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Starting Early

March 5, 2012 Leave a comment
Peach Pits

Peach Pits

I’ve been waiting for several months to experiment with fruit tree seeds, and the time is about right to thaw them out and give them a shot. The seeds have been stratifying in my freezer for several months, which … [ Continue Reading at http://itfarmersblog.com/?p=2523 ]

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It’s Begun

March 14, 2011 Leave a comment
Celery Seeds in Dirt

Celery Seeds in Dirt

I’ve been waiting patiently, restraining myself from starting any seeds till the time is right, and that time is now. The season begins for me with Celery, which should be started 11 weeks before the last frost, several weeks before most other seeds will be started.

This is only my second attempt at growing the crispy garden snack, and last year didn’t go so well. I was not aware of the long amount of time required by Celery for Germination, gave up on the seedlings too soon, and re-used the dirt for other seeds. Later in the season, I found one celery plant by luck.

Chard Under Cover

Chard Under Cover

I ventured out to check on my chard cover over the weekend, taking a few pictures in the dark. I set my flashlight at the end of the small hoop-house, pointing the light towards the opposite end of the tunnel.

View from the Side

View from the Side

This tunnel setup is working so well that I may use it next winter in an attempt to grow Chard year round. The leaves which are not covered by the tunnel are wilting when they are covered with snow, but the plants under the protective cover are starting lots of new shoots, which should be edible in a week or two.

Concord Grape Canes

Concord Grape Canes

I finally got around to cloning a few grape vines. Jenny and I clipped a few canes from two vines on the farm, and I planted the clippings in these small ceramic pots. In the past I would have gotten carried away and started dozens of grape vines, but this year I’m trying to be more realistic, so I’ve only started a few. If your interested in the process for cloning your own vines, check out this post.

Grape Graft

Grape Graft

I’m always trying new things as I figure if I do this enough times, I’m bound to figure out some pretty neat tricks. Since I’ve read about grafting fruit trees, and I’ve heard that the root stock will color the flavor of fruit which the scion bears, I thought I’d try something similar with grape vines. I started with two clippings, from two different vines, and fused them together as a apple scion would be fused to root stock. I used some candle wax to seal the bond, and prevent air from drying out the canes. I’m hoping the difference in the two types of grape vines will cause the grapes to have a very interesting flavor.

Fruit Experiment

Fruit Experiment

Above is my latest experiment with cloning fruit trees. I put this together in haste, and it shows as my taping is very sloppy. You can see the buds beginning to open on the peach canes, and all of the other clippings are showing growth when you look close. I’ve gotten this far in the past, but I remain hopeful for this batch as I’m shielding the roots from light this time. Soon the clippings will deploy new leaves, and with some luck, they will grow new roots, which would be a step forward for my experiment.

Try, Try, Try Again: Fruit Tree Cloning

December 13, 2010 14 comments
Sweet Cherry Cuttings

Sweet Cherry Cuttings

A few years ago, I learned how to clone grape vines. Ever since then, I’ve tried the same approach to clone other plants. I’ve managed to clone an Elderberry bush, a Lilac, countless Weeping Willows, even a tomato; but there is one category of plant I just can’t seem to clone: Fruit Trees. If I had the option, I would just give up cloning and resort to Grafting or starting plants from seed. Seeds are out of the question because the genetics of apples vary so widely that a seed from the best apple in the world will usually develop into a crab apple tree. Grafting would require that I have the proper root stock, something I haven’t found a way to order yet.

My only option left is to try, try, try every possible  method to clone these trees. It’s something of a winter obsession for me.

Pear and Apple Cuttings

Pear and Apple Cuttings

Red clips -> Pear;      Blue clips -> Apple. The side with the colored clips are treated with root growing solution.

In the winter of 2009, I tried to use Miracle Grow as my rooting medium, with good initial success. The cuttings grew new leaves, but no roots.  This year, I’m trying two rooting mediums, Sand and Garden Dirt. I’m also trying two planting styles, one with bare cuttings, and another with a solution that encourages roots to grow. I’ve moved my setup from my seedling room where the light was very bright in the morning, to my kitchen where the lighting is a constant shade. I’ve also used much less water in the base rooting medium, in an attempt to keep the cuttings from rotting.  I’ll only add water with my misting bottle.To top it all off, I’m applying a small amount of Anti-Fungal agent, something I apply to my trees during the summer months.

I’ve started very early this year, and I hope to try three different approaches by spring time. My newest concern is if I will have enough cuttings for further experiments, as I’ve pruned three trees already.

