[Anna] Over the weekend of March 9th we started the grafting and propagation of the materials we received from UC Davis. We’re doing this as part of an Orchard Conservancy with people who will be growing in four other areas of New Mexico. The goal is to test the viability of various cultivars from the Middle East (mostly Pakistan and Iran but a few from Afghanistan) that have a similar climate, geography, and altitude to New Mexico. We have 73 varieties of grape (table, wine, raisin), 4 mulberry, 3 pomegranate, and 30 apricot cultivars which were grafted onto 3-4 manchurian apricot rootstocks per test group. We actually only have 30 of our 90 onsite at the moment due to rootstock issues. Many of the apricot scions we’re thicker in diameter than anticipated and we had to order 1/2″ rootstock to accomodate them.
The grapes we’ll callus (per Lon Rombaugh’s recommended technique) and root directly in their planting holes up at the farm’s vineyard (which means we need to put in another 3-4 rows of poles, wires, and irrigation tubes). We currently have those cuttings in the icebox since the last average frost date in the mountains is in May and we’d like to wait until then to put them in the ground. Plus we need to get the new planting rows installed.
The mulberries and pomegranates we dipped in rooting hormone, planted in little pots, covered them in plastic, and put them on a heating mat. Within a week they’re all leafing out. Wow. Let’s just hope the roots are developing as well as the leaves. Normally we would leave them in the bags for 6 weeks but we’ll need to open them open in the next few days to prevent fungus growth.
For the apricots, Gordon Tooley of Tooley’s Farms in Truchas NM, held an informal grafting workshop. He is also a member of our local Orchard Conservancy project. This was truly wonderful. Grafting is not as scary as I thought it would be. Joanne had some grafting experience with tropical fruits but I think the rest of us were novices. Over that weekend we were able to graft everything that would fit on the 1/4″ and 3/8″ manchurian rootstock. In my experience, about one of every three scions was too large for the rootstock we had on hand. The rest will be grafted April once the 1/2″ rootstock arrives.
Once grafted, each test group took their share back to their sites. Gordon recommended putting the grafts into buckets with moist sawdust and mulch, placing on a heat mat, and covering the tops of the grafts with black plastic to keep the sunlight off the tops and keep the tops cooler. The idea is to get the graft site to callus and “take” before the scion begins budding. That should take 3-4 weeks with the apricots. He then recommended planting the grafts in a nursery bed or directly in their permanent locations. Due to wind, frost, time, and animal issues, we’ve decided to put our apricots in a nursery bed in the backyard of our Albuquerque house. In the Fall we’ll plant the survivors in their permanent locations in the Windmill Orchard at the farm. So far they look pretty good. They’re still on the heat mat but we’ll probably put them in the nursery bed within the next week. We need to free up the heat mat so we can begin callusing the grapes.
At some point I plan on putting all the paper records of our orchard tests in a database and post online but that will have to wait until next year. Right now we are just trying to keep up with the extensive notes we’re taking on each individual plant.
[Jo] We finally had a pretty day yesterday! Got a big log sorted out and peeled for one of the center supporting posts for the floor joists. Also got the weather station mounted on the roof, and reporting wind speed, temps, humidity and I don’t know what all.Â Will get the software so the info can be downloaded to a pc, and thence to the internet and eventually (hopefully) a hookup with a national reporting program. Going back up later today.
Found the list of cultivars we’ll be getting soon. Too many to list individually, but there are 36 apricots, 4 mulberries, 3 pomegranates, and more than 70 grapes. Very exciting.