Planting


Several types of trees are planted or started from seed.  They may go on to be rootstock for other, better quality varieties or they may be grown for their own merits.  This is a process planned well in advance.  In early we fall we received our pecan seed.  It was sourced from the northernmost range of the cold hardy pecan in Iowa.  We then needed to cold stratify the seed.  Seed Stratification is explained by the following:

— A type of imposed dormancy found in seeds is internal dormancy regulated by the inner seed tissues. This dormancy prevents seed of many species from germinating when environmental conditions are not favorable for survival of the seedlings. There are several different degrees or types of internal dormancy. One type of internal dormancy is “shallow” and simply disappears with dry storage. Many vegetable seeds display this type of dormancy. No special treatments are necessary to overcome this kind of dormancy.

However, another type of internal dormancy requires special treatments to overcome. Seeds having this type of dormancy will not germinate until subjected to a particular duration of moist-prechilling and/or moist-warm periods.

Cold stratification (moist-prechilling) involves mixing seeds with an equal volume of a moist medium (sand or peat, for example) in a closed container and storing them in a refrigerator (approximately 40oF). Periodically, check to see that the medium is moist but not wet. The length of time it takes to break dormancy varies with particular species; check reference books to determine the recommended amount of time. This type of dormancy may be satisfied naturally if seeds are sown outdoors in the fall.

The problem with planting in the fall is they easily become food for squirrels and gophers!  We soaked the seed 24 hours in warm water to start the breakdown of the shell and then kept in the fridge at about 34 degrees in damp peat moss.  In early April we planted our pecan seed.

Planting is rather straightforward.  We pulled existing weeds and rototilled the 50 foot row.  After that we added about 2” of compost and rototilled again.  A rake gave us a nice smooth seed bed to plant in.  These were placed horizontally at 6” spacing.  Placing vertically on Pecan, Hickory and Walnut gives a poor germination rate.

After planting we replaced the drip tape and mulched with straw about 3-4” deep.  Pecans and many nuts will germinate and grow roots for a few months before actually starting any upward growth.  Almost 2 months exactly and we are seeing the first tree break ground!  We will field grow these for this year and containerize in the dormant season for sale or to use as understock for grafting.

 

After rototilling 3" of compost is added

After rototilling 3″ of compost is added

 

Seedbed is raked and ready to plant

Seedbed is raked and ready to plant

You are never to young to plant a tree

You are never to young to plant a tree

Time to put that knowledge to work!

Time to put that knowledge to work!

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Saturday was a good working day at the farm. Warm temperatures and light wind.  Our primary goal this week ( also last and next week) was to dig up field grown trees, prune and pot them up in 5 gal containers for sale this spring and summer.  It is slow and methodical with each person filling a specific role.  One person gets the pots ready and puts on 2 labels with the variety name, 2 people dig, another person plants into the 5 gal. container, the final tag goes onto the tree itself, then they are put in the nusery and watered good, after that they are hooked up to the drip system.  We pay special attention to tagging and labeling since many of these are one of a kind.  Duplication of tags and labels helps since often one may come off during the season. By using a 3 part ID system in addition to computerized location maps, we are always sure of what type it is. In our minds, nothing would be worse for a customer than to grow a tree several years and find out it isn’t what you thought you had.  Mistakes are often made like this at nurseries, but we do our best to make sure it doesn’t happen at ours.

Watering a week before makes digging much easier and better for the trees

Watering a week before makes digging much easier and better for the trees

Digging up young fruit trees requires different shovels types

Digging up young fruit trees requires different shovels types

Our custom potting mix is used for these trees

Our custom potting mix is used for these trees

Loaded 1 at a time in the wagons for trip to the nursery area

Loaded 1 at a time in the wagons for trip to the nursery area

 

 

Currently we grow about 30 varieties of apples in our orchard. Over the last two years we have grafted several more varieties (about 50) that we have received scion wood from collectors and will offer for sale in the near future.  Many of these we have field planted to grow up to size.  However we don’t have a lot more room to devote to planting fruit trees therefore our decision was to container grow these.

