though is it wont be dwarfed in any way, it will grow into a huge tree.

take 6-8 inch cuttings of fresh growth from last year. before the tree has broke dormancy. stick them half way in good potting soil and keep moist. they should root in a month or two.

as for pruning the wild tree id leave it alone, its been without you this whole time. why mess with it? you can prune your own trees you propagate.
 
Jen Shrock
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Location: NW Pennsylvania Zone 5B bordering on Zone 6
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You could even try air layering, if rooting the cuttings doesn't work for some reason.
 
Johnny Niamert
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Location: Colo
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Jordan, Have you ever tried your method outside?

I did some cuttings like you describe last fall, and I'm hoping they root in the garden, so I can transplant them this season.

Here is a topic I started on it. It would be awesome if you posted a pic of a rooted cutting!

http://www.permies.com/t/30133/trees/Dormant-Hardwood-Cutting-Suggestions
 
Luke Townsley
Posts: 131
Location: Dugger, IN Zone 6a
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Thanks for everyone's input. Jordan, as you suggest, I'm going to give it a try and see what happens. I don't have much to lose.
 
Luke Townsley
Posts: 131
Location: Dugger, IN Zone 6a
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Jen Shrock wrote:You could even try air layering, if rooting the cuttings doesn't work for some reason.


I'd never heard of air layering. Thanks for the head up!
 
Jordan Lowery
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johnny yes i am doing it right now. there is one very important factor. the apple im rooting was a WILD apple tree. meaning it was resistant to the local diseases and root problems. if i was to do this with say a granny smith apple, chances are it would root, grow, get infected and die. trust me i have done this.

this is another benefit to growing from seed, so you can find trees like the one i did. because of this i can skip grafting, making the propagation of apple trees on my farm almost effortless, just sticking 3-4 ft long branches in the ground around november/december. some root some don't. free tree none the less.
 
Peter Hartman
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Location: springfield, MO
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I am interested in doing this. I am wanting to do it inside over the winter and move the starts outside in the spring, hopefully with a healthy see of roots. I think I understand the reasoning behind wild trees but I don't know that a grafted tree is not worth a try. It may do fine. I have access to both so I am going to try.

Fig
Peach
Apple
Cherry
 
Chadwick Holmes
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Location: Volant, PA
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I second the air layering, great success rate...
 
David Livingston
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If the tree is that good then try everything at the same time
Graft and plant a cutting or three then air graft next year

David
 
Bryant RedHawk
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Luke Townsley wrote:By a railroad crossing close to me, in the right of way, there is a grand old apple tree presumably started many years ago from a seed thrown out the window by a train engineer.

It is a tall magnificent tree, has good apples, and bears well.

I want to get some starts from it to eventually plant in my own yard. I'm thinking of active pruning to maintain an appropriate size.

What do you think about rooting cuttings from that tree directly in a soil or solution, and if it works, how long does it take and what should I expect?


If your going to root cuttings, you need to do that in the spring with new growth branches to get the best results. I like to use a 6% rooting hormone when I can't make "willow water"( the natural rooting hormone solution).
To Air layer you will need sphagnum moss and either plastic and ties or rooting cups (a commercial product that makes air layering easy peasy), again you also need some rooting hormone either powder or solution.
Either of these methods will be perfect for a wild tree. Grafts (unless you have done them before) can be tricky to get just right.
I learned to graft in the early 1970's, it took me ten tries to get my method just right so I never had to worry about survival of a bud or branch.
Even though I can graft with the best, I almost always opt for air layering for everything except grafted trees, those are always grafted to new root stock.

To root cuttings from this tree, get some sharp sand and pots to go with the sphagnum moss, mix the moss with the sand, this gives you a well draining, moisture holding rooting medium. slice through the bark in at least three places and apply rooting hormone powder or slice the same and soak in rooting solution for at least two hours before planting in the pot with your medium, then water in with the rooting solution and cover to keep moist. If you need more detailed info on the procedures, let me know.
 
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