A Few Good Grapes

September 15, 2010 1 comment
Concord Grapes

Concord Grapes

The last two years, have been brutal for grape production. I’m not sure if it is something I’m doing wrong or if the weather is too blame. Last year all of the grapes withered before they began to turn purple, and this year, there were not many actual grapes. I’m thankfull for the bunch above though, because it’s at least an improvement from last year. The vines have grown out of control on the trellis by the small creek, and I need to spend a day retraining them to grow up the trellis, rather then every other direction. 

 These vines were planted about five years ago. When they were placed in the ground, they were about the same size as the small plants I’ve been cloning the last two years. So I can expect five years of growth before the first grapes are produced from my little clones.

All in all, Even though there are few, they taste Great !

A Lesson: Good Things Take Time & Effort

September 10, 2010 Leave a comment
Cloning Takes Time

Cloning Takes Time

As the growing season is winding down, I hope to post some of the lessons I’ve learned this year.

2010 is my second year for cloning grapes, also known as “propagating”. This year, I’ve made it a point to take exacting notes about when and how I’ve cloned these plants, as well as cloning multiple varieties of grape plants. In the photo above, you can see 49 days of growth. The left most picture was taken February 7th, the center on March 6th, and the right photo taken March 28th. I’ve documented the whole process here: Propagating Grapes Revisited. What I didn’t stress much at the time was just how cold it was that day:

A Very Cold Day

A Very Cold Day

In order to prune grapes without harming the plant, it needs to be very cold, or the vine will “bleed”. If you cut a grape vine in the summer months, the life giving sap of the plant will ooze out, and the damage may even kill the plant. The day I picked for pruning was particularly cold, around 10 F, with bone chilling winds. When I was finished cutting the vines, I took them to the greenhouse, where it was much warmer, about 60 F.

So you see, Patients really is a virtue, and good things require effort, no matter how cold it is.

Grape Clones Revisited

April 27, 2010 Leave a comment
Cloned Grapes

Cloned Grapes

Here are the Grape clones that I planted in an earlier post. Nearly half of the canes that I’ve placed in cups have growth, and they are the last plants left in my now nearly barren grow room.  There are three varieties, each from different vines. One of these is a unknown grape which is reported to bear large green seedless grapes. Fortunately, Davie knew the owner of the property where they were growing, and we timed our visit just right. The rentors at this location were cutting out the vines to expand their yard. So, by chance we may have saved this “Giant Green” grape to grow another day.

Another Attempt to Clone Fruit Trees…

March 16, 2010 4 comments
Latest attempt to Clone Fruit Trees

Latest attempt to Clone Fruit Trees

I’ve been a bit obsessed with cloning Fruit trees this winter, and I’ve tried many, many methods. Just before trying the method shown in the picture, I tried  the exact same setup, with paper cups. The result was gross…. Mold grew all over the cups, and eventually killed the clippings. So, I’m trying it again, with steril plastic cups, and a small scale steril greenhouse of sorts. I’m using a brand new plastic shoebox that has been washed out with soap and hot water.  The lid of the shoebox is my base, and I’m using the transparent portion to shield the fragile plants from mold spores, and other dangers that might be lurking in the air.  I’m treating the whole setup as if it is a microchip in a clean room.

These are all pear clones except the cup with a small piece of blue styrofoam on it. That plant is a plum tree.

So here is the process that I have used to get this far:

1.) I start by pruning the undesired portion of fruit trees. There are many videos on youtube about this.

2.) I “plant” the clippings in Miracle Grow Potting soil, which is compacted around the base of the plants. Then, I take the pot of soil, and the clipping, and place it into about an inch of water.

3.) The clippings buds will open, and begin to grow. Most of the buds will open up around the same time, but I’ve given them a few weeks of time to grow. When one of the buds leaves begin to die, or dry up, I take a very sharp knife, and cut off the small green shoots, taking care to leave about a 1/16 to an 1/8 inch of brown bark on the base. I then dipped this bark portion in water, and then into some heavy duty rooting hormone. 

4.) Finally I place the cutting into the plastic cup filled with some Miracle Grow and Peat Moss.

5.) Pour enough water into the plastic cup to keep the plant from drying out.

6.) Cover the plants to keep out…. anything bad. I’m not sure what is killing my previous attempts, but covering them shouldn’t hurt.

If this doesn’t work, maybe I’ll find some root stock, and start grafting trees instead.

Edit: 4/6/10 This attempt did not work, although the trees lived longer with this method. I think this could work if some steps are added, such as a mister or tempurature controlled enviroment.