Tree grown for scion wood

Scion wood is 1 year growth from a specific variety of fruit tree.  The small twig or branch portion usually has 3 or 4 buds and is grafted onto an appropriate rootstock. Commercial tree growers that grow young trees for fruit farmers to plant, generally  keep what is called a “mother block”.  This is an orchard that the trees are pruned to maximize branching and twiggy growth so that the largest number of scions can be cut and grafted to become new trees each year. These are pruned to make wood and not fruit.  Several hundred scions can be cut from a single tree and many of these big growers may just have one or a few of each variety which they use to make hundreds or thousands of new trees yearly.   The picture shows a mother tree after dormant pruning.  In the mother block trees can be planted closer than normal since no fruit is desired and usually fertilized higher than normal with nitrogen to promote vegetative growth.

In our new scion nursery we chose to plant semi-dwarf instead of dwarf as would be Digging treesnormal for container growing.  We felt SD rootstock would give more and faster top growth. Add to that the natural dwarfing by container growing and heavy pruning should work better for our purpose.   Of course we don’t want to prune as heavy as the big guys since we also want fruit from these!  Container growing also eliminates weed competition and gives greater control of nutrient use. It also allows us to leave lower branches since the trees are elevated about 2′ above ground level.

setting containersThis Saturday was warm with low wind, a rarity for this time of year. The guys started by lining up railroad ties. This protects a faucet and drain that each year gets run over by cars plus will help hold the bark chips we will add around the containers.  After that they centered the 25 gal. cans at 48” in 2 rows alternating for better sunlight penetration and air circulation.  While this is close spacing, the benefit of container growing is they can be spread apart if more space is needed.

Next we backed up the pickup with a load of our potting mix to make filling easier.Ready to fill  This load held about a yard and a half. The mix can be purchased by the yard from Soilutions in Albuquerque.dug tree low branches

Trees were dug one at a time from our field planting.  We chose to leave some native soil on the roots to protect them from drying out during transplanting and also to inoculate the pots with the mycorrhizal fungus that is so important to the root’s ability to absorb nutrients.

all plantedThe trees were then planted and new tags applied. Along with that we made a map of their order which will be entered into our computer records.  Mapping your plantings and saving to disk is invaluable when tags disappear or fade and when your memory disappears or fades also!

We were able to get 19 trees planted with this load of soil mix or about 12 per cubic yard.  After the planting was completed we then went back and applied a 1” layer of composted and aged goat manure.  Goat manure, while not as readily available here as horse manure, is better because the multiple stomachs of a goat digest weed seeds better than a horse’s single stomach.  Also the nutrient profile is a little better for plants.Top dressing manure

We have room in this area for about 30 trees and will finish planting  with the next good weather .  After that we will fill the area with wood chips to stop weeds, add drip irrigation and mulch the trees. We have also gathered log rounds to use as stepping stones to get through on the west side.  At this point we have preserved and worked around the  native trees and will probably need to do some summer pruning on them.  We also helped to define a loading and parking area for customer pick ups on the east side with the use of the railroad ties.

By Catherine Smith (doccat5)
April 8, 2013

 

Well let us consider the ancient art form of espalier. What is espalier? It is any tree or shrub pruned and formed (trained) against a wall. Espalier differs from topiary in that in espalier it forms the skeleton of the tree, while topiary forms the silhouette by pruning alone.

Gardening picture

This technique originated in France and England in the 16th century, out of the practical need for growing fruit in such marginal climates as northern France and southern England. Traditionally it is used primarily on dwarf apple and/or pear trees, but other types of plants can be trained in this manner.

The Six Basic Espalier Styles

Cordon: Most traditional form of espalier. Grows horizontally for a distance, lending itself well as a garden-bed divider. Can be a single cordon, also known as “rope,” or a multicordon, generally with three tiers of branches. The multicordon takes two to three years to reach definition. May take longer on the East Coast because of shorter growing seasons.


