What are grafted trees

Grafted fruit trees

What is a grafted fruit tree? You may have heard the term but not really known what it means. Can’t you just grow a lemon, a plum or an apple from a seed? This story is especially for Daryl, who asked that question.

Let’s take a step back and start at how stuff is bred from seed. Walk with me through this…

>> Bred for strength <<

> Seeds will grow to be a mix of the DNA of parent plants, so where parents are the same species, the new plants will turn out mostly true to type (same as parent) ๐Ÿ™‚
>> Many fruit trees though have been in cultivation (grown by humans) for a long time, so different Variations (subspecies) have been bred to showcase different features. ๐Ÿ™‚ The best features of strong breeding in fruit trees are disease resistance, climate adaptability and size specs.
>>>Breeding is a slow process though, to grow and wait to see what develops, generation after generation. ๐Ÿ˜•

A tough wild citrus from seed is a real survivor – but frankly likely tastes like crap.

>> Cloned for taste <<

> Every now and again, a chance seedling can produce a spank-me-silly-awesome fruit with amazing taste that everyone wants. ๐Ÿ™‚
>> but in many fruits, the chances of getting TWO like that, to breed from are ridiculously small ๐Ÿ˜•
>> So instead, we clone it, which is to grow by cuttings of the original, which all end up genetically IDENTICAL. ๐Ÿ™‚
>> but given these chance plants don’t have stable breeding, they are usually tasty but weak overall; beautiful but vulnerable, and that is no guarantee of survival.

Cloning the perfect lemon can produce an endless number of identical but vulnerable beauties.

>> Your cake fruit and eat it too <<

Thousands of years ago, people figured out that plants in the same family may well grow if joined. Pretty soon, the art of joining tough roots to tasty shoots was perfected. This is grafting.

The tasty shoots are called the SCION; the tough roots are the ROOTSTOCK.
They are joined at the graft UNION.

>> So, can I grow a lemon from seed? <<

Yes. It will however be a SIBLING of the original scion plant, not a CLONE, so you may or may not get what you expect. It can be fun to try though ๐Ÿ˜€

>> How best to grow a grafted tree <<

  • Promptly cut off any shoots that grow from the rootstock, from below the union. That rootstock is tough and bullish and any shoots will quickly take over, starving the scion of energy and will kill it off ๐Ÿ˜•
  • Don’t allow soil, mulch or water to sit on or around the graft union, as that encourages the rootstock plant to shoot and take over as well. Clear away any high mulch from the stem and be able to see the graft to check it routinely at a glance.
  • If the rootstock does shoot anyway, it may be a sign that the scion is unwell. Applying some seaweed solution in the watering for a while can help and keep on top of any pest attacks.
  • If you would like to give grafting a go yourself, it is not difficult, and quite fun. Here is a quick tutorial from Tino, at Gardening Australia.
  • Here also on the GA website is another story about choosing a grafted lemon in Australia.

Look wide; grow well, folks ๐ŸŒฟ

Welcome to Level Zero.

Ever bought a great looking gardening book, but after the temporary hit of โ€˜Iโ€™m so gonna do thisโ€™, it soon becomes another pretty shelf ornament on the alter of โ€˜too hard; too much to learnโ€™?

There is a level zero for every garden skill,
but most books don’t start there.

Level Zero vegetable gardening is for ABSOLUTE beginners – very few rules, simple tools, and basic methods to experience success.
Come make a real start. ๐ŸŒฟ

RULE 1: One new veg per season

VEGETABLE FAMILIES mostly share what they like and don’t like, so learn one entry level choice per family. We have seen the Level Zero alliums already, and we will explore other families too. My recommendation is choose just one new veg per season that your family loves. Along with a easy herbs, flowers, and asparagus or rhubarb, it is enough commitment. It will also teach you other essential skills. More on that later.

RULE 2: Organics is the answer

SOIL HEALTH in the books involves a lot of testing, tweaking, turning and frankly.. tension, if you are new to all this. Avoid it all by just focusing on organics (plant matter) instead. Lots of it in the soil all the time will give you a rich enough, open enough, healthy enough soil to plant almost anything, year after year. You can get fancy later, but so long as you are TRENCHING every bed every season, you have enough food to keep veg and worms in the bed very happy.

