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Ever tried growing your own fruit tree from seed? It’s fun, free, and a great activity for kids. We highly recommend that you give it a go!
Growing rootstocks for grafting is actually the main reason for saving the seed from the fruit you eat.
Seed-saving is one of the interesting things we do here at the farm for our nursery business, called Carr’s Organic Fruit Tree Nursery.
Growing rootstocks is the first step of creating your own fruit tree for free as we explain in this blog about fruit tree grafting.
Which trees will grow from seed?
Peaches, nectarines, apples, pears, and quinces will all grow easily from seed. Even apricots will often sprout. We usually grow our own peach, plum, pear, and quince rootstocks in the nursery this way.
Unfortunately cherry seeds hardly ever sprout. Neither do plum seeds, so plum trees are best grown from cuttings rather than seed.
If you’re not sure whether a seed will sprout, just try it—you’ll soon learn if it works or not.
We’re lucky enough to be able to source plenty of seed direct from the farm. This is just as well because we kind of need industrial quantities.
In recent years we’ve been hosting the Growing Abundance juice press (which in turn is on long-term loan from the generous folk at The Little Red Apple in Harcourt). Our orchard lessees have used it to juice their apple and pear seconds at the end of the season.
Being able to juice apples and pears grown here on the farm (in those years when there’s a good enough harvest) yields enough delicious organic apple juice to share around. The seed is really just a by-product.
When Ant was looking after the orchard, he even made enough juice to turn into cider. Cider is a step further than juice-making but definitely one of those forgotten skills that’s worth reviving.
If you’d like to have a go at making your own check out the Apple Fermentation Masterclass to get started.
If you’re just growing rootstocks for yourself at home, you don’t need to go to these lengths of course. Saving the seed from a single apple may be enough.
Why seedling trees need grafting
Growing trees from seed means they don’t grow “true to type”. This means that the apples the tree grows won’t be the same as the apple the seed came from.
This is because the fruit they’re growing from was usually pollinised by a different variety. The seed is a genetic mix of both its parents (just like people!).
So you can’t grow a Pink Lady tree from a Pink Lady apple seed. But you can still use the seed to grow a tree which is called a seedling, or a rootstock.
This can then be used as a base to graft known fruit varieties onto.
When should you plant the seed?
Growing rootstocks for grafting involves a few small jobs at different times of year – just like all gardening really.
There’s a full grafting calendar in our Grow Your Own Fruit Trees for Free course, but here are a few seasonal jobs:
- Late summer – gather peach and nectarine seeds, store them in damp sand
- Autumn – gather seed from apples and pears, store in damp sand
- Winter – gather scion wood from varieties you want to use for grafting in spring and store it correctly to keep it in good condition.
- Winter – gather plum cuttings and store them in damp sand
- Spring – plant seeds and cuttings in a pot or the ground
Does it sound complicated? It’s really not.
Grafting is an ancient method of preserving heritage fruit varieties that has been practised for hundreds of years, and continues to be passed from fruitgrower to fruitgrower today.
We think teaching people how to grow their own fruit trees from scratch is one of the most important skills we teach (through our grafting courses).
If you can grow your own fruit trees, you’ve got true fruit security.
In spring the results of the grafting attempts in your fruit tree nursery become obvious, and it’s so satisfying when they’re successful!
A good grafting knife (and knowing how to keep it sharp) sets you up for grafting success as much as the techniques you need to master.
Involving your kids (or grandchildren) with the care of your fruit trees can help to foster a life long love for gardening.