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updated: 2/22/2013 7:07 PM

Learn to grow heirloom apples in your own back yard

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  • Apple tree expert Dan Bussey talks about apple tree grafting during a seminar last year at Garfield Farm Museum. He brought several different varieties of trees from his Wisconsin orchard, where he has more than 250 rare and endangered varieties. Grafting involves attaching a small branch from a tree to a root stock to preserve the unique attributes of the tree. The branches he brought are from varieties up to 160 years old.

       Apple tree expert Dan Bussey talks about apple tree grafting during a seminar last year at Garfield Farm Museum. He brought several different varieties of trees from his Wisconsin orchard, where he has more than 250 rare and endangered varieties. Grafting involves attaching a small branch from a tree to a root stock to preserve the unique attributes of the tree. The branches he brought are from varieties up to 160 years old.
    John Starks | Staff Photographer, 2012

  • You can learn to grow heirloom apples such as these by attending a seminar Sunday, March 3, at Garfield Farm Museum.

      You can learn to grow heirloom apples such as these by attending a seminar Sunday, March 3, at Garfield Farm Museum.
    Associated Press

 
Garfield Farm Museum

Learn how to grow your own antique apple trees at Garfield Farm Museum's 26th annual Antique Apple Tree Grafting Seminar set for 1:30 p.m. Sunday, March 3.

For $30, participants take home three grafts of heirloom varieties to plant in the spring. The class is held at the farm museum, five miles west of Geneva off Route 38 on Garfield Road. Reservations are required by calling (630) 584-8485 or email info@garfieldfarm.org.

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Apple tree expert Dan Bussey leads the seminar and will bring several different varieties of scions from his orchard in Edgerton, WI, where he propagates over 350 rare and endangered varieties. His efforts have been recognized over the years by the Seed Saver's Exchange of Decorah, IA. In fact, Mr. Bussey just recently took over as Orchard Manager for their orchard of heritage apple varieties.

With the great interest in knowing where one's food originates, planting an apple tree in the backyard can't get any more local. Although one must be patient for several years before one sees the first apple, the results are hard to duplicate with the generic store varieties that have been bred for appearance, ability to survive early picking and shipping across country or half the world.

What makes the grafting process so important is that it attaches a root to the old stock, preserving the old stock's unique genetic traits. An apple seed may not grow into the same exact type of tree from which it came. Like animals, most plants, such as apple trees, require genes from two parents. Just planting the seeds of a tree doesn't guarantee the genetic signature of the tree will be saved. Only grafting can preserve the exact type. The grafting process itself has been used for thousands of years.

The process itself is relatively simple. A small branch or "scion" of the desired tree is attached to a small rootstock. The root used for the seminar is a smaller, dwarf variety that is good for a backyard or small orchard.

Different varieties of apples are good for various things. For instance some are better for cider, while others may be better for baking. At the beginning of the 20th century, there were over 7,000 different varieties of apples. Now there are less than 2,000 varieties available. Not only is keeping a multitude of apples in existence important for our heritage, but also for their many of uses. The mass markets of today are looking for good multipurpose apples. With the farmer population and orchard acreage dwindling it is important to be proactive.

Dan Bussey has been the instructor of the seminar since its inception 26 years ago. He will bring scions to graft to root stock that is

raised especially for grafting. He will also instruct participants on how to care for their grafts until they are planted. If time allows, the group will go out to the museum's orchard and be given instruction on pruning their trees once they are established. Bussey donates his time and grafts to the farm to make this event possible.

There is a $30 donation for the class and reservations are required. Participants are asked to bring a sharp knife for cutting.

For details or to register, call the museum at (630) 584-8485, or email info@garfieldfarm.org.

Garfield Farm Museum is a historically intact former 1840s farm and teamster inn being restored as an 1840s working farm museum by volunteers and donors from around the country. Visit www.garfieldfarm.org.

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