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Dormant Hardwood Cutting Suggestions?

Johnny Niamert


Joined: Nov 08, 2013
Posts: 268
Location: Colo
    
    4
I want to try hardwood cutting propagation for starting fruit trees from older varieties of fruit. John Elliot inspired me to try this now with his link, before the soil freezes for winter, which is right around the corner. I've done some research, and wanted to see if anyone on here has any first-hand experience and could relate some advice to people wanting to try? I searched, but didn't find a thread. Sorry if this has been covered already.

Right now, I'm soaking cuttings of apple trees in a very weak kelp water solution. I have two varieties of apples, and plant to take some other varieties of fruit today (plum, nectarine, peach, cherry, hawthorne, rose, raspberry). I plan to plant them in a corner of the garden tomorrow and hope they root out next spring. I'm hoping the weak kelp solution will provide them with a bit of needed goodies to help them root, somewhat akin to an organic cloning solution.

My main issues:
I've come across differing information, on whether late fall or early spring is better. What are any of your thoughts? I've also read some species, and even varieties, do better in fall or spring. Should I just experiment and see what happens?
Rooting hormone? I like to adhere to a fairly strict organic setup, hence the kelp soak currently.
Should I cover the cuttings? I live in a fairly arid climate and think the twigs would dry over winter.
How much work should be done to prepare the soil? It's wet and cold, so I'm just planning on making some holes and sticking the twigs down in here.
Mulch? Compost, leaf, etc..


I mainly want to propagate trees useful in a permie type set-up. Apples, pears, plums, hawthorne, grapes, berries, etc. I want full-size self-rooted trees, for health and also for extra wood production. Once again, right now, my land goal is self-sufficiency for myself and any livestock (chicken, goat), with donating, giving, trading, and possibly selling any abundance in the future. I was gonna try some scrub oak as well, but I've read oak is darn near impossible. May just try to 'source' some next spring, after thaw before growth really starts.
Johnny Niamert


Joined: Nov 08, 2013
Posts: 268
Location: Colo
    
    4
I checked my cuttings today. The soil is under a good 3" of fairly compacted snow. Most of the twigs I checked still have life in them, it would seem. A few had 'dry' tops on the first inch or so, but that is to be expected, I would imagine. Nothing to let me know it's an utter failure, yet.
I take that as good news.


That is all.
Michael Qulek


Joined: Oct 22, 2013
Posts: 122
    
    1
Apples I think are a complete waste of you time. My personal experience is that apple cuttings will stay alive untill bud-break. Rootless cuttings can stay alive till they start to make real leaves. Once leaves sprout it kills the cutting through dehydration.

You'll get much, much better results with plants like grape, figs, and pomogranate. Those root readily.
John Elliott
pollinator

Joined: May 08, 2013
Posts: 2040
    
  64
Michael Qulek wrote:Apples I think are a complete waste of you time. My personal experience is that apple cuttings will stay alive untill bud-break. Rootless cuttings can stay alive till they start to make real leaves. Once leaves sprout it kills the cutting through dehydration.


Dehydration can be a killer, not just to marathon runners. Which is why I have been trying the two-drink-cup method. Take a regular paper or styrofoam 20-ounce soft drink cup and poke a few holes in the bottom for drainage. Put your cutting in almost all the way to the bottom so you have plenty of length to root from. Fill with soil and treat with the appropriate rooting compound or some willow tea. Now for the second cup. Get a big, clear plastic cup, like the kind the super-slurpees come in. This is going to be your green house top. Invert it and put it on top of the smaller cup with the cutting and keep this in indirect light. A window sill that gets a couple hours of late afternoon sun works fine. You don't want it to get hot enough to bake in there, and besides, when any leaves do appear, there's not going to be a whole lot of photosynthesis going on. What you will see is condensation on the greenhouse cup, indicating that the humidity inside is close to 100% -- this is what is crucial to keep the cutting from dehydrating. As long as the soil in the bottom cup is moist, there should be enough humidity to condense on the greenhouse top. Once you get buds to break and leaves begin to form, you can take the top cup off and give the cutting some more light -- but only for a short while. Keep the top on and gradually work up to more and more time with the top off.

I'm still working on this method, so anyone else who wants to join in on the experiment, come on and share your experiences.
Michael Qulek


Joined: Oct 22, 2013
Posts: 122
    
    1
John Elliott wrote:
Michael Qulek wrote:
I'm still working on this method, so anyone else who wants to join in on the experiment, come on and share your experiences.
Do you actually have an apple cutting that you have successfully rooted more than an year old? Lots of people report "successes" of work in progress, but never have a rooted seedling to show for it.

