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Using seedlings as rootstock

 
Chris Barnes
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Hello,

I recently purchased 1000 Antonovka (apple) seeds to sprout and start as rootstock. I was recently planning on doing the same with 1000 Bartlett seeds. My plan is to sprout them, grow them for 1 year in 1 gallon pots and then plant them in their final destination next year. Then (depending on growth) I would field graft the apple trees (at least). Does this sound reasonable and/or insane?

kthxbye

Chris
 
Eric Thompson
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Location: Bothell, WA - USA
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Both of these make pretty good rootstock in many areas. Your yield from seeds will vary greatly with the care you put into them! I would say that 1 gal pots are not the easiest or cheapest way to go. You can plant fairly densely in a garden row (2" spacing, maybe 6 wide and however long..), mulch with a few inches of wood chips, and weed out everything that is not an apple/pear tree for a year - the survivors can be field grafted in place to grow out another year (nature will have thinned them some already..)

To get some experience up front in grafting, I would recommend buying at least 25 1/4" rootstocks at the same time and getting some practice. You only have a year to get it right
 
Chris Barnes
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Thanks for getting back to me. It sounds like you're thinking that it will take a year to get to grafting size and then another year after the graft before I should transplant it?

My goal was to avoid having to transplant it when it gets too big so that it could have a better opportunity to get established while there is a bunch of growth. I realize that I don't have much of a concept of how big the tree should be after 1 year of like and 2 years of life. I assumed that after a year it would be maybe 2 feet tall, and then after 2 years it would be 4-5 feet tall..? Anyways, I recently found a seed inside of a granny smith apple that had sprouted by itself and I just planted it. It's about an inch tall so that will give me some clue about what to expect with the rest of my seeds here in the next 3-4 months.

In regard to grafting practice, I am actually going to a grafting class held by local community college. We'll be grafting a few trees there that I'll get to take home and nurture.

Thanks again,

Chris
 
Eric Thompson
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Location: Bothell, WA - USA
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I would plan for 2 years. The growth will be variable depending on care and feeding - after 2 years, the average grafter tree should be a 5' whip ready to transplant. You can transplant something only 1' tall, but it may be harder to keep a clear space weeded and watered (the root will still be very shallow in a small tree)
 
Alder Burns
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If you study the cleft graft, this might work for you with in-place seedling rootstocks. You can let the seedlings get 2 or 3 inches thick if you want to or don't get to them for one reason or another. And you can graft high off the ground if you want (like out of reach of chickens or geese or sheep or deer). I find it easier than whip-and-tongue and such like with small stocks and scions.
 
Mark Thompsons
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Location: Western Washington
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You might consider chip budding them too. With those quantities, you'll save time and a ton of budwood. The same stick that gives you one cleft grafted scion might give you a dozen chip buds. And if your technique's not great and some buds fail, you still have the intact rootstock to try again either that same season or the next.
 
Aljaz Plankl
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I grew seeds of apples and pears in a garden situation, and already in first year i did chip bud, also whip and tongue could be used.
I don't recommend growing so many seedlings in pots, waste of time, growing medium, space and energy.

I don't recommend cleft graft, it's big wound and it's a lot of risk to get disease/pest in it.

For higher i recommend bark graft, i use it with many success.
There are couple of versions of bark graft, i use this one:




One example of wild cherry tree rootstock that is few years old, bark graft waist high, graft is 8 months old on this picture.

 
Michael Qulek
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That's exactly what I did, though I used Anjou seeds instead of Bartlet. I'm really big on recycling discarded containers, so most of my seedlings were sprouted in 16oz beverage cups with a hole poked in the bottom. Once about 6" tall, I transplanted the seedlings to 5 gallon pots. The next season the seedlings were pencil thick, and that was when I whip grafted them. Got excellent results, even with grafts of my neighbor's asian pear, which I helped prune (uhmm, what was on my side of the fence.

