Cities and suburbs, real and imaginary.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Growing Experiments

I've been attempting to grow an Asian Pear tree from seeds that came from the store-bought fruit. This is how the stuff is supposed to be done, after all. Johnny Appleseed wasn't out spreading scionwood, but seeds. I've got these four seedlings in a pot, from the four seeds at the heart of the fruit. What happens next is I wait until they're six inches tall. Then, I carefully re-pot them into gallon pots from the garage. Then, next year or the year after, if they've survived, I've got these trees on their own roots ready to go in the ground somewhere. Or, I can use their whips for grafting. Pears are supposed to be the easiest thing for beginning grafters. I could pick up a common flowering pear, which is a preferred rootstock around here and inexpensive at the hardware store, and graft the whips that way, to propagate full-size, commercial-quality trees of whatever variety results.

Some fruit is best not done this way. Apples grown commercially are interplanted with crab apples, and take on the crab's characteristic during pollination. Oranges grow true from seed, sometimes, but sometimes they don't, and they're a challenge to get to an age when they can fruit. Lychee trees are beautiful, but they can't handle dry weather below 40 degrees, so unless I had a really, really big greenhouse... Everything that's alive wants to live and to keep living.

It's the sort of thing that's fun to do with your kids, I guess. It's a children's game, to start a tree from seed and keep it alive.

Asian pears often come true, or close enough, from seed. The crisp, apple pears need only another of their kind to fruit. There isn't a crab-pear, or a flowering pear, or any other inedible variety that will pollinate them with their finicky early bloom. Cherries, plums, and peaches can be done this way, and especially apricots, but keep them in pots as long as you can because the rootstock will not be safe in the ground. Avocados and Mangoes can be easily grown this way, too, if your climate is warm enough. Oranges and lemons often grow true from seed, though it might take 15 years to see fruit without grafting onto mature rootstock.

Nothing wrong with that, mind you.

It looks like we don't see a lot of trees grown on their own rootstock, in part because it's so much easier to graft a whole lot of a quality variety than it is to root cuttings carefully. In the regions where they grow well, things like apples and jujubes and persimmon can be grown on their own roots, straight from seed. Fruit quality will be interesting to discover, though. And by "interesting" I mean wait a few years and discover how very likely it is to be no good.

It's a fun project, though, particularly for the young people and young at heart. And it gets a little extra value out of that 4 dollar Asian Pear I bought on a whim, which was really expensive but tasted amazing.

Post a Comment