Friday, March 9, 2007

Building a Fruit Tree

Tomorrow my local Home Orchard Society is holding their annual scion exchange. A bunch of fruit tree enthusiasts get together and trade sticks. Well that's what it will look like, but there will be something magic happening too.

A scion is a piece of wood from a particular variety of tree, let's say apple. When that piece of scion wood is grafted onto a rootstock a tree is made. I've been wanting to add fruit trees to my garden so a few weeks ago I learned how to do a simple whip and tongue graft. I made an Empire Apple Tree on dwarf root stock. The apples will be normal size, but the tree will be small, appropriate for my small yard. Dwarf trees will bear fruit sooner than full size trees too.

The main problem is choosing from hundreds of varieties of apples, pears, cherries, figs, persimmons, and berries. I know I want unusual varieties, heirloom varieties, beyond that I'll have to let the experts guide me.

Like most big scale agriculture fruit production is limited to a few mainstream varieties. But it is important for biodiversity to preserve the lesser known varieties. Home orchardists help to keep obscure or forgotten varieties in existence. Who wouldn't want to be able to offer their frinds and family something unique, something you can't find in the grocery store, maybe even a piece off history.

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