Do you ever feel so fortunate that you have the feeling that something bad must be round the corner? I am having such a lovely weekend just chilling out with Becky and our two whippet shaped friends that I am pretty sure I am owed some bad luck….or at the very least I owe it to someone to pay this good vibe forward in some way. (Suggestions welcome).
Tonight I have cooked us a roast dinner which is 100% sencemeadow. Roast mmuscovey duck, creamy mash potatoe, green beans, courgettes and a raspberry and red wine reduction. It was delicious and I don’t think we will ever get bored of saying “100% sencemeadow”, which we frequently do when eating one of our home grown meals.
I distributed our courgette surplus to a bunch of sporty girls on Thursday night, but we are still drowning. Courgette cake tomorrow I think.
Our squash plants are making progress. This year we have germinated most of them inside in the bathroom, and we have had better results than normal.
The grafting that I did in February is looking very positive with little leaves sprouting from the tops of each of the root stock. I now need to keep them pest free and hope that they continue to strive through the summer when the tape can come off.
So we’ve been busy little bees this weekend, well…less bee and more Tree Frankenstein Creators, but that doesn’t have the same ring to it.
On Saturday we went out collecting our scion wood. Becs had (of course) drawn up an excel spreadsheet to organise the exercise. Yes, I know, how can excel have a role to play in this hobby?
Becs: We need a plan of the forest garden area so we know what is what.
Me: You could draw a freehand map showing the trees with creative symbols
Becs: I’ll do an excel spreadsheet.
Still, she does make a mean spreadsheet, and it has been very useful, and you can check it out on the plans page (coming soon!).
Anyway, we collected (and carefully labelled) our scion wood, and spent the day on Sat, and some of Sunday grafting them onto the various rootstock that we ordered during the week. BTW both sources of rootstock delivered strong looking roots, well wrapped and arrived on time.
I had a go at 2 family trees which are two types of scion on one rootstock. I will report back I a few months to let you know how these little trees are working out.
So if you read my last post you will know that the current Sencemeadow obsession is propogating fruit trees via a method called grafting. I am really keen to get on and try some more grafting partly because I have a bee in my bonnet about it, but also because there is a very short season to do it in, (Feb) so I have ordered some rootstock to enable me to have a go.
I have spread my risk by ordering 1/2 from eBay but also 1/2 from this site http://www.gb-online.co.uk, I have no recommendation so will let you know what they are like in a few months time when I see if the grafts have taken.
I have ordered 10 MM106 apple rootstock, and 2 M27 apple rootstocks. I have also ordered 4 Quince C pear rootstock and 4 St Julienne plumb rootstock. These 20 roots have come in at about £50, which sounds like a lot but when you divide that by the number of tree it will (hopefully) create it is a very cheap way of propagating trees at £2.50 a tree. I know not all of them will work but the average price for a fruit tree is £15 and can be a lot more than that. We have a lot of space for more fruit trees in our Forest garden and are delighted to be having a go at adding to the collection.
We have found a couple of local parks that are willing to let us take a few pieces of scion wood from there apple stock, so we will be doing that once the rootstocks arrive. The varieties available are;
Brownlees Russet (very excited about this one)
One of my Christmas presents this year from my parents was a grafting workshop. So my Dad and I attended a …What is grafting? I hear you ask. It is the ability to be able to ‘glue’ trees together.
You may or may not know this, but if you plant an apple pip in the ground, it may grow a seedling, but that tree will not be the same as its parent tree. So to reproduce a tree that you really like the apples from, you need to be able to cut off a twig and ‘glue’ it onto a new rootstock.
Grafting as a way to propagate trees also has the advantage of producing trees that fruit within a couple of years, rather than having to wait 7 years if you plant a pip. So, it’s a useful skill.
Pitch over… to summarise, I spent my weekend learning to graft. The excellent course was run by the lovely people at Leicestershire Heritage Apple project. If you want to know anything about Leicestershire apples, or even apple trees in general get in touch with them, they will be running another grafting course next year, and maybe sooner, so check out their link.
So here are some picture of my Dad and I practising some of the techniques.
You really need to learn this skill from an expert, but below are some points I don’t want to forget…this is not a how-to list!
Below is a summary of some of the key learning points, my top tips and a useful diagram
- Grafting is done in Feb, as the wood is dormant
- Growing rootstock of the right size needs to be acquired (in my case MM106)
- Scion wood needs to be kept moist and cold (can be kept in a sealed bag, wrapped in wet paper towel in the fridge for a few weeks)
- Graft a foot from the root.
- Graft needs to be bound in place using masking tape or electrical tape
- Binding needs to not have any pockets for water to pool as this makes the graft rot
- After binding cut the scion to just above the second bud
- Binding is sealed after with a mixture of candle wax 2/3, and cooking oil 1/3.
- A little paper hat helps to protect the graft for 4 weeks.
- Tape is removed after 6 months.
- Need to make sure the scion wood has small flat buds rather than pointy (fruiting) buds.
- Two types of grafts, V graft or whip and tongue.
- V graft diagram below with my example. (ref: Leicestershire Heritage Apple project course book).
So on this beautiful October weekend we had a bit of a moveathon in the sun.
The plan really was to catch all of the soays to worm them and check them over before winter. However, as you may have learnt if you have read this blog before, our ability to catch our lovely sheep is zero. So the worming didn’t happen. We tried, but after the last disaster we decided we needed more hurdles, and, as they hadn’t arrived, we figured we shouldn’t push it. That’s not to say we haven’t made progress though, the 3 lambs are trotting around after us like puppies, and the most courageous of the ram lambs will eat from our hand (softest mouth EVER). But the mums are still convinced (not without evidence of course) that if they let us near, it won’t just be a tickle under the chin and a bit of willow to eat.
So anyway, worming out of the window, we just decided to move them into their new area in the forest garden. Now that the trees are protected and most of the permanent fencing is up, they can have a lovely time munching through the grass. We think their efforts will do the ground well as it hasn’t had livestock on it for at least 2 years.
The poultry have all now been moved to the top corner now too for wintering. There are a fair number of heirarchy battles going on but the happy campers sleeping a couple of metres from them on Saturday night reported little noise, so they’ve obviously all reached a compromise! Or the geese perhaps are boss? Not sure…
Yesterday the tree protectors arrived so I spent the day putting them on the trees to enable us to move the Soays onto that area for some winter grazing. It was surprisngly easy and quick unlike so many jobs on the plot.
Now it looks a bit like a deer park. Hopefully it will keep the trees safe whilst still letting us make the most of the grazing. Once we have a decent upper canopy we can begin to think about guild planting which may mean we don’t have grazing in that area but that will take about 5-10 years.
So, we will be moving the sheep over there for the winter and moving the chickens and ducks and geese to the top of the main pasture.
This should leave the tree and lower paddocks free to lime, harrow and rest.