The importance of the art of grafting fruit trees was first on the list of things that Will Lewis explained at his grafting workshop on Thursday March 21st. In one simple statement he summed it up: “Most fruits that you eat are from a grafted tree.” Johnny Appleseed himself, as legend has it, was well known for sowing the seeds of apples far and wide, but perhaps this was because he understood that out of the thousand seedlings he was planting ahead of the settlers maybe one hundred would result in apples that were pleasant to eat. When fruits come from a seed there is always a possibility of cross-pollination that results in a diverse genetic structure. With this diversity comes variability and inconsistency—leaving you with apples called “spitters” that are so bitter they make you want to “spit” them out and are good for cider, but not for eating. The well-known apples we are all used to eating, gala, honey crisp, granny smith, and so on are all originally from a randomly delicious fruiting tree that was named and grafted.
Luckily, we already have many delicious apples readily available, whether they are wild trees or cloned varieties, and can graft from existing trees. If we want to stand on the shoulders of Johnny Appleseed, the first step is to choose our scion wood and rootstock. Scion wood determines taste so that choice is easy: choose an apple you like to eat. Rootstock on the other hand, is what determines the size, height, disease resistance, density of fruit, years to fruit, and lifespan of your tree. Many are partial to dwarf rootstock for instance, because although the trees have a shorter lifespan and are less resilient, they fruit earlier so you get an earlier return on your investment and they require less work to cultivate and harvest. While scion wood can be easily harvested from a tree of your choice, the multiple factors involved in choosing root stock makes it worth getting from a reputable nursery supply so you can be sure of what characteristics you will be getting.
Once these choices have been made, it’s time to talk process. Although there are multiple methods of grafting, the workshop focused on the whip and tongue union. This method mechanically binds the scion woods to the rootstock, and the only tools you need are an exceedingly sharp knife (ideally flat on one side and beveled on the other), some wax (toilet bowl wax will do), some wet newspaper or peatmoss, and grafting tape (or flagging tape in a pinch). And of course a wealth of knowledge from a practiced horticulturalist and the company of other eager grafters-in-the-making helps.
The first step is to match your scion wood to a rootstock of a similar circumference. You then clip a section off the top of the rootstock right below a bud, exposing the cambium (a light green ring just beneath the bark that acts as the thoroughfare for nutrients and water). Using your knife, you cut that fresh end into a diagonal slice to increase the surface area of the cambium and increase the chances of your “union;” the more angled the slice, the greater the cambium contact between scion and rootstock. It’s important that the cut be one flat unified stroke to avoid gaps between the cambiums.
You then make a matching sloped cut at the tip of the scion wood, making sure that you have your buds facing upwards. The next cut you make is directly into your freshly cut ends, to create a little notch where you will fit the two together. With each piece prepped, you merge the two notches. If you have more than three buds above the graft you have one final cut to make: cut horizontally above the third bud, because an excess of buds requires too much in the way of water and nutrient support and will take energy away from a successful union.
Once you’ve achieved a satisfactory union, you wrap the point of contact with flagging tape to encourage the merger. You then coat the tape and the tip of the scion wood in wax as well. This step is particularly important because this seal is what keeps moisture in your scion wood, and if the scion dries out, you won’t get a callous to form joining your graft.
Having made your graft, it’s important to place your rootstock in a ball of wet newspaper or paper towel, or in a bag of peat moss for storage. A good storage place will keep your fresh graft at about fifty or sixty degrees as you wait for your callous to form (for peaches and apricots this increases to seventy five degrees). This process should only take about one week. If done well, this method has a success rate of 80 to 90 percent. The question of storage, of course, brings up the question of timing. You want to harvest your scion wood in February, your rootstock in February or March in West Virginia, and more generally in late winter/early spring depending on climate, weather, and location. If you find yourself ahead of schedule and with scion wood but no rootstock, your scion cutting can last a few months in the fridge.
After you have a formed callous and successful graft, and if your ground has thawed it’s time to plant! It’s important to start with a well-tilled bed and to water attentively as your tree could be in a nursery bed for up to a year. If you are feeling ambitious and planting multiple trees, plant them 16-24 inches apart in the nursery. If buds begin to grow while the plant is in the dark, it is worthwhile to harden off the plant in indirect sunlight before planting.