Palmetto Verrier:
Vertical branching adds nice definition between trees planted against a wall or fence. Horizontally trained branches are gradually trained into upright positions. Design can take up to three years to reach definition.


Fan: Suitable for areas requiring vertical coverage; will best cover a square space. Style defines quickly; can have clear definition within one year. Branches angled at 45° can be raised or lowered for greatest fruit yield.


Informal:
Tree is allowed to take on a more natural shape; requires simple pruning to keep on a two-dimensional plane. Somewhat easier to train-simply balance the tree’s aesthetic symmetry as the branches begin to grow.


Belgian fence: Lattice effect offers one of the most formal looking styles. Requires three trees or more to create overlapping Vs and two modified Vs to create finished ends. Within one year, the beginning design of overlapping Vs is well outlined.


Candelabra:
Also known as “Brooklyn Botanical.” Several vertical branches stem off one horizontal base. Fairly easy to train and maintain.

BENEFITS OF ESPALIER.
First of all, espaliers save space. An espaliered fruit tree provides loads of fruit in a fraction of the volume of a natural tree.

Second, an espaliered tree bears earlier than a natural tree, bears much more heavily (in spite of the reduced number of branches), and bears for a longer time. A well-trained espalier often remains fruitful for over a hundred years. An espaliered tree is pruned and trained so that all of its energies are concentrated in the production of fruit-bearing wood. Once the skeleton or ‘chassis’ of the tree is established, all the gardener’s efforts focus on the development of vital, healthy fruiting wood.

 

Image

 

Third, an espaliered fruit tree is healthier than an unpruned, untrained tree. Increased air circulation throughout the tree in available by using this technique. Secondly, the frequent attentions of the gardener required to maintain the espalier mean that he or she spots problems early on and applies appropriate interventions more promptly, thus needing less spraying.

An espaliered fruit tree is much easier and faster to harvest. Likewise, any necessary treatments can be applied more quickly and easily, and with a lesser volume of spray than on a natural tree.

Finally, the interesting part, from an aesthetic point of view. An espaliered fruit tree becomes a piece of landscape sculpture. It is beautiful in all seasons of the year.

The art of espalier also allows you to solve vexing landscape problems in interesting ways. For instance, no prettier enhancement to bare house wall exists than to train an espaliered fruit tree against it. If that wall has windows, you can choose a form that artfully frames them. And best of all, horizontal space is not an issue, as the espalier will cling flat against the wall. At the same time, an espalier will not harm the wall of your house as will many climbing plants with holdfasts.

Some growers simply enjoy the aesthetic value of espaliered trees, with their traditional symmetrical branch forms resembling fans and candelabras. These forms are created by snipping off unwanted branches and training others to move down toward the desired position. These unique forms make exquisite garden focal points: during winter, the branching patterns are revealed; during the spring, apple blossoms in varying shades of white and pink decorate the tree; during the summer, there is a two- or three-week stage of dramatic showy blossoms. Also, because you can train them to grow against almost any supportive structure, they are wonderful “cover-ups” for unattractive walls, fencing, or compost bins.


Espaliered fruit trees can also be used as elegant screens and fences. Free-standing forms make incredibly beautiful vertical accents in any garden–living sculptures that provide not only a feast for the eyes, but for the tongue and tummy as well.

Along with pear trees, apple trees are the traditional espalier subject because their spurs live for years producing fruit. Espalier apple trees bear fruit at a young age and are versatile in nature, with their supple, easily trained new growth. However, you’ll need to practice delayed gratification because most of these trees take approximately three years to mature and reach the desired design. For some growers, this is too large a drawback. But if you don’t mind the wait, your patience and creativity will pay off in the long run, with bushels of yummy fruit and a very attractive unusual focal point in your landscape design.


