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Yet another way to get really cheap fruit trees

Grafted apple treeKayla reminded me that now is the time to check with your local extension service to see if they offer a grafting workshop.  In our neck of the woods, it seems like every county has one in late March or early April.  These workshops generally provide lots of scionwood for locally-adapted apple varieties along with a varying number of rootstocks, plus all the equipment and mentoring you need to attach the two together.  The workshop Kayla and I are going to in a week or so charges $15 and sends you home with 12 grafted apples and/or pears --- an excellent deal if you want to start an orchard.

The biggest stumbling block is...where to put all those new trees?  Luckily, you don't have to decide that right away.  Most expert grafters will recommend planting your newly grafted trees in a flower or garden bed, spaced just a foot or two apart, for their first year.  That way, you can make sure the trees don't have to compete with weeds and that they get plenty of water, which should allow the youngsters to grow up to four feet tall their first summer.

Of course, it's a good idea to have at least a vague idea where you might eventually install the trees around your homestead.  Chances are the apple rootstock provided will be the popular MM111, which means a dozen trees would fill up about a tenth of an acre (an area about 80 feet by 60 feet).  If you don't have that much room, you can always experiment with using pruning and training to keep the trees smaller.  I'm pretty confident we can give a dozen apple trees a home since half of our newest pasture isn't spoken for yet, and vole damage means we're down three apple trees in the forest garden (although I'm no longer sure that's the best spot for apples, given the high groundwater).

One last piece of advice if you plan to attend a grafting workshop --- do your homework before you go!  The last time I went to a grafting workshop, I didn't know what a lot of the varieties being offered were, so I chose a bit randomly.  This time around, I'll print out my list of disease-resistant apples and storage apples and come prepared.

Thanks for the heads up, Kayla, and for agreeing to go with me!



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