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Two years until I can plant a fruit tree... can I start something now?

 
Bart Brinkmann
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So I'm finally graduating this spring, which means we're closer to getting some acreage, but we're probably still 2 years away from actually purchasing land to build on. We know we're staying in this area and I'm wondering if I can start experimenting with some fruit trees now that we might be able to bring with us. We eventually plan to have several apple trees, a pear tree, apricot, and peach. I'd like to play around with either grafting or espalier and I've seen some pretty elaborate combinations of both for sale at some local nurseries. I've got a spot I can put a couple of trees in nursery containers, if I could realistically start growing something right now. We live in town with a fenced yard, so wildlife isn't an issue right now. Do I have any options?
 
Bethany Dutch
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I don't know about trees but I was in a similar situation a few years back and so I bought blueberry bushes to put into buckets! That was three or four years ago and I am crossing my fingers I can finally plant them this year. I also bought hardy kiwi last year and put them in buckets, and while we do live on the land my gardening area was not a priority last year so they were bucketed also. I think it's better to have them this way so they are semi-established when you finally plant them out, as opposed to starting with tiny ones.

The other thing, regarding trees, is just to go with actual dwarf varieties. Won't have the lifetime production like a semi-dwarf, but it will probably help the "growie" in you feel like you are connected and growing stuff I know last year I wasn't technically able to garden ANYTHING but it drove me insane so I bought the kiwis and also planted some strawberries (which will have to be dug up, but hey, I WAS GROWING STUFF AND THAT IS ALL THAT MATTERS).
 
John Wolfram
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Bart Brinkmann wrote:So I'm finally graduating this spring, which means we're closer to getting some acreage, but we're probably still 2 years away from actually purchasing land to build on. We know we're staying in this area and I'm wondering if I can start experimenting with some fruit trees now that we might be able to bring with us. We eventually plan to have several apple trees, a pear tree, apricot, and peach. I'd like to play around with either grafting or espalier and I've seen some pretty elaborate combinations of both for sale at some local nurseries. I've got a spot I can put a couple of trees in nursery containers, if I could realistically start growing something right now. We live in town with a fenced yard, so wildlife isn't an issue right now. Do I have any options?

Bart, bringing a couple potted trees with you to your acreage will be pretty insignificant compared to the amount of experience and knowledge you can bring with you. With that in mind, you'll probably want to try your hand at grafting this year even if if just means grafting a branch from one side of a tree onto the other side. Try a bunch of different types of graft and see which one you like the best and which one works well for you. Having a wide variety of species (apple, pear, peach, etc.) will give you experience identifying and dealing with a wider variety of pests. Planting a tree or two into the ground (even if you have to kill it when you leave) will give you a bit more experience dealing with rabbits and mice. Getting at least one tree that will fruit in the second year (peach maybe), will give you a bit of experience dealing with squirrels.
 
Cj Sloane
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Start some apple trees from seed.

 
R Scott
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Depending on the space you have, you could start hundreds or even thousands of trees in sand beds. A 4x4 foot square foot garden bed can hold over 2000 seedlings.
 
Kate Muller
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R Scott wrote:Depending on the space you have, you could start hundreds or even thousands of trees in sand beds. A 4x4 foot square foot garden bed can hold over 2000 seedlings.


I would love more information on sand beds for starting trees. I have very sandy soil and I want to start trees and shrubs form seed this spring.
 
Bart Brinkmann
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R Scott wrote:Depending on the space you have, you could start hundreds or even thousands of trees in sand beds. A 4x4 foot square foot garden bed can hold over 2000 seedlings.


I'm okay starting seedlings for other varieties, but it sounds like apple trees are't the most ideal to start from seed. I'd rather go with dwarf rootstock so my trees stay small. From what I read, the larger the apple tree is, the less it might yield?

Now that I've looked into it a little more, I'm leaning toward what John said about trying to gain some experience now rather than start a crop of trees. It looks like the dwarf-grafted apple trees start producing pretty quickly too.
 
Cj Sloane
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Bart Brinkmann wrote:...From what I read, the larger the apple tree is, the less it might yield?

