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Robert Swan

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since Sep 09, 2017
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forest garden hugelkultur trees
Western WA
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Recent posts by Robert Swan

Chestnuts are notoriously picky about grafting - if the scions you've ordered aren't of Chinese ancestry, they are very unlikely to take.

Rule of thumb is that a european cultivar will graft to a european seedling with about a 2/3rds success rate (for professionals at least) in industry they typically even graft the cultivar on a seedling of that specific cultivar to maximize success rates.

Same goes for chinese if you use both chinese, or japanese etc.

If that cultivar fails on that tree, try another (same species) cultivar and you'll probably get another 2/3rds successful grafts. Then repeat until all your trees are eventually grafted.

As far as I know, the lines blur a bit with hybrids, but I would want at least one to match. For instance a euroXjapanese would probably work on a euro seedling, but a chinese probably wouldn't.

If some of your scions aren't at least partially Chinese, it may not be worth it to try to graft them onto it. But it may work who knows! If I were you I would look for some euro seedlings for those scions if you have any.

As far as timing, what I've seen is people leave the scions in the fridge until mid spring, after the tree has leafed out, and then graft with the dorman scion on the growing seedling. But I don't know if this is more or less successful than grafting while dormant. Probably is a delicate balance between keeping the scions fresh and grafting at the correct time.

As far as pruning that multi-stemmed tree, I would try to graft it with a different variety each stem, and then in two years when you're pretty sure the graft has taken, cut out all but one of the stems which the graft fails on. Then you'll get perhaps 3 or 4 known cultivars on one tree, plus you get to see what the quality of your seedling is! The tree is likely to be healthier in the long term if it has fewer stems rather than a whole lot. Doesn't mean it has to be one stem though!

Good luck!

1 day ago
Never tried it myself, but my mom always told me she had a tree that she used christmas lights on! Not the newer LED ones - but the old ones that would get warm/hot. String them up over the whole tree, and if the tree blooms and is in risk of late frost turn the lights on and leave them on until the danger passes. This warms the tree's vicinity a few degrees and can potentially save the blossoms and future fruit.
1 month ago
Here are some photos of my seedlings!
1 month ago
Hi Nicole!

Hope you're well!

I never did end up finding out which cultivars to get - all of the info I could find was primarily about the nut characteristics - nothing about shade tolerance of specific cultivars or anything to that effect.

I did, however, rule out Chinese due to their necessity of high heat to ripen nuts. I'm planning to stick with European and European x Japanese Hybrids.

I would have simply gotten them all, in that case, but chestnuts are notorious for their grafts failing after a few years and a once healthy, happy young tree dying back and reverting to it's rootstock.

However, I DID find a solution that works for me - I was luck enough to find a local chestnut orchard with lots of mature European chestnut cultivars, so I bought about 30 lbs of nuts a couple of months back and I am germinating my own to use as root stock!

My plan is to then order scions from Burnt Ridge nursery in about two years and try my hand at grafting them myself.

For grafting chestnuts, Washington Chestnut Company has a great amount of info, which basically culminates to if you try to graft a cultivar from the one species (casteana sativa in this case) on to the same species of root stock, if your first fails then try another cultivar, and if that one fails try yet another cultivar, you will probably be successful by the third try. Since I'm in no rush, I can plant out the orchard and just keep trying to graft them until I'm successful and have the cultivars I want.

One thing I read which I now have discovered to be untrue is that "chestnuts have an extremely low germination rate."

Just like black walnuts, apparently :p

Well, so far at least half of my nuts have germinated, which means I will soon have A LOT of extra chestnut seedlings to deal with, since I will only need +-40 trees for the orchard area.

However, in doing further research, I discovered that chestnuts are also extremely useful trees for wood production in the form of coppice.

In Europe, chestnuts are trypically grown on north facing slopes (and oaks are grown on the south) and they can be cut roughly every 10 years for firewood, 20 years for fencing or every 50 years for timber. They then re sprout vigorously from the cut stump. There are individual European chestnut trees (called stools) that are thousands of years old after being repeatedly coppiced for many generations in this way, ever since the Romans brought chestnuts to Great Britain. They sprout very similarly to our native Bigleaf Maple that I'm sure you're familiar with.

So I plan to use these extra seedlings on part of my steep slope in order to make some good use out of the otherwise unusable site that is currently just alder scrub. They may fruit a bit but not much, but the deer will certainly appreciate anything that comes down!

Chestnuts also produce almost all heartwood very quickly, which is extremely rot resistant and can be used for long-term fencing without any further treatment! I encourage you to search for the UK government's information on Chestnut coppices, it was very informative!