Speaking of ambitious grafting, now that you know of one way in the art of grafting, you can explore and get creative. Grafting two varieties on one tree for example, is a great way to address the issue of having a singular plum or cherry tree, as both require the cross pollination of a different variety of tree to bear fruit. Henry Lang in New Hampshire even grafted around 230 different varieties to one tree in an attempt to push the boundaries of how much diversity you can achieve with just one tree with grafting.
If this blog has peaked your interest and you want more information, for anything from how to manage your young trees after their first year, to other methods of grafting, these two books come highly recommended by our very own Will Lewis: The Holistic Orchard by Michael Phillips and The Apple Grower by Michael Phillips. Happy Grafting!
We are at the top of Briery for the super moon and vernal equinox, two celestial events that haven’t occurred on the same night since 2000 and won’t again until 2030. Although the alignment of cosmic elements isn’t something that typically attracts my attention, the intensity of this confluence peaked my interest. A super moon, or a “perigee syzygy,” is a full moon that coincides with the closest moment of the moon’s orbit. Based on my recent googling, the perigee is the point at which the moon is closest to the Earth in it’s orbit, and a syzygy is the lining up of 3 celestial bodies and occurs every full moon, new moon, and eclipse. So not only is the Sun-Earth-Moon system aligned, but the moon is half bathed in light, half shrouded in darkness. And this coincidence also happened to coincide with this year’s vernal equinox, the moment when the sun crosses the celestial equator northbound, making the day and night equal in length. And with a good bit of that night left, I decide to continue on my path.
As I walk and wonder how far I would follow the pull of the moon, I find myself at the edge of a large puddle where the road should be. The glassy surface creates another inverted universe, where the moon is still full, but shines up from the ground rather than the sky. As the season when days continue to get longer, Spring seems to be rife with the symbolism of things beginning again, rebirth, regeneration, renewal: to forward thinking and planning.
This night, however, seems to be urging me to reflect. To remember to look down and back, to take a closer look at the soil that gives rise to the Spring, and to seek the magic that can be found underfoot. To reflect on what has already been accomplished before surging forward with everything left to do and prepare.
When I wake the next morning to say my goodbyes to the moon, following it once again up and over a mountain ridge, I am amazed to already find the first signs of Spring beneath my feet as they pass over the grounds of the Yew. Seemingly overnight, determined buds of flowers and ramps have been pulled up and over leaves and snow. As I sit atop a sandstone outcropping surrounded by mountain laurel, I feel a reverence for the winter equal to my excitement for the spring; it is periods of dormancy that allow for new growth. I listen to the birds as the day breaks
and find myself looking forward to a growing season in which I hope to find balance, to notice the reflections in the puddles, the dark side of the moon, and the ground beneath the sprouts.
My name is Ruthie Cartwright, and I’m excited to be serving the next sixth months as your Americorps Education Assistant. I was born and raised in Portland Oregon, a place known for the accessibility of its wild landscapes, whether it be high desert, coast, or rainforest, although looking at how much of my childhood was spent indoors, you wouldn't know it.
Meet Ned Gardiner of Asheville Iyengar Yoga
This 3-day nature retreat will focus on standing, forward-bending, back-bending, and pranayama-- all at an introductory level. Iyengar is a branch of yoga focused on the discipline of gradual progression of body movements that peel back the layers of the mind, body and spirit to cultivate clarity and calm.
Who are you and how has experiential learning made a different in your life?
These are hard questions! I'm not sure how to answer "who am i?" I'm just getting to know myself!
I am a student of yoga. B.K.S. Iyengar's teachings have given me the opportunity to study myself and open up to being less limited than my mind and body had previously suggested. I am learning to learn, learning to do, learning to teach, teaching to learn (and so forth) an ancient art and science that opens doors such as that.
To call this humbling is to miss the point, for of course we are small in comparison to the experience and wisdom that luminaries have passed along for us to examine, experience, and question. Who are we to say we have limitations when we rarely test for the boundaries?
What is the program you are presenting and what do you hope participants will get out of the weekend?
In this weekend we will explore the asanas B.K.S. Iyengar suggested we practice as we begin to study yoga. His personal brilliance was in offering specific guidance about how to practice. Moving from periphery to core and out again, we will touch upon the eight limbs ('ashtanga' in Sanskrit) of yoga.
