Developing an orchard from scratch

What do we mean when we say we want to develop an orchard from scratch? Well, instead of buying trees from a nursery this way involves obtaining rootstock and grafting the variety of tree you want to grow onto the rootstock. Rootstock is used to control the size of a tree. You can buy apple trees suitable for growing in a container that will only develop a small rootball (e.g. M27) or you can grow a tree that will stand 15 feet high (M25).

Establishing an orchard this way is a slower process, but if you have limited funds its a cheaper way of doing it. Another bonus is that it develops new skills - how to graft. Another aspect of this is actually growing rootstock itself. Until recently, I was completely ignorant of this aspect of tree fruit horticulture. There are places around the country that grow rootstock and sell it to people who want to graft to make new trees.

Why then not have a try at doing this ourselves? Our allotment society holds plant sales to raise funds for our site, so if we can learn how to grow rootstock, and graft to make new trees we can then sell these to raise money for the site. The other advantage of adopting this approach is that we can create new trees from existing healthy vigourous trees on our allotment site. Hopefully this will lead to fruit trees that are well suited to the local conditions.

There is a small window in the year when grafting can take place, when the sap starts to rise - this is the time to graft. Its weather dependent but happens late March to early April, generally speaking.

If you want to learn more about rootstock, the different types and what they are suitable for visit the Trees For Life Website for more information.

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