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At Stocks Farm, we have stunning orchards and we are growing Gala, Braeburn, Junami and Red Windsor dessert apples. We choose our apple varieties carefully and select the best trees for our topography and location.
Red Windsor is an early flowering variety and orchards is lower lying and for the last couple of years, unpredictable late frosts has meant that we are not achieving the yields we had hoped for. The decision therefore was made to graft the trees – cutting the Red Windsor top off the trees and then attaching new Gala variety budwood on. Galas were chosen because they are a later flowering variety and seem to suit our clay loam soil here in Suckley.
Firstly, the budwood was collected – these are lengths of young branches cut from existing trees, mostly from our own orchards. Whilst these were being prepared, we needed to chop the Red Windsor wood out of the trees in the orchards and remove some of the framework for the trees to allow access for the grafting. We began this at the end of January – just in time for some snowy weather!
The best chance of getting a good tree graft can only take place when the sap is rising – apple trees are “dormant” in the cold, so we had to wait until the weather was warm enough in spring and the trees had woken up before we could begin. The weather was right towards the end of April and the grafting team arrived.
Tree grafting is a technical process. Our grafting was carried out by the team from Frank Matthews, headed up by Nick Dunn, whose expertise made the process look simpler than it was! These videos show the five step process it took to complete the graft:
After the budwood was fitted, the tree needed to be wrapped and taped (to ensure the budwood stays in place) and the stump of the tree painted to protect the tree and make sure that no infection could get into it. It took a week to complete the grafting of the orchard, with 15,200 trees grafted!
Today, most of the grafts are showing success with buds forming and new leaf emerging. These trees should have apples next year and we should be able to pick a good crop by the following year. We will be watching these trees with interest as it’s the first time we have grafted trees at Stocks Farm.