With our last post we showed some older pictures from planting pecan seed in April. Now that we  are  almost in July, they are starting to emerge.   I think its a good idea to become familiar with how a pecan seed germinates and grows in its natural environment. At left is a photo of a germinated pecan. To germinate, the seed must first imbibe enough water to swell the kernel and crack open the shell.  As the seed starts to grow, a vigorous tap root is the first structure formed. Shortly thereafter, a smaller, wiry shoot develops and grows upwards, poking through the soil surface. In nature, a new pecan seedling will invest most of it energy in growing a massive, deep tap root. Above ground, first-year pecan trees rarely grow more than  8-12 inches in height and produce only a hand full of  leaves. This growth pattern is the tree’s way of ensuring seedling survival. Between fires, floods, grazing animals and brush hogging, seedling pecan trees often lose above ground parts. By storing a massive amount of plant energy in the tap root, a pecan tree can easily replace a lost top with a new sprout.

Caution and Constant are the words when weeding young pecan trees

Caution and Constant are the words when weeding young pecan trees

Pecan

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!

Summer Grafting Get-Together

When: July 12th
Time: 9:00am to 11:00 am approx.
Where: At Road’s End Farm
What: An informal class on using T-Budding and Chip Budding techniques for warm weather grafting of fruit trees.
This is an informal, outdoors, hands on group setting to learn how to use these styles of grafting to propagate fruit trees.
Why: To save grandma’s heirloom peach tree, to get an exact replica of that “perfect plum” you don’t know the name of, to make a “fruit cocktail tree” with multiple types of fruit on one tree. Or just for fun!

Bud GraftWe will be focusing on Pear, Peach, Plum and Apricot and we expect to have another event in late August on Apples. RSVP is a must and seating is very limited for this one. Send an email to reserve your spot to NMFruitGrowers@aol.com and you will be selected in the order received. Again this is not a demonstration, it is a hands on, get dirty, you will graft some trees, event!
There is no tuition cost on this class to the selected participants. We ask you bring your own very sharp pocket knife or a box cutter type knife, water, hat etc. Dress for the weather. We will supply all other items. You can collect budwood from our orchard or bring your own. We will ask for how many rootstock you will need and these we will charge $4.00 each (our cost) as a potted plant. We will send instructions on collecting and saving your own budwood.

We have raised and sold Goji plants ( Crimson Star cv) for many years now.  The benefits of this China native are many healthwise and they are considered one of the superfruits. Culturally we find them easy to grow and one of the few berries or plants that do fine in a high (8+)  ph. Fresh or dried these plants have a lot to offer and should definitely be part of a permaculture plan.  In our research we have found very little information on how care for and grow for best production.  The normal method is to stake the plant with a 5-6′ pole, training it upward and then cascading down.  Similar to many weeping trees. This appears to be done mainly for harvesting convenience, since most of the berries will be chest high.

As I was reading an article on cordon training currants and gooseberry for higher production, it came to me that goji would lend itself to this just like grapes, kiwis and blackberry.  So off to another project!  We had an empty 25′ row in an old bramble berry section and I added 6 new plants, 5 foot apart.  As with many of my projects, things came up and no trellis was added last year, so I made a commitment to get it done this spring.  The plants had made decent growth last year but were really taking off now and starting to get weedy with many new stems or trunks coming from the ground and several suckers.

I decided to set my first wire at 16″ off the ground and add additional wires at every 12″, so we have off ground 16″, 28″, 40″, 52″ with room to add one more at 64″ as growth dictates.  This will allow main branches to go left and right about 30″ with a central trunk or leader.  Similar to a 4 arm kniffin system in grapes except with 8 arms.

4 more plants to tie and train and then we will watch the progress over this summer and next. I am hopeful that by pruning for production like grapes and hardy kiwi that not only will we get a larger crop, but also a neater and easier to pick one!

The 2014 Spring Catalog has been emailed out! If you did not get a copy we may have an old email address for you or a typo. S2014 Catalog-Springend us an email to NMFruitGrowers@aol.com and we will send it right away.

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

 

 

Last Saturday we held our Fruit Tree Pruning and Training Workshop.  Despite the cold weather and somewhat windy conditions we had a great turnout.  Everybody dressed warm and brought gloves for the task.  On the rare times when the sun came out for a few minutes, it was perfect weather! First we discussed the proper tools.  Shears, loppers and saws along with benefits and uses for each with brand preferences. We had a great variety of trees to work with, from first year planted trees, 2 year and all the way up to bearing trees.  We were able to work with Apricot, Almond, Apple, Cherries, Pears, Asian Pears, Plums and Peaches. With 150 plus trees there was something for everyone.

We discussed and demonstrated vase style for the Stone fruits. We went over the latest in cherry pruning “the Spanish Style” and demonstrated with the different methods for Apricots.  With Peaches the norm is vase shape, but we showed the newer “Y” method which forms the tree with just 2 scaffold branches and all fruiting limbs are grown off these. This gives great sun and air circulation, but also allows for closer spacing than usual at 6 feet apart in the row.  With Apples we did Vase and Modified Central Leader styles of pruning.  We also got to work and show how to bring back trees to a central leader that have gotten away from you in the past from either lack of pruning or incorrect pruning.

Pear before Pruning

Pear before Pruning

Pear after pruning with branch spreaders installed

Pear after pruning with branch spreaders installed

Pears, especially European have a normal tendency to upright growth which limits fruit production.  We showed how and where to remove along with branch spreading techniques.  The more horizontal a branch is the more fruit it will give.  The goal is to try for 45  to 60 degree angle to give good crotch strength and highest production.  Some plums are also notorious for upright growth and we were able to see bud development differences with vertical versus more lateral growth.

We were able to work with some new, planted last year, trees to show how to get them off to a good start and also 2 year olds and their training.  The differences between heading and thinning cuts provided for some good learning.  But there is more to growing a good tree than just pruning. The training portion covered how to develop proper crotch angle using various types of trellising, branch spreaders, tying, staking and many other options based on the situation.

Pruning and training fruit trees is as much art as science. There are lots of different methods depending on your unique situation and it is a difficult thing to learn from a book.  The hands-on experience was the best part since everyone got to try as much as they needed or wanted to learn and feel comfortable in pruning their own trees.  All in all it was a great experience and an enjoyable time with the crowd that came. The only drawbacks were we didn’t get enough pictures and we needed more coffee and hot chocolate.  Good things all to remember for next year!

Using clothespins to direct new growth

Using clothespins to direct new growth