Now that I've looked into it a little more, I'm leaning toward what John said about trying to gain some experience now rather than start a crop of trees. It looks like the dwarf-grafted apple trees start producing pretty quickly too.


That must be out of context. A large apple tree can easily yield 800 lbs as opposed to 32 lbs for a dwarf tree. Dwarf trees are also shorter lived than full sized trees. In one of Geoff Lawton's urban permaculture vids he recommends growing full sized apple trees but keeping them dwarf sized by pruning 2x/year.

Also, do you have any idea where you'll be living? If it's a high pressure deer area, full sized trees yield enough for you and the deer once they're big enough, sacrificing the bottom 5 feet of apples.

But... it all depends on what you want, experience growing, grafting, or maybe you want container trees.
 
John Wolfram
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Bart Brinkmann wrote:...From what I read, the larger the apple tree is, the less it might yield?

Cj Verde wrote:That must be out of context. A large apple tree can easily yield 800 lbs as opposed to 32 lbs for a dwarf tree.

In general, the larger the trees you use, the lower your yield is per acre. With full sized apple trees at 40 foot spacings, you can have 27 of those trees per acre yielding 22,000 pounds of apples (800x27). Alternatively, you could plant 1,100 dwarf trees per acre in a tall spindle style and get over 30,000 pounds per acre. Additionally, the full size apple trees would probably take over a decade to get anywhere near 20,000 pounds while the dwarf trees would be producing in a fraction of that time. The flip side is that the full size trees require less initial cost, less maintenance, and will produce for decades after the dwarf trees have died.
 
Bart Brinkmann
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John Wolfram wrote:
Bart Brinkmann wrote:...From what I read, the larger the apple tree is, the less it might yield?

Cj Verde wrote:That must be out of context. A large apple tree can easily yield 800 lbs as opposed to 32 lbs for a dwarf tree.

In general, the larger the trees you use, the lower your yield is per acre. With full sized apple trees at 40 foot spacings, you can have 27 of those trees per acre yielding 22,000 pounds of apples (800x27). Alternatively, you could plant 1,100 dwarf trees per acre in a tall spindle style and get over 30,000 pounds per acre. Additionally, the full size apple trees would probably take over a decade to get anywhere near 20,000 pounds while the dwarf trees would be producing in a fraction of that time. The flip side is that the full size trees require less initial cost, less maintenance, and will produce for decades after the dwarf trees have died.


That helps quite a bit too. In reading about a lot of the dwarf stock, I had read that those trees are shorter-lived than full-sized trees. Another thing that bothered me was that it sounds like most of the dwarf varieties require some support. I had wondered about pruning to keep them smaller and more manageable - especially since I'm interested in espalier anyway (which will require a whole new type of support, I realize).

With the shorter lifespan of the dwarf rootstock, perhaps a root from seed is better if I plan to espalier it anyway?

So maybe this is a route I can take this spring - start 10-20 apple trees from seed that I can plan on grafting in a couple of years? If I do this, are there specific types of seeds I should start with?
 
Cj Sloane
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John Wolfram wrote:In general, the larger the trees you use, the lower your yield is per acre. With full sized apple trees at 40 foot spacings, you can have 27 of those trees per acre yielding 22,000 pounds of apples (800x27). Alternatively, you could plant 1,100 dwarf trees per acre in a tall spindle style and get over 30,000 pounds per acre. Additionally, the full size apple trees would probably take over a decade to get anywhere near 20,000 pounds while the dwarf trees would be producing in a fraction of that time. The flip side is that the full size trees require less initial cost, less maintenance, and will produce for decades after the dwarf trees have died.


Totally true, if you plan on a monocrop. I'm hoping that's a big "NO" so that type of math shouldn't really apply. The math of polyculture is more complex. Add a bunch of edge in & you wont know till you start harvesting!
 
Cj Sloane
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Bart Brinkmann wrote:
That helps quite a bit too. In reading about a lot of the dwarf stock, I had read that those trees are shorter-lived than full-sized trees. Another thing that bothered me was that it sounds like most of the dwarf varieties require some support. I had wondered about pruning to keep them smaller and more manageable - especially since I'm interested in espalier anyway (which will require a whole new type of support, I realize).

