The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Grafting plums and pears

Woody plant propagation

Every year, I treat myself to $100 worth of perennials. This is my big splurge so I squash my usual skinflint tendencies and allow myself to be experimental. As a result of my whims, maybe a third of the perennials bought during these splurges perish and I learn that almonds are beloved by Japanese beetles and get a lot of diseases to boot (making them unworthy of babying on our farm) and that honeyberries taste more like sour blackberries than honey. On the other hand, I also discover that Bocking 4 comfrey is indeed the very tastiest variety from a livestock point of view and that Caroline red raspberries are both delicious and extremely prolific.

This year, I added two additional hazelnut varieties to our forest garden, but I spent the entire rest of my perennial budget on shipping out scionwood (to swap for varieties I wanted) and on ordering rootstock. The most experimental of my graftees this year are the plums, which are really supposed to be grafted by budding during the growing season. However, snow from the barn roof completely snapped off one of our plum trees and did a number on the other, so I decided to try dormant-season grafting to keep Imperial Epineuse and Seneca alive on our farm. And, while I was at it, I also swapped for Mirabelle de Nancy, Late Transparent Gage, and Reine de Mirabelle to round out our planting. All types of scionwood were grafted onto St. Juliene rootstock, then went into pots to sit inside where it's warm since pros warn that, with dormant-season grafting of plums, any cold weather during the callousing process will lower your chances of success dramatically.


My main grafting episode, though, involved pears. We've decided to add a couple of rows of high-density pear trees since our high-density apple trees are growing so well...and since the high-density system makes it much more feasible for me to try out a large number of varieties in a small space. I mostly aimed for disease-resistant pears, Seckel bloom budbut I added in some other varieties as well when swappers offered types I'd never heard of. If all of my grafts take, Moonglow, Leona, Hosui, Warren, Blake's Pride, Potomac, Honey Sweet, Shinko, Maxine, and Carl's Favorite will be joining the ranks of our farmyard pomes. I'll be sure to tell you how the trees fare and the fruits 2022 at the latest.

And, in other pear news, out in the orchard, Seckel looks like she's about to bloom for us for the first time in 2015! Now, if everyone will send "no freezes below 25 degrees" thoughts wafting toward our farm, maybe we'll get to taste what is sometimes colloquially known as a "honey pear" this fall.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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