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setting up nursery beds for future urban orchard

 
Joe Skeletor
Posts: 113
Location: Blue Island, Illinois - Zone 6a - (Lake Effect) - surrounded by zone 5b
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Hello folks,

I'm wondering if anybody has any experience with setting up nursery beds for fruit crops. Also, any book or websites with good information regarding nursery care. I may be over-thinking it, and you just maintain young fruit trees at a close spacing until digging them up and putting them into their permanent spot, but I'm a stickler for details so any info would be awesome.

I'm working on setting up an urban orchard on a remediated 6 acre site. I will end up buying in some trees from Cummins, but I will also buy or start some rootstock to graft a bunch of my own. Got more time than money, you see.

Also anybody have stool beds for rootstock production?

Joe
 
Ann Torrence
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Location: Torrey, UT; 6,840'/2085m; 7.5" precip; 125 frost-free days
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Bumping this up as I too am establishing about a 1000 sq ft nursery area this spring and it's on my mind.

Thinking 4x8' beds, some for newly grafted fruit trees, others for stuff we need in massive quantities, like comfrey, thyme, nepeta, rhubarb.

I'm also thinking of a misting bed to start things like elderberries and mulberries from cuttings. It might be the best way to get it done in this summer aridity.
 
Joe Skeletor
Posts: 113
Location: Blue Island, Illinois - Zone 6a - (Lake Effect) - surrounded by zone 5b
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Ann,

I'm curious about your misting bed set-up, or plan for it. What sort of misting system are you creating? Are you creating hoops or something of that nature to hold in the moisture? I've only read a bit about using mist for propagation, so if you could expand on it that would be a huge help. Thanks! - Joe
 
Jeremy Droplet
Posts: 25
Location: Central Maine (Zone 4b)
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I have been doing a bit of research on this as I'm preparing for a number of nursery beds come spring time.

Here is a good general overview of nursery planning:
http://www.fao.org/docrep/006/ad228e/AD228E03.htm#ch3

Here is a good PDF from North Carolina state:
http://content.ces.ncsu.edu/field-production-of-nursery-stock-field-preparation-planting-and-planting-density.pdf


And I would highly recommend the book "So you want to start a nursery" by Tony Avent - Amazon link here
This is geared more towards the nursery business but has tons of great info.

And if you're specifically interested in tree culture, an absolute must is the reference manual of woody plant propagation - Amazon link here
 
Ann Torrence
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Location: Torrey, UT; 6,840'/2085m; 7.5" precip; 125 frost-free days
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What little I know of misting beds is what I read below. I first heard of them from Jack Spirko.

-Permies thread with specific recommendations on timers for misting beds
-An extension agency leaflet PDF on a simple misting system
-An entrepreneurial sort who wants to sell an expensive ebook but has a lot of useful free stuff on his site (it may be, can't tell for sure, that the Ebook is substantially cheaper - like 80% - at Amazon, but I'm still keeping the credit care in the wallet for now.)

Joe, we will probably do some hoops with either electric conduit or PVC over a 4x8' bed to start and see how it goes. I contend with serious wind here, so it might be a bit more involved than the PDF suggests. We've also done a lot with livestock panels and I'm certain I can keep those from blowing away, although plant access could be a PITA. Thinking it through now in the dark months so that when May rolls around, I'm ready to go.
 
Mike Haych
Posts: 216
Location: Eastern Canada, Zone 5a
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I use layering beds for rootstock. For everything else, I take cuttings. I started out using softwood cuttings, domes, misting, etc and had really mixed and inconsistent results. I could only do a limited number of cuttings because of the cost & space requirements. Now I stick dormant hardwood cuttings sometime over the winter. I can do lots of cuttings at virtually no cost and with no space requirements. I use #3 rooting hormone. I can get between 15 and 20 cuttings per 7" pot. I use PromixBX slightly damp. Some things take; some don't; some things take one year and not the next - it's always a surprise in the spring. In the spring, I move the pots out of the direct sun. If a cutting leaves out, I'll gently tug on it to see if there's resistance which suggests roots have formed. Sometimes, I'll bag the pot but I don't really have any criteria for doing this. It's an area I'm still experimenting with.

It's easy and cheap and a good way of finding out what propagates easily and what doesn't. IMHO, there's a bit too much complication in this subject.
 
