Grafting workshop, Saturday 3/18

Want to learn how to graft apples? We’re planning a workshop for Saturday, March 18, mid-morning to about noon. Rootstock and choice of apple varieties will be available. The cost will be a few dollars. Come and graft your own tree to take home! If interested, please let us know: http://bit.ly/contact_wm

Grafting classes and rootstock planting, 2017

We’re planning to distribute low-cost rootstocks ($1-$3 per tree) and hold a couple of grafting workshops in early Spring, 2017. Are you interested in planting a rootstock for later grafting to an apple cultivar of your choosing? Please contact us if so, and we’ll put you on the email notification list. You may also want to follow us on twitter (@widespreadmalus) or on facebook (http://www.facebook.com/widespreadmalus).

Newly planted apple trees in Apple Valley

Twelve newly planted apple trees are now growing in Apple Valley, just west of Lyons, Colorado. A landowner contacted us a few months ago and we agreed on Central Asian apple trees. All are grafted, some last year, some this year, on Antonovka rootstock, and are therefore full sized trees when grown out. A neighboring landowner heard about the project and volunteered to take three trees, for a total of 12.  It was a beautiful day to be outside planting in beautiful Apple Valley, and the family living on the property did a lot of the heavy lifting to get the trees in the ground and are going to take great care of the trees in the coming years.  The land owner also did a lot of the heavy lifting and, key point here, made the property available for some trees.  The neighbors who took the three trees are master gardeners, and their property reflects the skills and effort required.

Apple Valley still has some apple trees, two in the immediate area, but not nearly as many as in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.  We are hoping to change that, and are well on the way to doing so with this first planting.  There is a bit more room on the property, so we may be helping to get a few more in the new orchard.  Thanks to everyone involved.

Apple Valley Orchard

Apple Valley Orchard Location

Apples, crabapples, everywhere…

A large majority of the pink flowered trees you see in and around Boulder County over the past couple of weeks are apple and crabapple trees, and a large portion of the white flowered trees are as well (some are pear or other type of fruit trees, and some are non-fruit bearing trees). All of the crabapples species are in the Malus genus of the Rosaceae famliy.

The apples you see at farmer’s markets, road side stands, grocery stores and everywhere else are all, with exceedingly rare exceptions, descendants of a single species of crabapple, Malus sieversii. M. sieversii is also known as Asian wild crabapple or Almaty crabapple. Almaty is the largest city of the country of Kazakhstan, in central Asia near China. The mountains and hills near Almaty have forests of wild apple trees, just as the mountains and hills of Boulder County have forests of Ponderosa, Spruce and Lodgepole pines.  Imagine our hills and mountains to the west covered with apple trees….

Those wild apple tree forests are being cut down at a rapid pace to clear the land for farms, buildings, roads, and other human infrastructure.  The planet is in the process of losing it’s apple genetic diversity, which is a threat to cultivated apples everywhere.  But, there is something you can do.  The USDA has a collection of wild central Asian M. sieversii at their research station near Lake Geneva, NY.  Scientists with the USDA have conducted genetic studies of these trees, and have determined that a ‘core collection’ of about 100 trees covers about 95% of the genetic diversity represented in the entire collection.  Widespread Malus has been requesting, from the USDA, seeds and scion material from these core collection trees for three years, and working with others around the country (and globe) to share and distribute this core collection of apple genetic wealth.  If you would like to participate, please get in touch with us, see our contact page, and let us know.  You do not need to know anything about apples trees, or need much space to grow a tree.  We can help you with choosing an appropriate tree for your space and level of interest.  We only ask that we have access to the tree in the future to gather scion material and some of the fruit (and the seeds)  if we need it.  We are out of trees to plant for 2016, but please sign up for planting in the spring of 2017.  Letting us know now helps us prepare trees for next year.

Who’s doing what with apple biodiversity?

I thought it would be nice to have a list of projects working to protect apple biodiversity in North America (or elsewhere, if any readers can add information in the comments). Here’s a start:

  • Widespread Malus … that’s us! Working to build a highly diverse collection of Malus sieversii, as well as distribute scions, grafted trees, and seedlings.
  • Apple Diversity Group … a collaboration between Dalhousie University and Agriculture Canada, this group’s Apple Biodiversity Collection in Nova Scotia has 1000+ different apples, including about a hundred Malus sieversii.
  • USDA Plant Genetic Resources Unit … located in Geneva, NY, USDA PGRU maintains one of the world’s most extensive apple collections, including diverse wild apples (M. sieversii, M. orientalis, and others). Interested members of the public may request open-pollinated M. sieversii seed from PGRU.
  • Temperate Orchard Conservancy … located in Oregon, TOC is replicating the Botner Collection (perhaps the largest private collection of apples in the world … 4,500 different apples).
  • Montezuma Orchard Restoration Project … promoting apples and orchards in Montezuma County, Colorado and around the state. Also locating and propagating rare Colorado Heritage apples.
  • North American Fruit Explorers … a group of folks interested in all kinds of fruit. There are quite a few members with their own diverse collections of apples and other fruit. Visit the web site or the facebook page.
  • Seed Savers Exchange … not just for seeds! Iowa-based SSE has quite a nice collection of apples (hundreds), and numerous members who share apple scions with other members.
  • Agrarian Sharing Network … is sharing diverse fruit and vegetable material in the Pacific Northwest. ASN has done extensive evaluations and cloning of the Botner collection and several other large bioregional collections, and is involved in a number of propagation fairs.