With the shorter lifespan of the dwarf rootstock, perhaps a root from seed is better if I plan to espalier it anyway?

So maybe this is a route I can take this spring - start 10-20 apple trees from seed that I can plan on grafting in a couple of years? If I do this, are there specific types of seeds I should start with?


Specific seeds for espalier? No idea but seeds are really inexpensive and while small the space requirement is small too! You might want to try growing 10-100 of a few different types. And don't forget location appropriate root stock - not just size.
 
Bart Brinkmann
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I forgot to ask about production for full-sized rootstock - if I plan to prune pretty vigilantly and keep my trees around 10 -15 feet, how many years should I expect before those trees start producing?
 
John Wolfram
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Bart Brinkmann wrote:I forgot to ask about production for full-sized rootstock - if I plan to prune pretty vigilantly and keep my trees around 10 -15 feet, how many years should I expect before those trees start producing?

Back in 2010 planted 25 trees from Adams County Nursery. This nursery sells trees that were grafted two years earlier (so add 2 years to these times if you are starting with rootstock, 3 years if you are starting from seed).

The peach trees produced a little bit in 2011, a good crop in 2012, and a really good crop in 2013.
The apples produced a little in 2012, and a decent amount in 2013.
The pears produced a little in 2013 and a pretty good amount in 2014.
I have yet to get a cherry.
I have yet to get a plum from the tree planted in 2010, but in 2013 I got a couple from plum trees planted in 2011.
 
Bart Brinkmann
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John Wolfram wrote:
Bart Brinkmann wrote:I forgot to ask about production for full-sized rootstock - if I plan to prune pretty vigilantly and keep my trees around 10 -15 feet, how many years should I expect before those trees start producing?

Back in 2010 planted 25 trees from Adams County Nursery. This nursery sells trees that were grafted two years earlier (so add 2 years to these times if you are starting with rootstock, 3 years if you are starting from seed).

The peach trees produced a little bit in 2011, a good crop in 2012, and a really good crop in 2013.
The apples produced a little in 2012, and a decent amount in 2013.
The pears produced a little in 2013 and a pretty good amount in 2014.
I have yet to get a cherry.
I have yet to get a plum from the tree planted in 2010, but in 2013 I got a couple from plum trees planted in 2011.


Thanks John. That makes me think that if I get started grafting a few plants this year, they should be ready to put in the ground in a couple of years. Do you recall what type of rootstock was on your apples?

I found an interesting article on interstem rootstocks that essentially uses a vigorous stock for the root system, then a dwarf stock for the actual "stock" of the tree. It sounds like these trees do better in terms of drought tolerance and they don't need support like a pure dwarf rootstock would need. This sounds like it could be interesting to experiment with.

Source: http://www.orangepippintrees.com/articles/interstem-rootstocks
 
R Scott
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Kate Muller wrote:
R Scott wrote:Depending on the space you have, you could start hundreds or even thousands of trees in sand beds. A 4x4 foot square foot garden bed can hold over 2000 seedlings.


I would love more information on sand beds for starting trees. I have very sandy soil and I want to start trees and shrubs form seed this spring.


http://www.savvygardener.com/Features/flowers_from_cuttings.html

Or search anything from mike mcgroaty on YouTube or www.freeplants.com his site is a little spammish but you can get a lot of good info from the free side.

Basics: raised bed with very loose soil, watering system to keep them from drying out, and shade cloth for protection from direct sun. You can plant every inch or two depending on size and type.
 
John Wolfram
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Bart Brinkmann wrote:Thanks John. That makes me think that if I get started grafting a few plants this year, they should be ready to put in the ground in a couple of years. Do you recall what type of rootstock was on your apples?

The apples were on a mixture of M111 and M106 rootstock.
 
Jennifer Smith
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Following with interest. Would collecting locally grown apples be best for rootstock?
 
Cj Sloane
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Jennifer Smith wrote:Would collecting locally grown apples be best for rootstock?


Only if they weren't grown on rootstock.
 
