Last Years Grafting Attempts

In May, 2016, I attempted to graft pecan scion wood onto pecan seedlings using various grafting methods. In the following picture the failed arrowhead graft is enclosed in green grafting tape – note that a limb on the left side of the stock below the graft has grown about five feet high since the graft attempt.

The following two pictures show the back with the staples and front of the failed graft after it was cut off. One flaw noted in the second picture is that the scion wood does not sit down snug to the stock.

The following picture show an arrowhead graft that started growing and then broke off.   Although it was tied up to a supporting stake, apparently a bird landed on the top and broke out the graft union.

The following three pictures show a successful arrowhead graft with the bamboo support pole beside it. Note that the wood has callused completely over the staples and is starting to cover the top of the cut off stock.

The following two pictures show a successful 3-flap graft. Note that the diameter at the graft union is larger than the stock.

The following two pictures show another successful 3-flap graft. The top of the scion wood was cut off to promote healing. Note how large that the graft union and the short piece of scion wood below the cut off have grown. You can see the new growth from the scion that starts on the right side of the scion. It grew about four feet high during last Summer.

The following picture shows a failed bark graft.

The following two pictures show a successful bark graft. Again, the callus growth covers the staples and is starting to cover the top of the stock.


In the following picture the bark graft has only started to callus over. There is green wood in the tiny piece of scion, but, the future does not look good.


After one of the bark grafts failed as shown in the following picture a limb grew out of the stock underneath the graft location. Note how it first grew down and then curved upwards. Although it grew about four feet high, I wonder what I should do with it.

Sprouting Chinese Chestnut Seeds to Produce Seedling Trees

Last October I collected some Chinese chestnuts from the Chestnut Charlie Orchard in Lawrence. After placing them in plastic bags with enough moist moss to cover them I stored them in the refrigerator at a temperature of about 35 degrees F.  A note about the plastic bags: I poke a few tiny air holes near the top of the plastic bag after enclosing the nuts. One year I double bagged the nuts before placing them in the refrigerator, and, when I opened up the bags in April there was a strong aroma of alcohol and the nuts had spoiled.

In February the nuts started sprouting. By mid April most of the nuts had a single small white root growing out of them. I then placed each sprouted seed nut in a one gallon plastic pot and put the pot in a wire cage box to keep away the mice and squirrels. Although it would have been better to put them in pots earlier, they should still produce small trees this summer. The following two pictures show the box with the pots inside.

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The following two pictures show a pretty flower that has popped up in road side ditches during the last couple of weeks. I need to do some research to figure out what it is.

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2015 Year In Review

In the two pictures below the brown areas are bare ground where I transplanted pecan trees from pots into the field during November.

Fall_2015_plantings_B Fall_2015_plantings_A

 

 

 

 

The following paragraphs list some of the work performed on the property in 2015.

Some common tasks performed on all young trees in the field included:

A. pruned trees in February
B. hoed weeds during the growing season
C. fertilized trees in March and June
D. tried to train trees to grow as I wished by pruning during the growing season
E. watered trees during dry periods

Work on the pecan trees included:

A. bought 45 grafted pecan trees in pots and transplanted them into the field
B. nursed 15 one-year old pecan seedlings in pots that I had sprouted from seed   in May  through the Summer
C. transplanted those 15 seedling pecan trees into the field in the Fall
D. grafted 15 pecan seedlings in the field – of which only 5 grafts were successful

Currently there are about 250 young pecan trees in the field.

Work with the Chinese chestnut trees included:

A. transplanted 7 seedling Chinese chestnuts that I had sprouted from seeds into the field
B. bought 3 grafted Chinese chestnuts in pots and transplanted them into the field

Currently there are 60 chestnut trees in the field.

In May I sprouted pecan seed nuts and nursed the young seedlings through the summer. Now, there are 40 sprouted pecan seedlings bedded down in a straw bale fort to protect them from the winter weather until next Spring.

Although all the trees were pruned in February, pruning is a continual process during the growing season. The purpose is to train the trees to grow limbs in a specific manner. A major problem that I have is that after I prune a tree, the tree often does not agree with my decisions. It then grows limbs in places that I do not want limbs to grow. Looking back I can sometimes see that the trees decision was better than mine. But, that is rather frustrating. Hopefully, more experience with pruning and tree growth will bring the decisions of the tree and my pruning decisions into better agreement.

Other tasks involved general maintenance of the property:

A. mowing all the grassy areas two or three times to control the serecia lespedeza and other weeds
B. cutting down thorny locust trees and autumn olive bushes
C. putting up bird houses for the bluebirds – made 3 new houses
D. putting up raptor perches for the hawks and owls to use when they are looking for mice – made 6 perches
E. painting the roof of the building
F. working on the fences
G. making storage carts that can roll around on the concrete floor of the garage – made 6 carts

This blog was also started as a record of activities.

So much for 2015 – now it is time to move on to 2016 and more of the same!

Time to Transplant Trees from Pots into the Field

From late October into November I transplanted 60 pecan trees from three gallon pots into permanent field locations where I hope they will grow and produce pecan nuts. Although five trees replaced failed trees that were planted in previous years, 55 trees were planted into new locations. Due to the lack of rain from late August to the latter part of October, I delayed transplanting while hoping that rain would reduce the number of times I have to water the trees after transplanting.

The following picture shows a location after scraping away the vegetation but before digging the transplant hole.

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After digging the hole it appears as in this picture.

