Monday, April 16, 2012

ISLAND holds fruit tree grafting workshops

Over 50 varieties of fruit trees will be available to take home from ISLAND grafting workshops later this April. Photo courtesy of Brenin Wertz-Roth.

BELLAIRE — The Institute for Sustainable Living, Art and Natural Design will hold two separate tree grafting workshops this month.

The first will be on April 28, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on its Bellaire property, located at 2550 Orchard Hill Road. The second will be on April 29, from 1 to 5 p.m. at Ware Farm, located at 9094 Alkire Road in Bear Lake.

Brenin Wertz-Roth from Giving Tree Farm and Nursery will teach aspiring home orchardists skills that will open a whole new world of gardening possibilities.

Cortland Apples. Photo courtesy Eastman's Antique Apples.

Wertz-Roth began his work with trees at Bullock's Permaculture Homestead and in Orcas, Washington. He has been a farmer and nurseryman in the Pacific Northwest and in northern Michigan for the past six years.

“It’s not just the cost-savings through creating a home orchard that draws me to grafting and working with fruit trees,” Wertz-Roth said. “It’s also the unique taste of old varieties and the importance of saving trees from a conservation standpoint, as well as increasing the diversity of food plants in northern Michigan.”

Workshop participants will get hands-on practice matching the specifics of a site, including soil characteristics and exposure to sunlight, to considerations of particular varieties, from the size of the tree to its natural resistance to disease. Participants also will practice repairing real trees with severely damaged bark and reworking established trees with new varieties. They will learn how to train and care for seedlings in their vulnerable first years, as well as how to re-graft trees that have problems. Everyone will leave the class with understanding and practical experience, their own grafting knives, and four new apple, plum, peach, pear or quince trees.

Grimes Golden Apples. Photo courtesy Eastman's Antique Apples. 

“Most fruit trees and many ornamental plants are created through the art of grafting, but very few gardeners are familiar with the techniques that make this time-honored craft possible,” Brad Kik, cofounder of ISLAND, said. “With access to distinctive varieties right at their fingertips, backyard orchardists will be able to take their pick from flavorful, old-world heirlooms like Ashmead’s Kernel, to newer, cold-hardy cultivars like Zestar.”

The cost of each workshop is $65 per person or $110 per couple. Individuals will take home a grafting knife and four trees, and couples get one knife and six trees. Class size is limited and preregistration is required by April 25. Snacks are included.
Calville Blanc d'Hiver apples. Photo courtesy Eastman's Antique Apples.

These events are made possible by a partnership between ISLAND, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and the Northern Michigan Small Farm Conference. For more information or to register, call 231-622-5252.

Hudson's Golden Gem apples. Photo courtesy Eastman's Antique Apples.

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