Can you help us add more projects to this list? Please send us an email!

312 apples grafted, and counting!

We’ve got 200+ trees grafted for 63rd Street Farm, to be planted out later this month. Also, a few for giveaways, and maybe 50 Malus sieversii grafted from scions received from USDA in Geneva, NY. There are about 15 Antonovka rootstocks left to graft … most of these will be grafted with Malus sieversii.

2016 grafted apples.

2016 grafted apples.

Are you interested in a Malus sieversii tree for Spring 2017? Let us know if so!

The Andrus Orchard is ripped and disked

63rd Street Farm has ripped and disked between the rows of the orchard on the City of Boulder OSMP Andrus property.  The property was used to produce hay for many years, and the soil is fairly compacted.  This ripping and disking will disrupt the dense roots of the hay grass, loosen the soil and improve moisture penetration/retention.  It will also ease the planting and growing of the cover crop, which we are still discussing.  The ripping/disking is cross slope, so surface water moving downhill will be captured and move into the soil.  The flags in the image indicate tree locations.  Photo taken looking WWS.

IMG_20160311_132351347

Grafting has begun …

We’ve started grafting some of the 200+ trees for the 63rd Street Farm orchard, to be located on the City of Boulder’s Andrus open space property just across the road from 63rd Street Farm. We planted out 50 Antonovka rootstocks at the farm last year in a nursery bed, and a few stray M-111s at home, and are starting to dig them up and bench graft them. First up: Golden Russet.

Heeled-in apple bench grafts in the shade of the north side of the house.

After grafting, our trees are ‘heeled in’ and covered with most sand or soil, in the shade of the north side of a building, to await healing over of the graft junction between scion and rootstock. It’s still early to be grafting, and we will probably need to protect these trees from freezes. Apple grafts heal well at 40-50 F, but severe cold would likely ruin them.


There are symptoms of an early spring out there (70°F today), and buds on some of the scion wood cut from around town are starting to swell. Not to say we won’t still have some tough winter conditions, but it’s better to graft, heel in, and protect the small trees than it is to try and graft with scionwood that is emerging from dormancy.

New orchard at 63rd Street Farm, plotted and holes dug

The new orchard going in on the Andrus property, owned by the City of Boulder and managed by Open Space and Mountain Parks (OSMP), for 63rd Street Farm is well underway.  Working with 63rd Street Farm, we developed the orchard plan over the past 9 months and have reach two major milestones.  First, the orchard blocks were measured and plotted, using several different colored flags to outline the blocks and locate individual trees, by rootstock and wild/domesticated varieties.  Second, the holes were dug/bored.  The OSMP agriculture team was kept in the loop, ok’d all of the plans as well as provided a work team with bobcat to bore the holes.  The team was composed of the bobcat and operator and a work crew from the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office.  Thanks to both organizations, OSMP and Sheriff’s Office for boring the orchard tree holes.  This happened about a month ago, giving plenty of freeze/thaw cycles to work on the sides and bottom of the holes before the trees are planted in a few months.  This process, the freeze/thaw cycle, is important for this type of soil when holes are bored instead of hand dug.  The boring compacts the clay in the soil on the bottom and the sides.  If the bottom and sides are not broken up prior to planting, the hole tends to form a clay pot, constraining the tree roots and severely compromising the long term health and productivity of the tree.  Had we bored the holes in the spring, immediately prior to planting, we would have had to manually break up the bottom and sides of the holes.

The OSMP/BCSO team bore trees holes on the Andrus Property in late January 2016

The OSMP/BCSO team bore trees holes on the Andrus Property in late January 2016, they are nearly finished, working on the last of the holes in the western block of trees.  Photo is looking NNW

The western block of the Andrus Property, where the wild apple trees will be planted

The western block of the Andrus Property, where the wild apple trees will be planted.  Photo is looking close to due south

 

The orchard as planned will be 231 trees, with a mix of dwarf, semi-dwarf and full sized rootstock, and a wide mix of wild, dessert and multi-purpose apple varieties.  First to fruit will be the dwarf trees, which will be taken out as they are shaded by the full sized trees, in 10 to 15 years.

Next big step, grafting…