“Bench Grafts”: the term used when propagating at-the-bench versus in-the-field. It’s usually a warm dry environment, and practiced in the ‘off-season’. When I can, I get started in January but I typically don’t because the rootstock-that what I graft to-is not available until March, so I find myself squeezing in the last window of time-up through June-with all the other spring activities. “Grafting” is the main way to reproduce fruit trees. Fun and easy after a few trials; With everything layed out I can finish grafting a tree each minute, but after handling and caring for a few weeks that production rate bottoms out. Producing a hundred trees every day is enough sitting for me.
Why, why, why? so many apples? flavorful, disease resistant, heirlooms, “mini dwarf”, ‘dwarf”, “semidwarf”,”standard” The rootstock is what makes the ultimate height. Mini’s are maybe up to 8 feet, Dwarf to 12 or 14′, Semi dwarf can reach 25 feet, Standards to 40-45′. Why? Root area underground. Big trees have big roots, little trees have little roots. Dwarfs fall over when loaded with apples, thus trellising- they also need more attention to water and food-good soil management. Semidwarf and standards are more forgiving, you can be careless almost and in Western Washington they will be dwarf and drought tolerant. So plant a “big root” tree and walk away! Maybe as close as 8 feet. If you are limited in space and you like variety as much as I, use ‘mini’s’ or ‘dwarf’ and plant 1-2 feet apart, or, 2 or 3(or 5) in the same hole like a multi-variety tree but easier to manage because of imbalanced vigors when grafted all on one tree.
I have now about 300 varieties of apple-so many flavors, textures, aromas, keeping, cooking, juicing, buttering (apple butter), and eaters. My favorites are the “easy-to-growers” and the” keepers”: Goldrush, Keepsake, Suncrisp, Fiesta, Wynoochee Early, Enterprise. Earlies have the aromas like none other: William’s Pride, Liberty, Pristine, Sansa, Gravenstein, Zestar!, Yellow Transparent, Akane. Plant them 1 foot apart and train-tie them/festoon to each other- they will stand on their own if there is a curve in the arrangement. We are doing just that with spirals at our new “country apples orchard”, 80 foot spirals, festooned to each other, a weaving technique. I’m counting on them standing up without support of expensive steel trellising. This should perform as designed.