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Note that the shape of the hole appears as if a donut was pressed down into it – the “donut hole” is a small mound of dirt in the center of the hole that was not disturbed during the digging process.  By resting the transplant tree on the undisturbed donut hole it should not sink any lower as it might if the dirt under the tree root ball was loose fill dirt. And, in the next picture the depth of the hole is checked by placing the potted tree on top of the donut hole. The tree should set down low enough that after transplanting the root ball will be covered with one or two inches of dirt. The potting media in the root ball is composed of very porous material, and, covering it with a layer of dirt will reduce evaporation that might dry out the root ball.

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Removing the root ball from the pot and looking at the bottom reveals that some of the roots grew around the bottom of the root ball trying to escape the pot as shown in the next picture.

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Large roots that encircle the root ball could cause problems as the tree roots grow in the ground, so, I cut them off as in the next picture.

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The trimmed root ball was then placed on top of the donut hole and the hole filled with dirt. A low ridge of dirt encircles the tree to provide a catchment for water as in the next picture.

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After removing the “t” from a t-post it is driven into the ground about 15 inches away from the tree on the north side. If the “t” is left on the post, the roots might grow over it and make it more difficult to remove the post in a few years when the post is no longer required.

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Next the tree is watered to settle the soil close around the roots and a fence ring is placed around it and fastened to the t-post. The fence ring is made of 2″x4″ welded wire and is four feet high and about ten feet long. Without a fence ring to protect the tree the deer often come up and sample the leaves and stem. Sometimes they will even try to pull the tree out of ground or tromp on it. With all the tracks they leave they seem to think it is their duty in inspect my work during the night after I finish.

Transplant_8

The June Beetles Came in May

Many of the pecan seedling trees in the field were damaged by what appears to be the work of June beetles.

When inspecting the damaged trees, no culprits were found on the leaves. That seems to be the nature of June beetles – hiding during the daylight hours and partying at night. There are good descriptions on the Northern Pecan blog.

The leaflets on some of the trees were completely destroyed – leaving only the stems of the leaves – see the following two pictures.

June_bugs_2x June_bugs_1x

 

A second type of bug damage occurs where the  attack location starts at the tip of the growing shoot. Adjacent leaves are glued together into a mass where a worm feeds inside – see the following picture.

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With other bugs gnawing on the leaves it amazing how the pecan trees keep trying to come back as the following picture shows.

June_bugs_4x

Moving the Potted Trees to a Raised Bed

After over-wintering the potted trees in the straw bale fort it is now time to move them to a raised stand where they will continue growing and their roots will be air pruned when they grow out the holes in the bottoms of the pots.

One goal starting trees in pots is to form a mass of roots inside the pots which will support growth after planting out into the field. A common technique is to use a process called “air pruning” to increase root mass inside the pot and also prevent root growth outside the pot. Although pecan and Chinese chestnut roots require some air in the soil to grow, when they try to grow out through the holes in the pot into pure air they are “air pruned” and cease to grow in that direction. If the pots had remained in the Winter fort where mulch was packed between the pots, the roots would have grown outside of the pots — through the holes in the pots into the surrounding mulch.

That will be accomplished by placing the pots on a raised platform about 15 inches above the ground as shown in the following picture. The bottom of the platform is made from cattle panel and supported about 15 inches above the ground. The ground underneath is covered in mulch to prevent weed growth.

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As observed in the next picture the potted trees fill in all the area of the raised platform.

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Potted Tree Bed

Last fall I had about 50 seedling trees in pots which had grown from seed sprouted in the two previous Springs, and, they needed to be protected from the bitter cold temperatures during the coming winter. Some people move the pots into a cool basement for the Winter. I decided to build an outdoor fort using straw bales and place the pots in it. Then for further protection I covered the potted trees with a mixture of leaves, straw, and grass clippings as you can see in first picture below. The second picture shows the fort this Spring after it had settled somewhat during the Winter.

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In mid-March of this year it seemed that the really cold weather was in the past and so I removed the padding from the fort as shown in the third picture. The trees in the smaller one gallon pots were sprouted from seed in May, 2014, and the trees in the larger three gallon pots were sprouted in May, 2013.  The square one gallon pots on the left contain Chinese chestnut trees.

pots_bed_3
Assuming the trees survived the Winter without major damage they can now be transplanted into the field anytime during the next seven or so months. One advantage of growing seedling trees in pots is that they can be transplanted into the field in Spring, Summer, or Fall. Bare root trees, on the other hand, would need to be planted out into the field during Springtime before the trees wake up and start growing leaves again.

Another advantage is the ease of watering. During the Summer months the young  trees need lots of water to survive the hot weather. When the potted trees are concentrated together in one small area it is relatively easy to water them. Then they can be planted out into a field in the Fall when they require less water . The trees still need some water during the Winter months but normal rainfall usually suffices. It is recommended that the trees newly planted into the field be watered weekly during the first couple of Summers if rain is not sufficient. My back reminds me of my age after a day of carrying five gallon buckets of water around and watering field trees.

The series of pictures below show the potted trees after they began to leaf out during April through mid May when the leaves hide the pots under them.  The Chinese chestnut trees woke up earlier than the pecan trees.  But, whether pecans or chestnuts, they do not all come alive at the same time as their kin – the variation can be a week or two.

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The next step is to move the potted trees out of the bed onto a raised stand where the roots will be air pruned  –  a “Coming Attraction” to this blog will explain more .