Hedgerow grafting

These photos were taken on the 23rd July.

Left shows a Pitmaston Duchess pear cleft grafted onto a hawthorn. The graft has taken well but hasn’t put on much extension growth. This is probably due to the excessive shade created by nearby trees.

The photo on the right shows my most successful graft this season. It’s a Doyenne du Commice cleft grafted onto a multi stemmed hawthorn of about (or over) 100 years old (I’m estimating this by the 2 foot diameter of the coppiced stool).

This tree is in full sun and the scion has put on over 2 ft extension growth.

This photo on the left shows the same tree before I removed the 6 ft high bracken and the huge amount of thorn regrowth.

This just goes to highlight how much work is involved in such a project. In order to ensure that the scion recieves as much sunlight as possible and as much of the trees food reserves as possible, a lot of maintenance is required in removing excess regrowth and local vegetation.

On the right is a Pitmaston Duchess whip and tongue grafted onto a hwathorn shoot that has regrown as a result of the hedge being laid last year.

Even though this graft was buried deep in nettles and thorn regrowth, it is still thriving.

Tree Nursery

The new nursery site was topped last week.

I decided to top it rather than take hay off it in order to keep the fertility on site.

Today I ran a mole plough through the site. This was a very impressive sight. Three tines are dragged through the soil at a depth of up to 18 inches.

The reason for this was to break up the heavy compaction that has been caused by years of heavy cattle being run on it. The soil will now have improved drainage, better airation, which will encourage increased microbial activity, which will in turn encourage a greater build up of humus, and therefore healthier trees.

The next steps are to rotovate to break up the thick clods of grass, plough, lime and sew the new sward mix.

I will be using prilled lime initially. It was my intention to use a slower releasing lime but I am struggling to find anyone to spread it for me in the next week. (I am told normal fertiliser spreaders won’t spread the larger lime granules)

The prilled lime is fast acting so it will benefit the new sewing immediately. I will then apply a slower releasing lime once the local (and olny, it seems) contractor is in my area.

This picture shows the ‘scars’ left by the mole plough.

Tree Nursery

The new site for my tree nursery is now ready.

Before I took it over the owner had some drainage work carried out to feed a new wildlife pond.

It is a has been a wet site up until now, mainly due to compaction from the heavy beef cattle that are run ono it every year.

The one acre site is in full sun, 166m above sea level. The grassland is semi improved, with a mixture of rye, timothy and cocks foot grasses. Some white clover is present and there is plenty of creeping buttercup in the wetter areas.

Up until now there has been an annual application of fertiliser.

pH levels range from 5.6 – 5.9.

The soil is a clay loam, with an organic matter content of 6%.

In order to make this a thriving fruit tree nursery my plans are:

– To improve draninge even further by running a mole plough through the site

-Plough the field, add lime to raise the pH and sew a fertility building mix of Red clovers, Chicory, Cocks foot, plantain and yarrow.

The next stage is to get a cut of hay off it. This will be to feed my sheep and to use as a mulch around the newly planted trees.

The nursery will be run organicaly, although with no official certification. (The Soil Association demand over £500 a year, even for a plot as small as one acre!)

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.