This time of year, I get out into the orchard more and more every passing day. It’s the exception this year that trips to the orchard are further apart more than normal simply because of the 3-5 feet of snow that slows one down considerably.
Even with snowshoes, it seems more like work now, instead of fun anymore. The smaller foot print of a shorter snowshoe makes for more mobility; however, you sink down a lot further in the deep snow. Larger snowshoes keep you up top more but mobility or the ability to turn around takes a longer trip.
Sort of like the difference between turning a car around vs. turning a semi around.
One big reason to be out in the orchard though is for collecting scionwood. Makes it all worthwhile, at least I think it does. Collecting this scionwood allows me to propagate more of whatever cultivar of apple or pear that I want.
Scionwood that I collect is last season’s growth. If you look at the terminal bud which is on the very end of a branch and follow that back to what is called a growth ring, that entire piece is last season’s growth. I cut that piece of scionwood with one of my favorite pairs of pruners, and once I get a pile in my hand, I wrap them all, label them and place them in my 5-gallon pail.
I then bring the scions inside where I then cut them to length which is approx. 12 inches. I normally do not use the terminal bud when I graft the trees. I’ll rephrase that, I never use the terminal bud, but if there is one on the piece I’m working on I usually leave it on till I get ready to graft with it, so it does not dry out.
Once I get them all cut to length, I place them in zip lock bags and spritz with water. If I were to ship these out to folks, I would place damp newspaper in the bag too. I make sure that the humidity is high in the bags, but I do not want water in the bags. I can say from past experience that mold will be sure to come into the picture if the scions are in contact with water for a length of time.
Collecting scionwood allows you to preserve a special kind of apple or pear that you may have grown up with. You might have an ol’ favorite at home and the tree doesn’t appear to have much life left in it. A great way to keep that special apple going is harvest some scionwood and graft that to a rootstock or even another apple tree at a certain time of year. Viola!
Today I go out to the orchard to collect scionwood for a grafting workshop I’m instructing tomorrow. I love passing on the knowledge of grafting to folks that want to try their hand at it. It’s fun, and even more so when someday you pick fruit from a tree that you had a hand in making. It all comes down to two of my stand-bys, Knowledge and Timeliness.