Jose Reymondez
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Just my experience with peach trees. Transplanted year-old peaches in pots as well as transplanting year-old volunteers grew to 2-4 feet tall while directly seeded peach pits got to 5-6 feet in their first year.

So my one-year old directly seeded peaches are twice as tall as my transplanted two-year-old peaches.

So waiting and doing it right can have its advantages.
 
Bart Brinkmann
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Jose Reymondez wrote:Just my experience with peach trees. Transplanted year-old peaches in pots as well as transplanting year-old volunteers grew to 2-4 feet tall while directly seeded peach pits got to 5-6 feet in their first year.

So my one-year old directly seeded peaches are twice as tall as my transplanted two-year-old peaches.

So waiting and doing it right can have its advantages.


Thanks Jose,

I agree - I think my time right now is best spent on planning and experimenting where I'm at. I have to reign in my spring fever a little bit and settle with a couple new blueberry bushes that I can maim in an attempt to propagate my first bush
 
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Hau, Bart, I agree that this is your best time for experimentation.

Most fruit trees, when grown from seed will take seven years to first fruit.

You can graft just about any fruit tree to another fruit tree, I would stick with apples to apples while you are learning. The peaches, plums, pears, cherries, all can be easily grafted to one host trunk if you so desire.

For espalier, any fruit tree will respond to the pruning and training, In France, it is usually pears that one sees this done to. I have trained cherries, pears, apples, peaches, plums, even some lemons and oranges into very nice espaliers. I would suggest you go to your library and find some books on Formal Gardening Techniques, there will be a lot of pertinent information that you will want to have in your knowledge base.

Full size trees can always be pruned to keep them a certain size. It mostly depends on how high you want to reach when picking the crop and how much room you are willing or able to give each tree. Dwarfs, should live and fruit for around 20 years sometimes longer. Full size trees can live and fruit for hundreds of years.
 
Peter Ellis
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It can be funny the bits of information and the ideas that fall out of a conversation.
I am struck, from this thread, by the idea that one might plant literally hundreds of dwarf apple trees in an area, also plant a smaller number of full size apples in that area, and thereby get a rapid initial yield, then a succession from the dwarf trees to the full size trees for a continuing apple yield while converting over from the dwarf trees to other sorts of understory plantings.

Not the topic of discussion, but a little "fallout".
 
John Wolfram
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Bryant RedHawk wrote:You can graft just about any fruit tree to another fruit tree, I would stick with apples to apples while you are learning. The peaches, plums, pears, cherries, all can be easily grafted to one host trunk if you so desire.

You sure about the pears? All the other trees in that sentence are in genus Prunus, while the pears are in genus Pyrus. They might live for a little while, but it probably wouldn't have good long term prospects.

Grafting Apples onto Pears:

 
Wi Tim
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Have you ever moved yet? I am so glad we did not have to deal with potted trees last few times we moved.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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John Wolfram wrote:
Bryant RedHawk wrote:You can graft just about any fruit tree to another fruit tree, I would stick with apples to apples while you are learning. The peaches, plums, pears, cherries, all can be easily grafted to one host trunk if you so desire.
You sure about the pears? All the other trees in that sentence are in genus Prunus, while the pears are in genus Pyrus. They might live for a little while, but it probably wouldn't have good long term prospects.




Pears are from the family Rosaceae, tribe Pyreae and this includes several genera Dichotomanthes, Eriobotrya, Rhaphiolepis, Sirbus, Heteromeles, Aronia, Amelanchier, Pyrus (pears), Malus (Apples), Macromeles and Eriolobus.

Tribe Prunus also belongs to the family Rosaceae, as are, Alchemilla, Sorbus , Crataegus , Cotoneaster and Rubus. Important fruits of the family Rosaceae include apples, pears, quinces, apricots, plums, cherries, peaches, raspberries, loquats, strawberries and almonds.

In grafting, you can have success with any sicon as long as it is being grafted to a member of its Tribe or even Family.

Sam Van Aken, Creator of the Tree of Fourty Fruits, all grafts of genus Prunus or pitted fruit trees.

