Sunday, January 9, 2011

Growing Fruit Trees from Seed

I've had a habit of growing trees from seed for a number of years, but only recently about two years ago started growing fruit trees from seeds. I stratified the seeds from quite a number of pears of different varieties by putting them in a damp paper towel or napkin in a ziplock bag in the fridge for a couple of months. After a month or two many of them started sprouting in the fridge. I planted the seedlings that had their root just sprouting out of the seed in a small pot and kept planting them as they sprouted. Eventually every single spot was covered with pear seedlings. It looked like a little mini pear forest. Of course they were in a cold window sealed in a bag during the winter which lead to disease that ravaged the mini pear forest. A few survived unscathed and I kept them and planted them in a large pot. Now these pears are about a foot to two feet tall. They were immune to fireblight and other disease and survived harsh conditions.

I've started more pear seedlings this winter, following in my newly started tradition, and have been keeping better track of the varieties. I really like the taste and thin skin of the Starkrimson pear and am trying to grow some of those along with many others. Bartlett seedlings have in the past been used as rootstock, so if you don't like the fruit from the seedling just graft another variety onto the hardy tree you've grown. My decision to grow more fruit trees from seed was bolstered when I tasted wild dewberries and wild huckleberries. The wild plants were generally very productive. They all had different sizes, shapes, sweetness, and tart zingy tastes. I like them all and especially the small variations in taste from plant to plant. I think I enjoy the variety more than a monoculture of one variety. I enjoy getting a surprise. I'm trying to grow blackberries from seed to see if I can get a nice mix of flavors in my blackberry patch.

Anyway, here are some pictures of my recent pear sprouting project.

 Bartlett seeds in a damp paper towel in a ziplock bag in the fridge stratifying.

These are the Bartlett seedlings that I've transplanted from the fridge to this little pot. I'm just getting started and have a lot more to plant.

If you are interested in growing your own rootstock, then you might grow Bartlett, but I'm sure that other varieties would work well too. Seckel pear has been reported to come nearly true from seed and is said to often be better than the original in taste. I just bought a bunch of Seckel pears to eat and thought that I'd try some of them this year. If you want apple rootstock, then you might try Northern Spy. Northern Spy seedlings have been used as rootstock for apples quite a bit and it is the progenitor of the MM106 apple rootstock, which is a semi-dwarfing rootstock. In some markets in the U.S. you can find Northern Spy apples at the grocery store. You might try Whole Foods or a specialty market as they often have better old fashioned apple varieties. Northern Spy is one of my favorite apples, so if the tree you grow tastes good just grow it on its own roots without grafting it. Why not try it first? You will possibly have a stronger more resistant tree without a graft and who know you might grow the next Ashmead's Kernel.

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