Potting the trees worked really well for me. I could position the seedlings in front of me with the grafting site at about chest-level. Made the process really easy, and was much preferable to knelling down on the ground.

BTW, I never in all my grafting saw a single instance of a graft getting any kind of infection.
 
Mike Haych
Posts: 216
Location: Eastern Canada, Zone 5a
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Chris Barnes wrote:Hello,

I recently purchased 1000 Antonovka (apple) seeds to sprout and start as rootstock. I was recently planning on doing the same with 1000 Bartlett seeds. My plan is to sprout them, grow them for 1 year in 1 gallon pots and then plant them in their final destination next year. Then (depending on growth) I would field graft the apple trees (at least). Does this sound reasonable and/or insane?

kthxbye

Chris


1000?!?!?!?!? Remember permie principle 9. Modify it a bit - start small and learn. You'll find that getting high germination with that many seeds will be a challenge. You'll find that watering that many pots will be an interesting exercise (unless you're also investing in watering infrastructure), especially if they aren't mulched. And retroactively mulching will be a treat. And then there's weed control if you haven't mulched. Having done lots of this sort of pot farming, I'd suggest starting with 1/10 for the first year and then ramp up as you learn. The faster you learn, the faster you'll ramp up. 100 pots'll keep you challenged while your learning. LOL

Inoculate every seed with mycorrhizal fungi.
 
Ahabwe Michael
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Location: Uganda
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I think they will perform well. What I think you should consider is spacing just like Eric mentioned.
I also wanted to share with readers #SaveOurFood. We have been developing community food forests with school children and communities. We are trying to save this from collapsing and have only 3 days left. Please support #SaveOurFood through this link http://www.rockethub.com/projects/52745

 
Bryant RedHawk
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Hi Chris, first off; if you are going to grow in pots, start out with 2-3 gal pots for tree stock, this allows a far better root system to develop and not end up root bound.

1 thousand trees is full blown commercial nursery stuff, how many folks are going to be helping you water, feed, and graft?
If you are going to be doing this many trees all by yourself, you will be spending most of your day with that many seedlings unless you have drip irrigation.

Note: the last orchard / nursery I was at, we had five orchardist and 7 apprentices, all full time. We would do 1500 new graft trees per week in the grafting season, ( with the green houses we effectively had two seasons) we had drip irrigation, started 6500 seedlings per month and these were grown to 2-3 year old root stocks.

Two years old is the norm for root stock grafting, it can be done at one year old but two years usually gives better results since the cambium layers are better and larger, remember you aren't going to be cutting off the rootstocks main growth until after the graft is well established so the root stock tree has to have enough cambium feeding it to survive while the graft establishes on the stock tree and the wound heals over.

The others have given good advice. Mycorrhizal inoculation is always a good thing. Starting small and building up is also a good idea, but if you have irrigation set up, you can grow the stock trees and graft along as you can, there is nothing that requires a certain size or year for the root stock tree to be grafted to. All the usual methods of grafting (bud, chip, bark, cleft) will all work, use the ones you know well and are comfortable about using. Remember the main enemy of a graft is ground moisture, it will cause failure and death, so always place the graft high enough from the ground that moisture will not hang on or even near the graft.
 
David Goodman
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Agreed on the "plant them close together in a garden bed."

I've discovered in my nursery business that I can grow a bunch of trees together and then dig them up in the late winter when they're totally dormant and they can be moved anywhere. I prune the roots and the tops when I pot them up and then they wake up in the spring and grow as if nothing ever happened.

As an example: I germinated about 30 peach pits in a flat of soil at the corner of my nursery... then forgot about them. Over the course of the year they grew through the flat into a big mess of peaches. Some of the trees hit 6', some only grew to 6".

This winter while they were dormant I went out with a spade and started digging them up and untwisting the branches and roots. I admit: I hacked at some of them.

My wife and I then potted them individually in 3-gallon pots. Now they're starting to wake up thanks to our unusually warm weather and they look lush and green, just as if nothing had ever happened.
 
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