Cider, Seeds and Grafting

We have a cider press and use it quite often in the fall and winter. Our not-quite-so-perfect apples get washed, ground up and pressed, salvaging the best part of the apples existence, its juice and flavor. Of course the not-so-fun part of the cider making operation is the clean up afterward. The press, the holding tanks, the jug filler and everything else in the cider press room gets extremely wet, including the person doing the cleaning. However, one of the interesting occurrences during the clean up process is the number of apple seeds that find their way free of the grinding and pressing process. When we wash down the press some of these loose seeds collect in one of the holding tanks only to be washed away when we clean that tank. I have often thought I should do something with those seeds as it seems a waste to throw them away. As a matter of fact, I do seem to save several seeds for planting in the spring but somehow I have only managed to get one tree to grow for my efforts, or really lack thereof. I always seem to have something to do that has a higher priority.

These should be wonderful seeds. The orchards we have are relatively small and contain a great variety of apples. In our home orchard that covers about four acres we have sixteen different varieties. Apples cross pollinate very easily and rarely will a tree grow true from seed. So when one of these seeds are planted, the result can’t be predicted.

Interested in starting your own tree by seed? Stop by or send a SASE to us and we’ll be glad to provide some seeds. After receiving the seeds, keep them in the refrigerator until March then plant them directly into the garden or in potting soil in a 4″ pot, keeping the soil moist. They can be planted outside anytime after their true leaves form. Wait about seven years for your first fruit.

There is another option for your seedling, if seven years is too long to wait for an unknown fruit. It can be used as a root stock for any variety that you may want to grow in your garden. After the tree is established and doing well in your garden it can be grafted by one of two methods, scion or bud grafting. Grafted trees produce fruit usually within four years.

Scion grafting is done in late winter – early spring, while the trees are still dormant. A shoot of last year’s growth is taken from the variety that is desired. The diameter of the shoot should match the diameter if the rootstock. The rootstock is cut off four to six inches above the ground and is split slightly down the center with a clean sharp knife. The shoot from the chosen variety is cut with the knife to a length so that it has four or five viable buds and the lower end is tapered to a wedge. The shoot is then inserted into the rootstock so that the cambium layers of the scion and rootstock match up. The graft should then be wrapped with grafting tape and covered with grafting wax. A dab of wax should be placed on the top of the scion to prevent its drying out.

Bud grafting can be done in June or August. Trees budded in June will begin growing right away, those budded in August will begin their growth the next spring. To bud graft, a shoot of current growth is needed from the variety to be grown. Where the leaf stem attaches to the shoot a bud will be present. The first cut will be made on the rootstock. Choose a straight portion of the stock with no buds or side branches on it, if possible. A small T shaped cut is needed. Make a horizontal cut about three quarters of an inch long up to about four to six inches above the ground. Follow this with a vertical cut about an inch long. The cuts should be made deep enough so that the bark can be pealed back slightly. To remove the bud from the selected variety, choose one from the center to lower end of the shoot as these will be more mature and have a better chance of survival. Cut the leaf off leaving part of the leaf stem as a small handle to hold onto the bud. Make a cut beginning about three quarters of an inch under the bud and draw the knife up under the bud to about one quarter inch above the bud to the surface. This will produce the bud to insert into the T cut on the rootstock. Push the bud gently under the bark of the T cut. Grafting tape can be used to wrap the bud, sealing the cuts from drying air. If the tree is June budded, cut the rootstock just above the bud two weeks after it has been budded and the new bud should sprout and begin to grow by August. On trees budded in August, wait until the following spring to cut the rootstock above the T bud.

Remember, all of this starts with a seed and we have lots of them so stop by, give us a call or send in your request and we’ll save a seed for you.

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