We got the plastic up just in time! This Thursday, we got trounced by the rain, and got to see for the first time where the water pools on our property (important info for all those aspiring permaculture designers out there). Always good to know where water wants to go before you try to tell it where to be 😉
Also – it’s good to install a way to open the latches you just attached to your greenhouse doors before you close the door. This is us, stuck inside, hoping that the guys dropping off wood chips will come to rescue us! Alex is there, so you know it’s gotta be classic!
After building the framework for our greenhouse’s garden bed, listening to the shush of the rain running off the walls, we dashed off to Tali’s house to do some inside work – i.e. researching how to keep gophers from munching the greens from beneath our feet, and inventorying Tali’s extensive collection of scion wood, which will be ready for grafting fruit trees in the spring!
If you aren’t familiar with grafting, it is probably one of the cooler skills anyone with a horticultural hankering can cultivate. Essentially, to graft is to connect the living limb of one type of tree to the root stock of another. This means you can attach a specific fruit varietal onto a general root stock, allowing you to control the size of your fruit tree, as well as determining the conditions in which it can grow. This is huge for the urban farmer, who more than likely isn’t going to want a ginormous apple tree shading out theirs or a neighbor’s property.
There’s a whole lot that can go into it (i.e. what varietals can be attached to what root stocks, what root stocks grow where, etc.), but basically, grafting is like plant surgery. The whole goal is to get the cambium (or living ring between the wood and bark of a tree) of the scion wood (which is the straight, first growth of a branch off of an existing limb or trunk) to match up and connect with the cambium of the root stock. There are multiple approaches to grafting (click belowfor YouTube videos!), but the two we learned are:
1) Whip and Tongue Graft – If your scion wood and root stock are approximately the same size (i.e. their cambiums match up), you can do a whip and tongue graft. This involves slicing both the scion wood and root stock at a sharp angle (so you have about an inch length of inner surface exposed), and then adding a notch to help hold the two pieces together.
2) Cleft Graft: This is a super simple graft if your root stock is larger than your scion wood (which I gather is more typical). It involves cutting your scion wood into a pencil like shape (i.e. making two inch long cuts on either side to create a point at the end), and inserting it into a split in your root stock. The key is to try to maximize cambium contact between the scion and root stock.
In both cases, to ensure that the scion wood doesn’t die from losing moisture, grafts are always covered up with non-permeable wax, holding the graft in place, and ensuring that there is a transfer of moisture and nutrients between the scion and root stock. I gather it takes some practice, but one you’ve got the hang of it, you can create apple trees with each limb bearing a different variety to suit the varying seasons, or turn the ornamental pears and plums that dot many of our yards into fruit bearing trees to be shared with family and friends.
All goes to show you – there’s a lot to learn, even on a rainy day!
After work on the farm, I jetted off to help my new housemate Peter with some construction up at his mom’s new place in Tahoe. As is to be expected, it was gorgeous, and we drove right into the middle of a fantastic snow storm. Fully ready to get to work indoors on some insulation and ceiling board installation the next day, we all let out a collective sigh as, only an hour into our stay, the power got knocked out. Go figure!
Personally, I love it when the power goes out. Reading by candlelight, crackling fires in the fireplace, Scrabble – there are worse ways to spend a weekend. Especially with dogs around!
Peter’s mom has three ginormous English Mastiffs named Loyal, April and Danny. As you perhaps can tell, we got along swimmingly.
Among other things, we got to dig an irrigation trench, sort out the tool shop, and ride a zip line into the snow. All in all, it was a pretty fantastic trip. Just got back, and it looks like the laundry is calling to be dried. Until next time, here’s to you: