by Helen Hill
WALSENBURG — Saturday, April 2, was a fun and productive day for the seventeen folks who went to the apple tree grafting workshop at the community center in Walsenburg. Paul Telck from Canon City, a heritage orchard restoration specialist, and master gardener, was our friendly and competent instructor. Telck discussed in detail several different ways of grafting fruit trees, gave us handouts, answered questions, then presided over the actual process, as we all got to practice doing real grafts. Rootstock and ‘scionwood’ were provided for us. ‘Scionwood’ refers to carefully selected and prepared twigs from older apple trees that we have chosen to graft onto hardy new rootstock. This is the best way to propagate apple trees, as they do not grow true from seed. Tools used were sharp clippers, sharp knives (and a few bandaids), electrical tape, tree wound ointment, and wax. We each went home with at least three grafts, hopeful that at least some would ‘take’ and eventually become strong, fruit producing trees for the decades ahead. Several people commented on the incredibly satisfying feeling of working toward something wonderful for the future.
Carl Beeman, our Huerfano County extension agent, hosted the day, and was also a happy participant. This workshop was organized by Mary Backiel, who has a dream and a plan to re-invigorate our area’s long time relationship with apples – the Apple Tree Project. Many of the wonderful old apple trees in the area are reaching the last years of their life span, and we are losing many unique, delicious heirloom varieties that were planted by our forebears in the 1800’s and 1900’s. By mapping, protecting, pruning, grafting, planting, networking, and educating, the people involved with the Apple Tree Project hope to lay the groundwork for a flourishing apple growing century to come in Huerfano county! Call Backiel with questions or for more info at 719-742-3926.