Grafting however is so easy I wouldn't even waste time perfecting propagating cuttings. I've sprouted the seeds of store-bought apple and pear fruit with excellent results. Here's an example of an Anjou pear scion that I grafted onto an Anjou pear seedling. Have had similar results with apple, peaches, apricots, and Japanese plums.


Here's on observation I made that might require further examination. When grafting one apple scion, I noticed advantageous roots coming off the bottom of the graft union. I've heard of a technique a little like air-layering, where you cut almost completely through a branchlet, but leaving a little hinge of bark on on side. You then add rooting hormone to the cut surface which is held apart with a segment of toothpick. The cut area is plastic wrapped to keep the area moist till roots develop. The strip of bark keeps the cutting hydrated long enough for roots to develop. I've read there are successes with plums using this technique. That might work far better than trying to root a totally severed cutting. All my apple and pear cutting failed 100% without fail, even when sitting in willow water.
John Elliott
pollinator

Joined: May 08, 2013
Posts: 2040
    
  64
Michael Qulek wrote:Do you actually have an apple cutting that you have successfully rooted more than an year old? Lots of people report "successes" of work in progress, but never have a rooted seedling to show for it.


I haven't tried the two-cup method with an apple cutting. It works great on rosemary cuttings though, which I had failures with before. This winter I plant to experiment with plum cuttings.

But I agree with you that at some point, trying to propagate by cuttings becomes a waste of time and effort and it should be left to plant species that have been shown to work really well (i.e., figs, grapes and willows). Now how can I separate the little sucker I have at the base of my Granny Smith apple tree and turn it into a successful seedling?
Johnny Niamert


Joined: Nov 08, 2013
Posts: 268
Location: Colo
    
    4
The property I will be moving to is in fruit country so to speak. There are a few organic orchards I pass by on the way up.

Last spring, I saw a few workers sticking dormant apple sticks in the dirt. Most of the sticks leafed out and appeared 'normal' all summer, growing until fall and losing their leaves normally at the appropriate time. I will see this spring what they do with them. I haven't had a chance to stop by and talk with them, but I may try to see if I can glean any helpful info. I'm not sure how 'loose-lipped' a commercial fruit-packing/co-op will be, but I will try nonetheless. I have a hard time accepting that a commercial orchard would waste land, labor, and resources for an ineffective propagation method. With the research I did, some tree-types are easier, and even within that, certain varieties are easier or more difficult. From what I remember, apples are better done in spring, and are highly 'variety dependent'. Hawthorne and oaks are damn near, if not, impossible to root this way.

But all I have is hearsay, so I very much appreciate the discussion, tips, and experience being presented. I'm planning on trying another round this spring and will continue to update.

Grafting is on my 'to try' list. I am just about to read the Acres USA article in this months edition now.


Michael Qulek


Joined: Oct 22, 2013
Posts: 122
    
    1
Johnny Niamert wrote:Last spring, I saw a few workers sticking dormant apple sticks in the dirt. Most of the sticks leafed out and appeared 'normal' all summer, growing until fall and losing their leaves normally at the appropriate time..... Grafting is on my 'to try' list.
Ya know, I very sincerely doubt that's what they were doing. I suspect that either these "sticks" were actually scions grafted onto rooted rootstock, or what they were planting wasn't apple.

But, grafting is not something you have to wait to get started. Why not start today? If you have an apple in the frig, eat it right now and collect the seeds. Apple and pears will sprout immediately if you don't let them dry out. So will peaches. Even raw almonds. Apricots though need winter stratification to stimulate germination. Once your seedlings have reached the thickness of a pencil they are ready to graft. If you get seeds started today, you'll have something to graft in January of 2015.
Johnny Niamert


Joined: Nov 08, 2013
Posts: 268
Location: Colo
    
    4
My present situation doesn't allow me to get too much in the way of rootstock started. I'm renting a room in a buddy's basement. He is remodeling, so space is at a premium, plus most of my supplies are not here. But I should be starting to finalize my relocation sooner, rather than later.

I'm in sort of a 'transition period' so to speak. I am however experimenting, or I guess practicing, and do have some apple sprouts and honey locust coming up.

Would it be better to direct seed the rootstock in the field, or start them in containers?