RULE 3: Seedlings for vegetables

PLANTING has many methods, but most are not Level Zero. Seed-raising, seed-saving, cuttings, division.. all might be in your future, but the good old punnet with a few strong little beauties is your friend for now. We will learn those other skills by growing herbs, bulbs and flowers that are all useful but not essential. One skill at a time.

RULE 4: Simple tools

TOOLS are cool, but you don’t need near so many as you think. A square head spade, a small rake, a trowel, garden knife, dibber and boots. That’s it. Any more is for later, or…just ’cause you just want to. I add sturdy scissors and a brush for harvest and clean–up. We will learn how to use each properly.

RULE 5: Don’t rush

The best advice I ever got was from my Gran, Nancy – “You can have it all, my dear.. just not all at the same time. There is a season for everything.”

Most folks who try gardening in a rush spend lots, go hard, crash and burn. Let’s do this so it sticks. Slow. There is no rush.

Look wide; grow well, folks ๐ŸŒฟ

Alliums, Level Zero

This is growing alliums, the onion family, at Level Zero for absolute beginner gardeners. Learn to grow these, and the rest of the Allium family will be yours to explore. The two most easy alliums to grow, and those we prefer here in our patch, are GARLIC and WALKING ONIONS.

STEP ONE: In Level Zero gardening,
we stick to the most basic methods and simple routines that can prepare the garden for anything we want to grow. Check them out here first.

Garlic stories

Garlic is about the easiest allium to grow. You don’t need special conditions or seeds, just a store bought garlic head. Just be sure it is AUSTRALIAN garlic, as those from overseas have been mostly bleached, roots gouged off, and sprayed with growth inhibitor. Ew. In the cooler regions, APRIL 25 (Anzac day in AU and NZ) is a traditional ideal day to plant garlic, but seriously folks any time is fine. You’ll harvest in summer when the plant leaves start to yellow off. See below for the easiest planting ever.

Walking onions are curiously named by their growth habit. They are bunching onions that multiply at the base, but also grow stems with bulblets that grow on top in place of flowers. These ‘sets’ become heavy and eventually bend the stem over to touch the ground, where they form roots and start to grow on their own. In the garden, if left, they seem to ‘walk’ away from the original location – GENIUS! We use these ridiculously versatile and useful onions all year, from root to set – the quintessential no-waste veg.

curious 'sets' atop walking onions
Funky sprouting ‘sets’ atop walking onions
freezing - such a great way to store onions
Ready-to-freeze walking onions

FUN FACT ~ The mini bulblet ‘sets’ on bunching onions are what are used to make the little cocktail pickled onions we trot out at parties. Small, round and perfect ๐Ÿง…๐Ÿงก

Why not try pickling some for yourself?

So, where can you get walking onions, you ask?
– You may find some at a heritage nursery.
– Next Summer we will be making ours available for sale by mail order within Australia. ๐Ÿ˜Ž
– (sneaky tip) some supermarkets sell ‘Shallots’ that are actually just bunching onions. Though perhaps not walking onions, they are worth giving a go. Why not pop one in the ground and wait. If it multiplies at the base, then BINGO!

>> LET’S TRY THAT RIGHT NOW <<

Went to the super and bought a garlic and some shallots to show you. Excuse the grainy picture. The Garlic will seperate into good size cloves to plant. The shallots you can see are even dividing (I took off the outer skin to show it), so will likely multiply nicely. Its a grocer’s trick to sell bunching onions as shallots, but it’s good for us. Happy days. I will plant them and see what happens.

>> GETTING THEM INTO THE GROUND <<

  • CHOOSE A WELL-RAISED BED that has been trenched, so that it has plenty of organics to feed the bulbs.
  • SEPARATE THE CLOVES AND ‘SHALLOTS’ so you can plant one in each hole, about a fist or so apart
  • PUNCH a hole with your dibber or super handy Japanese Hori garden knife if you have one, deep enough to fit the bulb with a few cms spare.
  • POP THEM IN and cover with soil (or not, if it’ll rain soon) and mark them so you know where they are.

Seriously, that’s it. Don’t fuss. As Autumn and Winter rains come, you will see new shoots, and they are away. We will check in again when they have popped up.

Look wide, grow well, folks. ๐ŸŒฟ