2589 Lalor Road Oregon, WI

© 2015 by One Seed Farm.

State of the Union

March 27, 2016



Sunday, March 27, 2016



OK, first a lesson about fruit trees for readers who know little more than fruit grows on trees. Fruit does grow on trees. But that’s not the whole story.


Let’s say you just ate the best-ever apple, and you want another one, and you are patient--because so many people are these days--so you don’t mind waiting years for the next one. So you put the seeds from your apple in a pot and wait and wait and wait. A tree grows. You transplant it to a sunny spot in your yard, water it, sing to it, stroke its branches lovingly, and eventually you have more best-ever apples than you know what to do with. Right?

Not right. There is a chance that your tree will bear fruit, and there is a chance that the fruit will be edible and there is a chance your tree will bear best-ever apples, but there is a better chance, because of cross-pollination, that you will just have a free tree and it will bear shade, but not much else useful.


But all would not be lost. If you could find the original best-ever apple tree or another that produced apples you liked, you could cut a twig, called a scion (with a silent c like in science), from that tree and attach it to your tree using a technique called grafting. If done right, the scion would form a strong union with your tree. It would grow into a branch and that branch would produce best-ever apples. I know, it sounds crazy, but, as famous author, Dave Barry, used to say, I am not making this up. That’s how apples and other fruit have been grown for hundreds of years and that’s how specific varieties are saved, traded, sold and collected.


I have been a student of fruit-tree grafting for about two years, ever since another restoration agriculture farmer asked me if I was going to learn how to graft. I said yes. What I meant by that was I have no f’n idea. (f’n, short for farming). Now I do.


Grafting, as it turns out, is not hard to learn, especially if you don’t mind a little blood. No, trees don’t bleed. I am talking human blood, like the kind my brother-in-law, Kerry, spilled yesterday when he was helping me graft the first batch of apple trees on One Seed Farm. The blood comes from the union of finger and knife. The latter is one of the most common grafting tools. I have not cut myself yet, probably because my day-job license says Medicine and Surgery, but with 50 trees to go, the risk of drawing blood is not minimal.


And when I say grafting is not hard to learn, I mean it’s not hard to learn how to try it. Getting good at it will take work. But that’s OK. Gotta start somewhere, for example, I was bad at dunking a basketball for a long time, um, before I finally realized I was to short to dunk. OK, that was a bad example, but I now know enough to get started making all the grafting mistakes I will need to make to become an expert. You will know that happened when my books, I Can’t Dunk, But Look at These Apples!,  and 101 Doctor Recommended Tree Grafting Techniques, are published.


I grafted my first two trees, both apples, at the end of Saturday’s grafting class given by John Holzwart ( He gave the same lecture in February at the Garden Expo, but Saturday's class had a hands-on component. We were given access to lots of scion wood and the course fee included two rootstock trees (the bottom part onto which the scion wood is grafted). I bought ten more of these semi-dwarf trees called Bud 118 at $3 a piece. The type of rootstock affects the size of the tree and disease resistance. The scion determines the kind of apple that grows. A couple hours later Kerry and I grafted the other 10 trees at the farm.

We chose Northern Spy, Sweet 16, Ellison Orange, Liberty, Jonaprince, Macoun, Silken and Tolman Sweet. The last one is said to be one of the oldest varieties in America, dating back to the 1700’s. What is not cool about that? You may have noticed my affinity for uncommon varieties. There is so much more to life than Macintosh and Red Delicious. 


We also grafted one that we dubbed Martin Red because Mrs. Martin, whose tree it came from could not remember its name. She said it was one of her husband’s favorites. Good enough for me. 


{ is an amateur sports and other stuff blog that is not to be taken too seriously. ©2016 DrTM Enterprises. All rights reserved.}

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