Creating abundance of fruit in our communities, using free and low cost approaches.

We are passionate about helping to create fruit abundance and resilience in our community. The more opportunities for sharing and connecting in order to make this happen, the more likely this will be successful.

Here are some useful ways to do this:

1. Scion exchanges
We’re joining the Community RiseUp 5th Annual Seed Swap at Mount Pleasant Eco Park nr Porthtowan, on Sat 3rd Feb 2024 with a small collection of scion wood varieties to share for those who want to graft their own fruit trees at home. Please come and see us, bring your own scions to swap, come and chat, or just take away what you need. If you don’t live close by why not set up a local scion exchange where you live? The National Trust at Cotehele sell apple tree scion wood from their Mother Orchard every year in February and will even show you how to graft it onto a rootstock there and then, in a 15 minute slot, for a fee.

2. Community grafting sessions
We hold grafting sessions to teach people the skill of fruit tree grafting – a skill they can take away with them and go on to create their own trees every year, for free. Get in touch if you’d like us to come to your community to share orchard skills.

Rootstocks are going up in price each year, currently at about £3.90 per stock if bought in small quantity, less if bought in bulk. However, this is still cheaper than buying a whole new tree that a nursery has grafted and grown on. Grafting it yourself also allows you greater flexibility than buying from a fruit tree nursery. You have full control over which rootstock and which variety to choose, whereas a nursery may not use a rootstock you prefer or variety you’d like. In addition, to go completely free, you could graft directly onto an existing tree, with no need to buy any rootstocks. Create a family tree or graft onto a hedgerow tree that you’d like to convert to something more useful. There are so many possibilities once you have the skill under your belt. And you don’t need to spend a penny.

3. Buying rootstocks in groups via orchard networks
Cornwall Orchard Network has members from all areas of Cornwall, if you’d like to link up with others who might be interested in purchasing large quantities of rootstock try asking others to get cheaper deals when bulk buying. Buying small quantities of rootstock is usually a lot more expensive, so it definitely works out more affordable if bulk buying with others.

4. Grow your own fruit tree from seed
As is well known, growing an apple from a pip is unlikely to result in an apple that resembles its’ parent – it could be completely different in taste, colour, size or usefulness, and the tree itself could be any size or shape as well. The diversity of genomes in an apple seed are huge. Regardless of this unknown quantity, it is still worth growing apple trees from pips. You might grow a really tasty or useful apple, more likely you won’t, but you can graft onto it if it turns out to be a strong enough tree. Not only this, if you plant and grow on pip grown trees you are adding to the diversity of apple trees out there which undoubtedly aids with pollination and fruit set, and increases diversity in the apple population. In the past, before the availability of commercial rootstock, people would do just this. They would grow apples from seed to create stock to graft more favourable varieties on to. We have been including seed grown apple trees in orchards for several years and encourage anyone to do so. Experimentation like this could be really helpful for the future of Cornwall apple growing – It’s also fun and free!

5. Take hard wood cuttings from apple trees that root
Whilst many apple trees won’t root easily from hard wood cuttings, some do. This is a successful method if you have access to a friend’s existing orchard, are linked to a community orchard or know someone doing some pruning. If the apple tree has burrs on the branches then this is a good indicator of it being able to root successfully. Take a branch cutting of 2nd year’s growth and place it in the ground like you would other hard wood cuttings from fruit bushes, for instance. Rooting should have formed by Spring. Place it directly where you want the tree to grow, with a stake for support, and you won’t need to move it once it starts rooting and growing on. This is useful if you wish to plant more of a particular variety you like, though remember your final tree won’t necessarily have the same vigour or disease resistance as the original, grafted tree. A list of useful own root trees can be found in ‘The Cornish Pomona’ by Mary Martin and James Evans and include the varieties Ben’s Red and Sweet Larks.

6. Top graft onto existing trees in hedgerows or gardens with useful or tasty varieties
A completely free method of creating more orchard abundance in your community. This method is pretty successful and is done at the normal grafting window just before bud break in Spring. Graft onto an existing crab apple, a wild apple, or an apple that you don’t like the taste of. Why not add a few varieties on one tree and create a family tree? Likewise you can graft onto hedgerow trees, including medlar and pear onto hawthorn trees.

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