Grafting workshop follows the scions
MASTER orchardist Henry Hilton shared his keen commercial experience with budding horticulturalists, aborists and gardeners at an applegrafting workshop in Stanley on Saturday.
The principal of Snowline Fruits joined Beechworth Food Co-op and Black Barn Farm, where Charlie Showers and Jade Miles are reworking and replanting an old orchard on Stanley’s edge, to present a hands-on short course in fruit propagation – part of a continuing series of workshops to foster local food network development.
Mr Showers and Mr Hilton talked to the 15 participants from Myrtleford, Benalla, Albury, Eldorado and Beechworth about the objectives, history and practice of grafting and its benefits, such as the replication of reliable fruiting varieties which have distinctive taste, production or keep- ing qualities and disease, pest or cold resistance.
Mr Hilton said grafting enabled a producer to create multigraft trees from scratch and an ability to add a new fruiting variety to an existing tree.
It also allowed for the rapid reproduction of a sought-after variety, could speed fruiting time and be used to repair damage.
But it could only succeed within species – with genus malus (apple) grafts compatible only on malus rootstock, just as genus pyrus ( pear) grafts grow successfully only on pyrus rootstock.
Mr Showers said rootstocks offered a range of advantages, from disease and insect resistance to dwarfing, hardiness, high yields, drought tolerance and rapid growth.
The participants in Saturday’s workshop had a choice of two – MM102 and MM106, named for the East Malling and Merton horticultural re- search stations in the United Kingdom where the stocks were bred.
The first grows to about three metres – or 55 per cent of the size of a natural apple seedling – and the second to about 3.5m (65pc).
Mr Hilton demonstrated a whip- and- tongue graft and, later, a rind graft.
Participants practised the cuts needed for a successful whip-and-tongue graft before selecting scion wood prepared by Mr Showers and grafting it on two rootstocks.
Black Barn Farm offered a range of varieties, including heritage apples Cox’s Orange Pippin, Snow Apple and Five Crown Pippin, and popular apples Granny Smith and Gala.
Mr Hilton and his wife, Rita, run a highly-regarded orchard on Myrtleford-Stanley Road, south of Stanley, and their Snowline Fruits is a regular stallholder at Myrtleford Farmers’ Market.