THE TRADE-OFF: Most espaliered trees need approximately three years to attain the desired design and reach maturity. If you can stand the wait, you’ll be rewarded with beautifully structured trees and bushels worth of fresh apples, pears and other fruits.

As we start our third growing season at Road’s End Farm it is time to write about some of our observations and results with the many types of fruiting plants that we grow.  As you know our mission is to develop and promote varieties that are suited to culture in the central New Mexico mountains and similar locales.  We want you to be successful by helping you choose varieties that will profitably produce for you.  Our method is simple in that we take our best educated guess from years of growing, listening to others experiences and add some of the latest varieties to the mix.  We then grow these and see which do best or in some cases do poorly.

Of course results may vary depending on the care, location, microclimate etc. that you give a certain plant.  In those cases we will make recommendations for location and culture.  Our plantings are not babied as you might do at home. They are planted in the field with no shade and treated as a commercial crop would be.  In many cases the planting stock we have purchased has been very small, maybe suitable for a 4” container or was a 4-6” bare root plant.  Such is the way of dealing with new or rare varieties, they just may not be available in a size we would prefer.  Often is the time we felt a larger plant would have survived or thrived whereas the smaller one could not adapt. We will discuss these possibilities as we go through our series of posts.

For those of you more detail oriented, the soil ph at our farm is 8.2 which is considered very alkaline.  Our water comes from fractured limestone and also has a high ph and is very “hard”.  February 2010 recorded minus 34f and summer 2011 recorded a high of 102f.   Most research on “hardiness” of plants is focused on the coldest temperature they can live with and very little research has been done on the warmest temperature they can take.  When we make selections to trial we find ourselves choosing from varieties that may do well in the upper great plains or in Russia’s colder areas. In the case of heat we will discuss it when it applies.  I hope to be able to cover at least 1 fruit type a week in an informal and unscientific manner, but this time of year is always short on “spare writing” time so don’t hold me to it.

What:    Fruiting Tree and Plants Fundraiser For Youth Group
Where:  wood’sEnd Church Parking lot  in Edgewood
When:   This Saturday June 2nd, from 8:00 am until 1:00 pm.
Why:     Help raise money to send young kids to summer camp
 
This year we are taking our plants off farm for one day and offering them to the public.  A portion of the proceeds will go to the wood’sEnd Church Summer Youth Camp Program.  Trees and plants will be available in the wood’sEnd Church parking lot this Saturday morning, June 2nd.  wood’sEnd Church is located in Edgewood on the west side of Highway 344 just north and across the street from Wal-Mart and south of the library.  So tell your friends and spread the word for a good cause in our community! 

In the spring of 2010 I planted a 4 foot sweet cherry whip in our orchard.  A whip is a tree with a straight trunk and no branches.  Unfortunately I didn’t have my pruners and said I would get it pruned back the next week.  As these things go, by the time I remembered it was too late.  The tree had leafed out and was growing.  During the summer of 2010 it continued to grow tall and got to almost 8 feet. It never developed a single branch and had just a little “tuft” of leaves at the very top part only.  It mostly resembled a skinny Dr Suess Palm tree more than anything else.  In our typical winds it whipped back and forth so much I just knew it would snap off.  I debated whether to risk summer pruning and maybe end all growth and  possibly killing  it or take my chances with the wind.  I decided to wait and it made it through the summer ok.  In early spring 2011 I chopped the trunk off at about 40″ above ground and waited to see what would happen.  The summer of 2011, it grew like a high school teenager, developing a new central leader and about 7 new branches where none were before.  These branches grew from 3 to 5 feet in the summer season.  The leaves were 6″-7″ long and beautiful.  It now looked like a tree on steroids.  While dormant this spring, I pruned the leader and the branches back about 18″ each.  The picture below shows after its final pruning this spring.  The moral of the story?     It’s never too late to prune a tree as long as it is dormant.

 

Close-up of pruned cherry

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