Friday afternoon our class had a hands-on workshop. We split off into three groups, and visited grafting, pruning, and compost stations. I had previously done some pruning and composting (although I didn’t really know the technicalities of either), but had zero experience with grafting.
My first stop was the grafting station. I learned that grafting is the fusing of one plant’s tissues with another. One plant is chosen for its roots, and is referred to as the root stock, while the other is selected for its stems, leaves, flowers, or fruits–it is refered to as the scion. *It can take 5 t0 15 years (depending on the species) for a tree to mature and produce fruits, but a scion fused with a mature root stock will fruit in as little as two years; this is one of the greatest benefits of grafting.
We practiced grafting with the stem of a pear tree; we cut the stem (scion) in half and pretended that one part was a root stock. The key to successful grafting is notching the root stem, and slicing the scion in such a way that they fit together like a puzzle piece–their vascular cambium tissues in full contact with one another. (This is the green edge found upon cutting into the wood). The point at which the scion and root stock are connected is then wrapped in special grafting tape; this will hold them together until the tissues have merged.
My group’s second stop was the pruning station, where we worked on a pear tree. We learned that the main reason for pruning is to increase fruit yield and ensure the health of the tree. To do this, examine the strongest of the branches in the middle of the tree, and choose one to be the central leader; this branch’s orientation will determine which other branches and stems are pruned. *The central leader should receive as much direct sunlight as possible. Any branch or stem which is shading or crossing the central leader should be removed. *Keeping the tree pruned will concentrate nutrients, ensuring quality fruits.
Our last stop was the composting station. We learned that compost is made up of four elements: nitrogen, carbon, water, and air. For nitrogen, add layers of green plants and manure; for carbon add layers of brown/woody materials–such as leaves, straw and mulch. Keep adding layers–each hosed down with water–until you have a pile of compost that is at least 3×3 foot. Leave the pile sitting for four days and then flip it, so that the bottom layer becomes the top. *Do this to ensure the compost stays aerated. Also flip on days 7, 11, and 18. After day 18, the compost will be ready for use as a fertilizer and soil amendment.
I had a great time doing this workshop; especially the grafting aspect. I prefer fresh air and sunshine to a classroom any day. Also, I find that working hands-on with a subject helps me to better understand and absorb the information being presented; it’s an excellent approach to education.