Grafting Success (so far so good)

This is a Transparent Gage I budded onto a hedgerow damson in August 2009.

Despite some rabbit damage it is growing away nicely.

Below left shows the Pear, ‘Pitmaston Duchess’ with the leaves about to open. This was cleft grafted onto a hawthorn in March this year.

The right picture shows the Pear ‘Doyenne du Commice’ with the leaves fully open. This was rind grafted onto hawthorn in March this year.

As well as these successful grafts, many others have taken (mainly Pear, Quince and Medlar onto Hawthorn).

Some of the most exciting are in a woodland clearing on the Welsh/Shropshire border. Here there are many self set Hawthorn growing high up in very poor soil, some even through cracks in rocks. Obviously this is only the first stage in the trial.

The next stage is to observe and record the fruiting quality of these trees.

As well as continuing to graft onto mature trees already existing in the landscape, I will be carrying out trials in my new nursery site to see what varieties of Pear are compatible with Hawthorn. For this I will graft onto young trees grown from seed collected locally.



Having recently found out that Pears, Quince and Medlar can be grafted onto Hawthorn I’ve been experimenting with cleft grafting these onto existing hawthorn trees.

This is Doyenne du Comice pear cleft grafted onto a 20 year old hawthorn.

I have grafted onto a stem about 2 inches in diameter. The stem behind has been left as a sap drawer and will be removed next winter.

Knowing that Hawthorn will take such varieties opens up a lot of possibilities.

There is great potential for creating linear orchards (or ‘edible corridors’) within existing hedgerows.

Scrub land on town and city outskirts quite often have plenty of  hawthorn and crab apple (onto which all varieties of apple can be grafted). This can be seen as established rootstock ready to be turned into a productive orchard with very little work.

Hawthorn and crab apple will grow on very poor soils. If they are used as rootstock then this will extend the potential for creating orchards in such places where it wouldn’t usually be considered.

The next 3-4 weeks are the ideal time for cleft and rind grafting.

I will be using this time to try out these methods.

This hawthorn on the Old Rasecourse Common near Oswestry was pruned last year and has put on plenty of healthy growth. This new growth can now be grafted this winter or budded next August with either Quince, Medlar or Pear.

I’m assuming this thorn has self seeded. If this is the case then this is the perfect rootstock for the area. The tree will be of true local provenance, being the offspring of generations and generations before it all well adapted to local conditions.

The Old Rasecourse is used by hundreds of people every week. There is potential to create lots of fruit trees from the existing Hawthorn stock.

If areas like this can be made slightly more productive in terms of providing a free sustainable food source, then it will be a small step toward reducing our dependancy on imported and non-local food sources.

If anybody reading this has any experience of cleft or rind grafting I’d be grateful for any advice. (This is my first season at attempting it so I will have to wait to see how successful I’ve been)

Nursery Mistake!

This picture shows where I left non degradable grafting tape on the Adam’s Pearmain tree for the whole of  the last growing season.

The tape has restricted the growth of the girth and also the height of the tree.

I had negleted to remove the tape off about 15 of my trees in the nursery. All with a similar result.

I must either make sure I remove any tape I use during the summer or use the degradable parafilm tape!

Harsh Pruning

This is the tree before pruning……..

  ……and this is the tree after

It’s very harsh but in this particular case was necessary. I wouldn’t normally advocate pruning a tree like this but sometimes it’s the best option.

This tree didn’t have any formative pruning carried out. As a result it was growing in one plane (rather like a fan) and was difficult to mow around.

Pruning a tree in sucha manner is fine as long as the pruning is followed up properly over the following 3-4 years.

During the next growing season the tree will put out a mass of growth, which will need reducing to 3-5 stems in late summer.

Those stems will then need pruning in the winter to create a new framework. This process will need to be repeated until a new head is formed.

I’ll keep track of the progress of this tree in order to show the pruning process.

Rabbit Damage

This image shows an apple tree deep in snow.

The snow is so deep that the rabbits can now gain access to the bark above the spiral guard and as a result the bark has been stripped all the way around the tree.

I have tried trapping the rabbit (there seems to be only one in the garden!) to no avail.

I’ve been using a standard live trap, baiting it with carrots, celery, lettuce leaves, christmas cake and ginger biscuits!! (Not all at the same time!!)

Somebody old me rabbits are partial to aniseed. I’ll try that in the trap next.

If anyone has any tips for trapping I’d be grateful to hear them. I’m looking forward to eating a rabbit curry!

This tree in my hedge line will now need replacing.


The pruning season is now with us once again!

I began a renovation programme at this orchard in North Wales last year and returned recently to begin the second year’s pruning.

I didn’t take my camera last year but this orchard was very overgrown with young native trees intertwining amongst the apples,  pears and damsons.

I removed the regenerating growth and carried out some pruning on the fruit trees, removing up to 30% of the existing canopy.

Upon my return I noticed the trees havn’t put on much regrowth, suggesting the trees have little vigour left (or maye I didn’t prune them hard enough!?)

They do however look a lot better for having a thinner canopy. The orchard looks and feels more like an orchard rather than a woodland.

Above is a Beauty of  Bath, one of the densest trees in the orchard. The photo above shows the tree before I pruned it this season.

Below shows the tree after this years pruning.

It still has a few years pruning to go before a decent open canopy is achieved.

One of the trickiest aspects of renovating trees in such a state is being able to put my tools down and leave some pruning for next season.

This tree’s canopy is very high. All the fruit are out of easy picking range and even with some judicious pruning over the next few years I think it will be difficult to encourage branches lower down the tree. (There was no obvious regrowth as a result of last years pruning)

This tree still produces a good crop of fruit and is also a fantastic wildlife habitat.

I have left plenty of dead wood for saproxylic insects, and the holes in the main trunk make a great habitat for bats and birds. All of which I believe are to be encouraged into the orchard environment.

On a course I was taking recently, someone asked me what I thought they sould fill in some holes in their trees with. (I’ve even heard of concrete being used for this purpose!!!???!!!)

I suggested they fill the holes with bats!

Bats are a great way of managing moth pests within the orchard. (Codling moth and Winter moth)

This picture shows a fungus of the Lactarious species (I think!).

The mushrooms form a circle of about 4m diameter. This hasn’t been seen before on this site and is possibly a result of thinning out the damson orchard and allowing sunlight to reach the orchard floor.

Grafting courses

orchard course3 012I am running  two fruit tree grafting courses in March 2010, just north of Oswestry, Shropshire.

They will both be on the weekend of the 6th and 7th and will run from         10am – 1.30pm.

The cost will be £45 per person.

The course will cover the principles of propagation, rootstocks, knife sharpening and each participant will graft four trees to take home.

I will supply a range of graftwood and participants are welcome to bring their own.

Light refreshments will be provided.

To book a place please phone me on 01691 777512.