As grafting season comes to a close, and all our newly grafted apple trees are planted out at our site in Glazebury, hear from Dan, one of the amazing agroforestry team members, about his journey into grafting and his ambitions to become the next best budder in town!
You can also check out the agroforestry team's latest blog piece about their massive tree-planting endeavours here: https://kindling-agroforestry.medium.com/trees-in-soil-volunteer-powered-planting-at-glazebury-b65b2d9ce8ec
I. Love. Grafting... but I’m no horticulturalist, my back garden is a mess, my wife being blessed with the green thumb but I am a tree guy, specifically apples, that’s what got me into this sector, via the back door of a quasi-coop cider company that I founded in the heart of Manchester. That led me to working with communities planting and restoring orchards for The Orchard Project, which has now led me to also working for The Kindling Trust and their newly formed, twelve month Agroforesrty Team. So, just the small task of grafting 9000 fruit trees for their farm and planting an additional 3000 woodland trees and a myriad of other biodiversity improvements. Including preservation and repair to hedgerow habitat for the willow tit.
So like I said, I love grafting. Ever since a lovely chap called Sam Bolton shared with me the (not-so) dark art of whip and tongue grafting, I was hooked! He ran a project which still makes the occasional tweet, called ‘Grafting for Orchards’, his heritage lottery funded project sought to find the lost and hidden orchards of Greater Manchester. I’ll never forget him taking me to the outskirts of the city, through overgrown paths, across a Victorian tip, complete with half dug-out and broken glass bottles. Clearly the treasure hunters knew this spot well. But we were after treasure of a different kind. Through more undergrowth and looking up at the giant trees around us, we knew what we were looking for, the famous, yet lost Carrington Pear orchards. There they were, hanging like golden elongated orbs, too high for even our reach. You’d need quite the panking pole to get to these fruits. No wonder we graft onto quince rootstock to quell these potential behemoths. So graft wood was sourced and Sam and I collaborated numerous times to preserve these lost trees.
So my experience thus far is with a knife, specifically the ‘whip and tongue’ method, with my trusty Opinel No.6. Depsite not getting anywhere close to my ten thousand hours to be considered an ‘expert’, I do now feel I’ve mastered this skill and love sharing it with others. Have grafting kit, will travel.
So I’ve got apples, pears, quince and medlars covered, the latter being my absolute favourite fruit since discovering a massive tree laden with the rock-hard like fruit, the strange distant cousin, once removed, from the apples lineage. I’ll never forget that late November Day here in Manchester, taking them home, letting them ‘blet’ and then having my first taste... what a fruit! If you know, you know.
But what of stone fruits? My entire background and main focus of this shift in career from being a graphic designer and studio manager and obsessed with ‘Apple’(s) of an entirely different nature. Other than seeing the other ‘dark art’ of budding on an incredible urban croft in Edinburgh and countless YouTube videos it’s a skill I am yet to learn. As a team we’re calling in the pros and looking forward to being shown the ropes by the team at Sheffield Fruit Trees, and ‘Tom the Apple Man’. With two thousand grafts to do between us, mostly on our knees in a nursery bed on the outskirts of Greater Manchester it’s quite the task. But there’s a lot going for bud grafting and I’m looking forward to adding this skill into my orchard arsenal.
I mean the very idea that you can do it in summer and have all the possible benefits of working outdoors is sounding nice, rather than the crazy weather we’ve had this spring. One week we’re there in t-shirts in late March, then an inch of snow on the Kindling Woodbank site in late April. It’s now May and we’ve had nothing but rain. Although let’s remember, this is Manchester! Methinks a gazebo and waterproofs will still need to be at hand. I’m told it’s quicker and simpler, yet many of the orchardists I’ve spoken too talk of lots of failed grafts. So I’m tentative as to the results and with so many to do, I’m comparing in my head the hope of 3-4 buds potentially bursting in a whip and tongue graft, to the an ‘all your eggs in one basket’ approach to grafting a single bud to a rootstock.
As a kinesthetic learner – I’m the practical/creative type, I need ‘do-it-to-get-it’ – so despite my late night YouTubing and swotting up on the ‘the bible’ that is The Grafters Handbook by R. J. Gardner I’m very much looking forward to this particular season of ‘Hard Graft’.
Don't forget to keep an eye out on our Events page for upcoming budding workshops!