A year in the life of a grafted apple tree.
Following is a description of how I deal with my newly grafted trees. Feedback is welcomed!
I do my grafts and bundle each variety together and store them in damp sawdust out of the sun, out of the wind, out of the rain, ideally at 7-9°C (in a room in the barn). I use the plastic milk cartons/crates 13” x 13” x 10.5” high and put a black plastic bag inside the crate and inside the plastic bag I put my grafted trees upright in bundles packed with damp (not wet!) sawdust.
I tie the black plastic bag over the sawdust so the unions are covered, but the scions are not. This increases the humidity around the unions and also prevents the sawdust from drying out.
I’ve read that some people cover their unions for this first month. There is often not enough depth in the milk crates for the sawdust to cover the unions, but if you found a deeper container, it would be a good idea to cover the unions.
I don’t want them in the dark or the leaves will open up white (etiolated).
I’m in south coastal B.C. and I try to finish my grafting by the end of March.
Before the end of April, I pot the newly grafted dwarf trees into two-gallon pots (larger rootstocks into 3 gallon pots) in a commercially-prepared bark mulch/sawdust/peat mixture (West Creek Farms in Fort Langley) .
I have six raised beds about 12' x 4' x 16" high. These beds were originally made for vegetables and they are in a compound surrounded by deer fencing.
There are about ten raised beds and I have commandeered six of the beds for my grafts. The soil has been removed so my pots are on the ground surrounded by 16" walls. There is an automatic overhead sprinkling system and a layer of metal hardware cloth (1 cm x 1 cm holes) on the ground under the pots to keep the meadow mice (voles) out. The hardware cloth is attached to the sides and a tight hole has been cut for the irrigation risers so the voles cannot get in!!!!
The height of the beds seems to deter the rabbits. I've never had rabbit damage, but I don't leave the pots in the beds over winter (anthracnose canker loves cold wet bark) and rabbits usually do their damage in the winter.
I use slow-release fertilizer.
In 2018, I used two teaspoons (10 gms) Osmocote 15-9-12 with trace minerals (5-6 months) for every #2 (approx 2.5 gallon) pot and one tablespoonful for every #3 pot (approx 3-gallons).
This works out to 1.5 gm nitrogen per two gallon pot and 2.3 gms nitrogen per #3 pot.
It has been my experience that the root growth is better in pots than in the ground - more fibrous and more roots. In the ground they seem to produce one or two thicker roots and almost no fibrous roots.
For the period 2011 to 2018, we had very hot dry summers, so I have put a lot of time into manually watering my nursery trees at least every two days and sometimes daily if it is very hot in July and August.
Bits and pieces: My MM106 and MM111 and M26 go into 11 L (2.5 gallon) pots and produce a very nice root system.
The MM111-9 are two year olds by the time I add the variety so they go into #3 pots.
In September I start selling them.
In February, 2019, I have the following apple trees for sale. Some are one-year-old whips, other are two-year-olds with some branches: Alkmene (M9, M26), Ananas Reinette (M9), Antonovka (M9, M26), Pomme d'Api (aka Lady) (M9, MM111), Arlet (aka Swiss Gourmet) (MM111), Ashmead's Kernel (M9), Bramley's Seedling (M9, MM111), D'Arcy Spice (MM111), Discovery (M26), Epicure (M26), GOlden Delicious (M26), Golden Reinette (M9), Golden Russet (MM111), Gravenstein, Yellow (M26, MM111), Haralson (M9, MM111), Hidden Rose (M26, MM111), Honeygold (M9), Ildrod Pigeon (M26), Jefferis (M9), Jonagold (M9), Kidd's Orange Red (M9), Macoun (M9), Margil (M26, MM111), Orenco (M26), Pewaukee (M26), Polly Whitehair (M9, MM111), Prinzen apfel (MM9, M26, MM111), Roxbury Russet (M9, MM111), Schmidberger's Rote Reinette (M26), Summer June (M9), Sweet 16 (M26), Topaz (M26), Von Zuccalmaglios Reinette (M9), Wealthy )MM111), and Wolf River, (M9).
Those that remain in mid-November are moved to my car-port. Here they are out of the rain and away from the deer and rabbits and voles.
In mid-February, I take them out of the carport, water them, and fertilize with two teaspoons of Osmoform per #2 pot and one tablespoon Osmoform 15-8-13 per #3 pot.
I start my selling season with Seedy Saturday at VanDusen Gardens. I cut the whips back to 27” from the soil level. The branches should form in the 6-8-10” below the cut. There should be no branches below about 18”. 30" would be a better height, but my truck canopy is 27" high and I transport my whips in the back of my pick-up truck with canopy in place.
By early May I am usually almost sold out. The remaining trees are 'potted up' into larger pots and go back into the raised beds, but with more space between them because in the second year they will put out branches.
If I have a grafted tree that I want to plant in my orchard, I have been waiting until they are two-years old. Meadow mice (voles) love the roots of one-year old apple trees. If they happen to run a tunnel next to a young apple tree they will eat absolutely every root and leave only a pointed stick where the roots were.
In November, 2005, I did plant about 15 one-year old trees, but I planted them in an open-bottomed cylinder of hardware cloth. The diameter of the cylinder is about 10”, the depth is about 10”. The holes are 1 cm x 1 cm. I plan to remove this cylinder of wire mesh in about November 2008 (I never did!). This has been well worthwhile. The roots of the nursery trees have not been eaten by the meadow voles. (In January, 2016, the wire mesh is still around many of the whips!).
My hope is that by having the mesh around the roots for three years, some roots will get big enough that the meadow mice won’t eat them. By removing the mesh in November, some small roots will be broken, but they should grow back quickly in the rainy months of November-December-January. Stay tuned to see how it works. (Later) The roots are fine, but I now think it is not a good idea because it is so difficult to take the wire mesh off the tree after three years.
April of 2016, I did remove the hardware cloth from some of the smaller trees, but it was very difficult to do and not worth the effort.
Perhaps the cylinder of hardware cloth should have a diameter of about 12-16" and it MUST BE REMOVED by the third year. If the new roots are allowed to grow through the hardware cloth, it is very difficult to take the hardware cloth away.
Friends have told me that 'bridging' should occur when the root grows through the 1 cm hole and then it grows thicker. The wire should become surrounded by root and after time, the wire will be embedded in the root. It may not be necessary to remove the wire mesh. I don't know.