So in answer, yes I am certain about the pears being compatible for grafting. One new graft that is currently coming to markets is the Potato (root stock) to Tomato (sicon) there are several nurseries bringing this one to market this year.
 
Cj Sloane
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Peter Ellis wrote:I am struck, from this thread, by the idea that one might plant literally hundreds of dwarf apple trees in an area, also plant a smaller number of full size apples in that area, and thereby get a rapid initial yield, then a succession from the dwarf trees to the full size trees for a continuing apple yield while converting over from the dwarf trees to other sorts of understory plantings.


This is EXACTLY what Grant Schultz is doing. He's says it's part of his 200 year farm plan. The dwarf will produce early and then when they stop the fullsized trees will start bearing and he'll chop & drop the dwarfs.
 
John Wolfram
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Bryant RedHawk wrote: In grafting, you can have success with any sicon as long as it is being grafted to a member of its Tribe or even Family...So in answer, yes I am certain about the pears being compatible for grafting.

I tried looking for examples and/or studies of genus Pyrus onto genus Prunus and did not find any. Do you happen to know of any examples/studies? In particular, something that shows which species have the highest success rates would be useful. For example, Pyrus pyrifolia onto Prunus persica might have a different success rate than Pyrus communis onto Prunus salicina.
 
Cj Sloane
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I know this looks photoshopped but I think it's legit:

http://www.treeof40fruit.com/
 
John Wolfram
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CJ, the message boards on Snopes are calling that picture a photoshoped image. See also the animation in this article. While there might be 40 different cultivars on that tree, the chances of them all being in full bloom at once is not likely.

Additionally, the description states the grafting has been limited to genus Prunus:
Each unique Tree of 40 Fruit grows over forty different types of stone fruit including peaches, plums, apricots, nectarines, cherries, and almonds.
 
Cj Sloane
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John Wolfram wrote:CJ, the message boards on Snopes are calling that picture a photoshoped image. See also the animation in this article. While there might be 40 different cultivars on that tree, the chances of them all being in full bloom at once is not likely.

Additionally, the description states the grafting has been limited to genus Prunus:
Each unique Tree of 40 Fruit grows over forty different types of stone fruit including peaches, plums, apricots, nectarines, cherries, and almonds.


Yeah, I didn't think they could be in bloom at the same time but I thought it had pears grafted on to it.
 
Cj Sloane
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OK, so stone fruits only but still nice grafting job and the OP could hone his grafting techniques till he can plant.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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You can see a living Sam Van Aken tree of 40 fruits at the International Headquarters of Sam Walton Enterprises (Wal-Mart) in Bentonville, Arkansas. It is in the gardens. All the photos of his trees are photo shop images, it takes five years to build one tree and seven more for them to develop to fruiting trees. It is also true that the branches do not all blossom at the same time.

I have just acquired some pear trees and one of them will be receiving bud grafts as we complete our orchard. My Idea is to have one tree with a branch of each of the different fruits in our orchard. The only trees I know that will not bud graft to this pear tree will be the citrus trees and the Pawpaw. I am hoping to get the net on our land in another year, at which time I will be able to post up photos of the stock tree and document each of the bud grafts as they are placed, this way I will be able to show full documentation of the progress along with any grafts that fail.

There is a tree at Green Tree Nursery, Sacramento, CA., which I did bud grafts on in the late 1960's It is a Roma Apple stock tree with budded branches of Sweet Cherry, Rainer Cherry, Bartlett Pear, Golden Delicious, Red Delicious and an Asian Pear. While I don't remember exactly which species it was. I grafted onto the tree for two years as one of my MS degree projects, In all but two grafts the second year the buds had grown enough to blossom out. It was funded by the owner of the Nursery as a Demonstrator tree. This tree was planted in a circle bed at the front of the Fruit tree area. During the four years I was tending the tree, only two bud grafts didn't take, this was a result of a bit of careless rush on my part. I had done two bud grafts of each sicon and the two that failed were not from the same species (one was a golden delicious that I had nicked to close when pulling the bud and the other was a Rainer Cherry with the same issue).
 