I hope participants get a spark of interest in the subject to help them continue their own self-exploration.
"Inspiration" comes from Latin for "to breathe into." Latin and Sanskrit come from the same Proto-Indo-European language. Yogic texts (written in Sanskrit) describe 'pranayama'-- one of the eight limbs ('ashtanga,' again) of yoga which addresses working with the life force which animates everything. So "inspiration" literally and figuratively is interdependent with the outdoors, where our atmosphere is generated.
Describe a time you were inspired when being outdoors.
I draw inspiration regularly from what is today known as the Pisgah National Forest. The forests there are healing from a heavy cutting early last century. The canopy won't close as the chestnut and other would-be giants of the forests no longer grow to their majestic potential in the southern Appalachians. But growth and change continue nonetheless. Transformation is what I seek, so I go to my local forests to see and experience it on a grand scale.
It's almost time for ramps to start popping up in the forests nearby and on social media everywhere. We love these sweet, aromatic, wild, and nutritious relatives of garlic. Here are some facts and tips to help ramp populations keep growing and smelling strong for generations to come. You dig?
“There is no official record keeping or data collection to determine how many ramp plants are harvested each year, but estimates suggest it would take at least 2 million plants annually to meet current market demand, and that figure could be very low. There are very few established ramp growers in the U.S., and nearly all of the current demand is being supplied from wild populations.” —United Plant Savers
Help Prevent Over-Harvest
Come to the Wildflower Festival to learn more about ramps and other treasures in our forest. Celebrate spring in the forest with the Ramp 5K, ramp pizza, a native plant sale, forest farming workshop, live music, and fun for all ages. April 13, 2019 10am-2pm
Susannah Gebhart Ramps: A Sustainable Harvest. AppalachianFoodStoryBank.org March 2015
United Plants Savers Watch List: Ramps May, 2016 UnitedPlantSavers.org
USDA Forest Service www.srs.fs.usda.gov/newsroom/newsrelease/2003/nr_2003-06-20-ramps
This April we are excited to host our first yoga retreats.
Learn more about Kristina Sandi and her yoga retreat Art of Letting Go.
We hope you can join us.
Who are you?
I am an appreciator of beauty and aesthetic. Someone who finds magic in the details and a nature lover through and through. I feel happiest when my life seems to flow with the landscape around me. I require frequent interaction with rugged, untouched wilderness and am fascinated with finding harmonious ways to explore and live among it.
I feel strongly connected with the wisdom of my body and use gut instinct to guide me a lot of the time. I’m a total dreamer. I have big dreamy dreams that make feel like I’m constantly searching. Sometimes I think that comes off as a bit wishy-washy, but I enjoy the way my mind works because it’s never boring. I’m half Costa Rican and half American and have struggled with the identity of being from multiple cultures. As I’ve grown, I have learned to appreciate my unique background and embrace its fluidness, although sometimes I still feel like I’m feel neither here nor there. Yoga helps me to feel rooted in everything that I am.
I am a committed student of the human experience. I am relentlessly curious about people, and the experiences and histories that shape them. Travel and exploration are integral to my happiness. My soul is fed by road trips down lonely highways, along winding backroads and through sleepy old towns. I am elated when I meet people who are strong characters and reflect an un-yielding sense of place. In college I studied Sociology and Anthropology. Though it’s not what I’ve pursed career-wise, my studies permanently shaped the way I think and continue to influence my perspective on the world. My adoration with the Appalachian landscape and culture is something that I struggle to put into words, but feels integral to who I am.
I’m a 1000 hr. trained yoga instructor currently living in Salt Lake City, Utah but my heart is still inextricably tied to the Appalachian Mountains. I grew up in Maryland, not far from Harpers Ferry, and moved to Morgantown for college after driving through the town and feeling the distinct sensation of being cradled by the rolling hills.
Various factors led me to end up in the Rocky mountains, where I've grown immensely and developed a whole new skill set guiding others toward physical and emotional well being. The past few years, however, I’ve been dreaming of creating a dual life for myself between East/West and finding a way to utilize the tools I’ve learned out here (yoga, outdoor recreation and leadership, sustainable tourism) to enhance the health and well-being of West Virginia communities while perhaps even driving some tourism.