Thanks for the encouragement.
Michael Qulek


Joined: Oct 22, 2013
Posts: 122
    
    1
Johnny Niamert wrote:[b]My present situation doesn't allow me to get too much in the way of rootstock started.

Would it be better to direct seed the rootstock in the field, or start them in containers
?[/b]
I'm also pressed for space. I've done 100% of my grafting onto potted rootstocks, mostly seedlings of seeds from store-bought fruit. It really facilitates the grafting process to be able to set your rootstock up in front of you, so the graft junction is in your face rather than down on the ground.

Here are tricks I've used for saving space. I sprout seeds on a wet paper towel in the kitchen window, then transplant the babies to 16oz styrofoam soda cups. After the seedlings start to get woody I transplant them to larger pots, usually 5 gallon. What I've also done for cuttings is to start them in a 3 or 4" peice of plastic drain pipe. This pipe is soft plastic that cuts with a razor knife. Cut pipe into 12-15" sections. I did this for cuttings, but you could also transplant seedlings into it. When you have your cuttings ready, drop them into the pipe, and start adding dirt to it. Suspend the cutting so the bottom end is about 4-6" above the lower end of the pipe. Fill dirt in right to the top. At this point give the pipe a good tap to settle the dirt, then raise it off the ground an inch or two and smack it back down. This will compact the soil down the tube so it's tight against the cutting. Add water to the top of the pipe to settle the dirt more. After leaving it in place for a day or two, the soil will be compacted in the pipe enough to relocate where-ever you want them to stay. A dozen seedlings done this way will only take up 1 square foot of space.

Once your're ready to transplant in a year or so, just slit the pipe down the side for the whole length of the pipe, and the rooted cutting/seedling will be loose enough to just slide out.

Good luck!
James Colbert


Joined: Jan 02, 2012
Posts: 249
    
    8
Almost any plant can be cloned. It is really a matter of time and effort. You could always create tissue cultures, but is it worth the effort? I have quite a bit of experience cloning from cuttings. I have yet to try to clone an apple or pear but perhaps this will help: woody cutting take longer to develop roots than supple green cuttings; large cuttings are harder to root than smaller ones; and apples and pears can probably be cloned the problem is they cannot develop roots fast enough to support themselves using normal cloning techniques. Consider building yourself an aero-cloner I can be done for about $60 and there are plans online. Basically it is a Rubbermaid tub with a water pump which sprays a mist of water onto the cut tips of clones to stimulate rapid root formation. I have used the method myself and plants that normally take 10 days to 2 weeks to root can form roots in as little as 3 -5 days. The cycling on an off of the water pump allows for high moisture and oxygen content and really revs up root production. Perhaps this method will allow you to root apple and pear tree cuttings in an efficient way.
John Saltveit
volunteer

Joined: May 09, 2010
Posts: 966
    
  25
I have seen people have success with hardwood cuttings of apple trees, but it is very difficult, rare, and energy and time consuming. I think the important point is-what are you risking and how much time do you have? We compost, and so we get 3 or so accidental apple trees coming up every year. Also, our purchased and grafted apple trees sometimes have suckers. When I carefully cut them out, they usually have roots. I call that free rootstock. The difference is that the suckers off of the known rootstock will have a known final size. Seedling apples will most likely be very large trees, requiring a lot of active pruning. I like a semi-dwarf tree, approximately 12-15 feet high. I think grafting is a much better use of my time than highly improbable rooting from cuttings.

I agree with the other posters on this thread that for me, it is not worth it to try to grow apples from cuttings. I have been grafting for about 10 years. I thought I would only graft once or twice before I took the class, but now I graft 40 times every year, sometimes for other people too. It can be a resource for the community. Save yourself work in the future, and grow many more kinds of food. Experiment and help us learn how to feed the people.

Some plants which readily grow from cuttings are quinces, medlars, plums, figs, grapes, pomegranates, aronias, blueberries, and Rose of Sharon. Pears can be grafted onto quinces, aronia, sometimes mountain ash, and hawthorn. Mulberries can be grafted onto figs, I believe I read. ROse of Sharon has edible leaves as well as beautiful flowers.
John S
PDX OR

Michael Qulek


Joined: Oct 22, 2013
Posts: 122
    
    1
OK Johnnie, it's the following summer, so what's happened to your apple cuttings? Yes or no, do you have a live rooted cutting now?
 
 
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