Eric Thompson
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Location: Bothell, WA - USA
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Here's the basic layout I use for growing bed for rootstock/seedlings/large cuttings:

I start with untilled ground: covered with a tarp over winter or gone over with a sod cutter
1. Mark out a full length row and plant 2-wide at 8" spacing (8" apart left-right with another pair 8" along the row". Plant the length of the row. These can be bench graft rootstocks or ungrafted
2. Put in next rows with a 28-32" spacing (leaving a 20-24" gap between trees on neighboring rows)
3. in the center of each row, place a drip line (I use T-Tape)
4. Bring in wood chips and carefully spread 3-4" deep

With this, you can hand weed fairly easily, and you can trim and graft without falling all over the neighboring row. Not a lot of water is needed, but it's handy to have the T-Tape in place under the mulch.

You can grow out here for 1-2 years. When taking sections out, remover the T-Tape and dig down the row...

If grafting fails, you can turn it into a stoolbed on the spot too.
 
John Wolfram
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Location: Lafayette, Indiana
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Just last month I finished up moving 75 trees from my house nursery out to my orchard and while I did produce probably $1000+ worth of trees for less than $100, I will not be having a tree nursery at my house again. Instead, I will plant rootstock onsite at the orchard and graft out there since it is so much faster. I know the original poster said he has more money than time, but lets compare the amount of time needed to use a house nursery as compared to just planting on site. In both cases, you need to plant rootstock and then graft it over, so that's a wash. If you use a nursery then you need to dig up the tree (~40 minutes for two year tree if you are trying to save as many roots as possible), fill in the hole you left (~5 minutes), you need to dig a much larger hole out at final location than you would for rootstock(~30 minutes depending on how many rock/roots you hit), and you need to plant the larger trees (~15 minutes). All together, I figure using a nursery out at my house added 90 minutes of work per tree. That amount of time is not a big deal if you are only moving a couple of trees, but if you are putting in a 6 acre orchard with trees at 20x20 spacings that would add 900 hours of work compared to just planting rootstock directly out at the orchard.
 
Mike Haych
Posts: 216
Location: Eastern Canada, Zone 5a
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John Wolfram wrote:Just last month I finished up moving 75 trees from my house nursery out to my orchard and while I did produce probably $1000+ worth of trees for less than $100, I will not be having a tree nursery at my house again. Instead, I will plant rootstock onsite at the orchard and graft out there since it is so much faster. I know the original poster said he has more money than time, but lets compare the amount of time needed to use a house nursery as compared to just planting on site. In both cases, you need to plant rootstock and then graft it over, so that's a wash. If you use a nursery then you need to dig up the tree (~40 minutes for two year tree if you are trying to save as many roots as possible), fill in the hole you left (~5 minutes), you need to dig a much larger hole out at final location than you would for rootstock(~30 minutes depending on how many rock/roots you hit), and you need to plant the larger trees (~15 minutes). All together, I figure using a nursery out at my house added 90 minutes of work per tree. That amount of time is not a big deal if you are only moving a couple of trees, but if you are putting in a 6 acre orchard with trees at 20x20 spacings that would add 900 hours of work compared to just planting rootstock directly out at the orchard.


Yep, it's scale applied to $-cost vs time-cost. When we first planted our orchard, we bought and planted out trees - about half of what you did. It was a fairly major job without having the extra bit of starting in a nursery. When we started the orchard, time not money was the determining factor. If time had not been a factor, I would have bought the rootstock at approx $1.40 per and planted it out. That would have been a small cost but well spent given the time required to produce a quantity of rootstock. Then I would have acquired scions of the varieties, I wanted and grafted them.

Now I layer the rootstock and plant it wherever I'd like to see an apple/plum/pear tree. If I find a variety that I'm interested in, I'll graft it. If I don't, then the rootstock will grow into a mature tree which will still produce a yield. By unbundling, the rootstock production process from the grafting process, I have a lot more flexibility. The layering bed produces material every year but I don't always graft every year. The rootstock isn't wasted though and the layering bed remains productive.

 
Meghan Orbek
Posts: 52
Location: Yonkers, NY/ Berkshires, MA USA
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Thanks for those links, Jeremy! They are both really helpful.
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