Bart Brinkmann
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Okay, after a lot of research and consideration I've committed to a plan and thought I'd share my decisions. I took John's advice on using this time as a learning experience, but also came up with a couple things that I could bring with me in two years when we find our property. Starting my own seedlings for rootstock just sounded like it would be hit-or-miss and I couldn't find a single professional who recommended it, so I wanted to stick with clonal propagation. It may be a bit slower than starting hundreds or thousands of seedlings, but (1) I don't need that many and (2) I know what I'm going to end up with - and it was a cheap investment for the peace of mind knowing that I've got good roots on the plants I'm going to invest over a decade in. I think it's a good plan, we'll see how it turns out.

1. First, I'm going to start four stool beds for apple rootstock. Two will be EMLA 111 and the other two will be Bud-9. Both will grow well for me here in North Idaho / Eastern Washington and both can be used for either espalier or dwarf/semi-dwarf trees. I've got the rootstocks on the way for $17 shipped. I'll read up a bit more before they get here to see where I need to start with regards to topping them off to get the stool bed going, but by the time I move I should be able to produce around 48 rootstocks or 24 interstems per season just with these four plants (even more if I choose to start more stool beds with these). I should also have a year to practice some bud grafting.

2. My dad has a European Mountain Ash that I've been coveting for quite a while. It produces tons of berries and birds love it. This will be a good addition to my "food forest" for both wild birds and chickens, so this May/June I plan to attempt propagating about 10 of those.

That's it for now - I think I can fly under my wife's radar enough with this small of an undertaking and not disrupt her backyard landscaping too much
 
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Hau, Bart, sounds like you have a great plan now.

The best way to propagate mountain ash (Sorbus scopulina) is to take cuttings from green wood.
Take cuttings in the spring, after the last frost, that are from the green wood, about 15-20 cm long, strip all of the leaves except the last two or three.
Dip the cuttings in a rooting hormone and then stick the cuttings in moist, warm sand and keep the cuttings warm until the cuttings begin to root.
Rooting may begin as soon as 8 weeks. You can check by gently probing around the cutting. Chances are, it will take several months to get the large root growth.

When your cuttings start sprouting new leaves, there is a significant root system and it's time to take the cuttings out of the rooting environment and plant the cuttings in separate pots.
Transfer the potted cuttings outdoors, provided, the environment is warm enough.
Place the potted cuttings in a place where they are shaded from direct sun, protected from extremes in rain, wind, hail, etc., for 10 days.
After that, plant your seedlings wherever you like as long as they get 8 hours of direct sunlight.
 
Bart Brinkmann
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Bryant RedHawk wrote:Hau, Bart, sounds like you have a great plan now.

The best way to propagate mountain ash (Sorbus scopulina) is to take cuttings from green wood.
Take cuttings in the spring, after the last frost, that are from the green wood, about 15-20 cm long, strip all of the leaves except the last two or three.
Dip the cuttings in a rooting hormone and then stick the cuttings in moist, warm sand and keep the cuttings warm until the cuttings begin to root.
Rooting may begin as soon as 8 weeks. You can check by gently probing around the cutting.


Thanks Bryant, I wasn't really sure how to check to see if things were working or not. He's cutting the tree down this summer, so I only get one shot with this particular tree. Do I just use fine sand for this, or should I use perlite or vermiculite? To keep them moist, I'm thinking of using an inverted clear plastic tote with a few small vent holes. I'm hoping I can just keep this in a shaded area of the yard under some plants without it getting too warm inside.
 
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Bart, you can use any rooting medium you are comfortable with, sand is the easiest and usually the least expensive. If you use vermiculite soak it first, that way it will already have expanded. If you are going to plant them outdoors you should have no real worries as long as you use some kind of cover. I like to use glass jars (eg. 1 gal pickle jars) but plastic will work just as well. If you were to have to plant in full sun, a white 5 gal bucket works really well it lets in just enough light and you don't have to worry about sun burn. The clear tote will work just fine and can hold many starts. Don't forget to score the bark before dipping in rooting compound, so the sicon will have good places to develop the new roots from.
 
I agree. Here's the link: https://richsoil.com/wood-heat.jsp
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