Budding genius

Fruit trees grow different kinds of buds, and it helps to be able to recognize the various types. The terminal bud grows at the end of branches, and that's where new branches and twigs grow from each spring. When the terminal buds expand, they leave bud scars, which look like slightly raised rings around the twig. You can measure how much a tree has grown each year by looking at the distance between bud scars. Leaf buds appear along the twigs and expand into leaves. Flower buds are usually fatter than leaf buds and swell first in the spring. Some trees — such as most apple, pear, cherry, plum, and apricot trees — produce their fruit on spurs, which are short, modified twigs. Spurs usually live and produce flower buds for several years or longer before becoming unproductive. See Figure 16-1 for examples of these bud types.

The whys and wherefores of grafting

Tree nurseries slip a bud, called a scion, from a desirable fruit variety, such as Delicious apple or Bing cherry, under the bark of a dwarfing rootstock variety in early spring. The two grow together, and when the scion bud starts growing vigorously, the nursery prunes off the dwarfing rootstock's top growth to just above the bud. The place where the two parts meet is called the bud union, which usually shows up as a bulge, bend, or scar.

Plant breeders and tree nurseries graft fruit and nut trees for a variety of reasons:

✓ Reproduce exact copies of desirable trees:

Nurseries can make as many trees as they need by grafting buds of a desirable variety onto uniform rootstocks.

✓ Influence the mature size of the tree:

Reducing the tree size has many advantages, especially for home gardeners.

✓ Encourage fruit bearing at an earlier age:

Some standard-size apple trees can take up to ten years to begin bearing fruit, whereas a dwarf bears fruit in two years.

✓ Increase disease and pest resistance:

Some rootstocks resist soil-borne diseases and harmful pests better than others.

  • Adapt to different soils: Some trees grow better in clay soils; others prefer loam.
  • Determine hardiness to particular climates:

Roots are among the most cold-sensitive parts of a tree. Some rootstocks increase the trees' hardiness to cold temperatures.

For the best-quality apples and pears, leave only one fruit on each spur, and pinch off the others in early summer. Spurs and flower buds develop best on limbs that are angled slightly above horizontal. Branches that grow upright and those that dangle below horizontal produce little, if any, fruit.

Figure 16-1:

Fruit and nut trees have several kinds of buds.

Terminal bud if bud

Figure 16-1:

Fruit and nut trees have several kinds of buds.

Terminal bud if bud

Herbs 101

Herbs 101

Learn what you can do with herbs! How to Plant, Grow, and Cook with Natural Herbs. Have you always wanted an herb garden but didn't know how to get started? Do you want to know more about growing your own herbs in the privacy of your home and using them in a variety of cooking?

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