Oh! One final very important thing I also learned - there is a general rule of thumb among chestnut orchardists. All site characteristics equal, any chestnut tree (including seedling trees!) will produce roughly the same amount of nuts by weight. The reason we have cultivars is primarily to ensure that that weight consists of fewer, larger nuts, because that is what has become desireable for the consumers (and it's easier for harvesting and processing.) However, if selling them is not a concern and you want the trees for their calories, a few seedling trees are just as able to serve your needs. (people also say that the samller nuts tend to be sweeter) I plan to run pigs through my orchard to clean up the leftover nuts some day, and I doubt those consumers will be too picky about the size of the nuts, and neither will the deer!

Good luck on choosing your chestnuts!

1 month ago
Most of my soft fruit trees are these multi grafted type due to limited space - they are cool! I have two with apples, 1 plum, asian pear, cherry, and euro pear.

However, after a few years of having my own planted and observing my friend's with hundreds in a nursery for sale, I've noticed a few things about the ones I've been around:

1. Unless you prune them back HARD each year or two, They usually end up with only two or three of the cultivars dominating, with the others either dying off or persisting as small, insignificant branches. Seems to be random which do well, not necessarily a specific cultivar being more or less vigorous than another. Perhaps it has to do with the quality of the graft or it's location along the stem - more auxin going into one branch than the others focusing the growth there.

2. The interstem (the piece grafted to the rootstock that the scions are then grafted to, if there is one) and/ or the root stock - OFTEN sprouts - I'd be about 90% sure that unlabeled branch is one. If I were you I would either remove it or ASAP graft the least healthy looking cultivar (or your favorite, or another cultivar) if you let it grow and it turns out to be the interstem or root stock, most of the growth will occur in it (perhaps due to it not being inhibited by a poor graft). This ended, for my friend with one planted in the ground for a few years at his nursery, in us having to remove a 4 inch diameter stem (which was roughly half the tree) while the actual grafted cultivars were maybe an inch in diameter. Now it is a huge gaping wound and may be the eventual cause of death of the tree.

3. They are less vigorous and generally a pain. I have mine as a temporary way to "store" the genetic info of those cultivars in order to later graft individual trees on a larger plot of land. In retrospect, for sake of ease of pruning (I must often break almost every pruning rule I know with these trees) and general lack of headache, I would get individual trees on dwarf or super dwarf root stock if space is an issue. Or typical root stock and just prune hard, it's good biomass generation but more cutting. However it's simpler pruning since you're not trying to figure out how to give each cultivar what it needs - it's like trying to prune 5 trees that are all in each other's way all the time.

They are still cool though! A much easier edition of this concept, in my opinion, is espalier combo trees with at least a vertical foot between each graft , since each branch/cultivar gets their own space no matter what.

Good luck!
1 month ago
Being where you are, I would encourage you to look into walnuts and chestnuts! Both should do well where you are and provide an abundance of food with little maintenance necessary.
Good luck!!
1 month ago
Perhaps some evergreen trees? There are many sterile hybrids that grow very tall very quickly such as Leyland Cypress that won't rain down seedlings if you'd prefer a hedge that won't. They also are extremely forgiving of pruning and hedge to basically whatever heigh you want. We have a hedgerow of them planted that has never been topped and it is impenetrable and about 40 feet tall after 15 years. The trees are about 5 feet apart - they would fill a gap twice that wide quickly as well. Every now and again we cut off side branches and chip them for some nice mulch. They sprout right back and fill any space we create.

Or, if you're more patient, a native conifer would probably work too! If you're interested in getting food or forage for your animals off of these as well, try planting hardy kiwis, grapes, or passionfruit at the base of what you plant. They'll climb right up!
2 months ago
Cut down two of them and chipped them last year, they worked great. I don't think you'll have any issues.
3 months ago
Well, i have another consideration!

I recently found a source of seed chestnuts from only about 15 minutes away from my site, who grows a wide variety of cultivars. I could grow each individual tree for less than a dollar myself, versus 20 dollars plus per tree.

My main concern is genetic diversity, and this seed source would allow me that at a much lower cost. However, i don't and won't know the quality of the seedlings until about 15 years down the road. I also don't know which cultivar each chestnut is from, nor which pollinated it.

I could potentially get scionwood and graft cultivars that i want onto these seedlings that i grow myself, but there are low success rates for chestnuts and after all the trouble it may not be worth it in the end.

I can also essentially get an unlimited supply of seedlings from my own mature cultivar trees in abut 5 years, rather than needing to wait and see what the quality is like and potentially cut down a tree i cared for over 15 years.

Any opinions? It looks like perhaps $450 to get 20 4 ft tall grafted cultivar trees, or $50 for a couple hundred seedlings i grow my own that would probably get a foot tall after a year.

Deer browse is also a consideration, the taller trees may mean 2 or 3 years less of fencing necessary around the trees.

Thanks all!
4 months ago

I'm looking to buy bamboo rhizomes or plants of the cold-hardy timber variety, "Phyllostachys vivax" or one similar! Runners or clumpers are okay, needs to make canes at least 4" and get large.

PM me if you have some, I'm happy to barter or pay, drive to pick up, and dig out my own!

Thanks all :)
5 months ago