While the Utah landscape is certainly inspiring, it doesn’t hold me in the way the Appalachians do. I’ve always told people out here that the Rockies are like a snazzy new pair of jeans, but the Appalachians are the old cozy/soft pair that you enjoy wearing the most.
I trained in a branch of yoga known as yoga therapy, which emphasizes the healing properties of a mindfulness and movement practice that considers the unique background and circumstance of each individual practitioner.
This retreat is a creative expression of what feeds and drives me. It’s built around self-healing techniques that will guide people closer to themselves, while leading them closer to the rich and biodiverse ecosystem of West Virginia. I want nothing more than to create beauty in the world and help people find their power. To do it in West Virginia, is the dream of all dreams.
Would you tell us more about the program you are presenting?
“The Art of Letting Go” is both a yoga retreat and nature immersion, focused on exploring techniques for stress relief and self-healing. Participants will be exposed to various yogic practices (breathwork, postures, meditation etc.), as well as an array of writing and outdoor learning workshops in a nurturing and non-intimidating environment.
This is an opportunity for participants to slow down and reflect. To step out of the momentum of everyday life and get closer with themselves, their community and the natural world. We will learn to let go of harmful thought pattern and treat our bodies, our minds and our environment with care.
How has yoga made a difference in your life?
Yoga brought peace to my life. I spent years running from and numbing the things that caused me emotional suffering. I had traumatic experiences, as many of us do. Heavy, tragic and 100% out of my control. And that’s the thing with life, we don’t always get a say in how it treats us. For so long I felt like I had a sort of fire or poison inside of me. I didn’t know how to get rid of it so it would come out in my interactions with the world and in my relationship with myself and others. I was disconnected to my body and quick to lash out. Overall I just felt sort of…untethered.
Finding a consistent yoga practice brought me back to myself. It grounded me. I learned that by paying attention to my body, I could gain a better understanding of my feelings and emotions. I could start to acknowledge and move through difficult experiences rather than shutting down. Yoga taught me that my power lies not in preventing struggle, but in softening my reaction to it.
Will you describe a time you were inspired being outdoors?
To be honest, I feel like almost every outdoor adventure I go on ends up smacking me in the face with some sort of life metaphor. Truly, it’s the nature of it. When go out into areas of true wilderness, you are resigning yourself to be 100% out of control of the elements around you. It can be an opportunity to practice struggle in a tangible way. The more you practice struggle, the easier it is to practice it gracefully when you’re confronted with challenge in your everyday life.
Outdoor recreation is a pillar of the life I’ve built for myself, and I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity to participate in outdoor adventure on a regular basis. But in trying to recount an outdoor experience that was particularly inspiring, it’s not necessarily the most picturesque sunset or a relaxing sea breeze that comes to mind. It’s the struggle and the effort of an encounter with nature that didn’t go as planned. It’s the time I got frostbite on my toe while snowboarding, which truly stretched my capacity for what I consider to be uncomfortable. It’s one of the first times I went rock climbing, things took longer then expected and it got dark while I was standing on a ledge hundreds of feet off the ground. I met a sort of primal fear that made the everyday variety of stress pale in comparison. It’s the time I was living in a shack in the jungle of Costa Rica. Nature in the jungle always finds a way to take over. I unknowingly dropped a peanut in my bed and an army of red ants came to put me in my place and bite the s*** out of my leg. It’s really quite alarming when a tiny little ant can remind you to sit down and be humble. It’s not the world's priority to make things easier for you.
The outdoors teaches life resilience. Sometimes you either go with the flow or you’re going to have a bad time. The outdoors has taught me to how to appreciate and even love the imperfect experience. I truly believe that the more we practice letting go of the need to control our surroundings, the happier we will be. The outdoors constantly inspires me to find beauty in the most unlikely of places.
What do you hope participants will get out of the retreat?
I hope that by the end of the weekend, participants will feel as though they’re armed with a toolbox of yoga techniques they can pull from when they need help coping or feeling balanced. The mission here is individual empowerment! My number one goal as a teacher is to help students feel comfortable taking yoga home with them.
Beyond that, I hope that the beauty of the Appalachian Mountains, and the culture of the YEW will become a part of them. I hope that for the entire weekend, or even for just a split second, participants will be able to feel themselves as an integral part of the landscape, and that West Virginia will seep into their bones like it has for me.