[permaculture] heritage peach tree preservation

dwoodard at becon.org dwoodard at becon.org
Mon Jul 10 19:36:50 EDT 2006

Are any of the trees fruiting this year? If so you could save the seed
and plant it.

I think you would want to save seed from as many of the trees as possible
and try to reproduce the *population* if you can.

Alternatively you could make root cuttings. You dig up a bit of root, cut 
a section out (I don't know how much, maybe 8 inches) and plant it 
vertically (top just ubder soil level I would guess; I've not done it 
but only read about it in a general way) with the end that was pointing 
toward the trunk, pointing up. I don't know what the seasonal restrictions 
are on the time you do this.

If you have access to one or more seedling peach rootstocks of suitable 
size, you could bud it or them to your heritage peaches that you want to 

A standard book on propagation should cover the root cutting process.

Instructions on grafting and budding can be found in many sources. One of 
the most complete and authoritative is "The Grafter's Handbook" by R. J. 
Garner in several editions. There are a lot of copies floating around in 
libraries, or see
http://www.bookfinder.com .

The buds require to be of a certain degree of maturity, which Garner 

The bark of the rootstock has to be slipping when you bud. To prolong the 
period of bark slipping if needed you can promote vigourous growth in the 
rootstock by

* watering generously starting several weeks before budding and continuing 
for several weeks after.

* fertilizing with nitrogen a few weeks before budding. I have used fresh 
cow manure.

* shocking the rootstock out of any tendency to start its entry into 
dormancy earlier than you want, by pruning; removing branches bearing 1/4 
to 1/3 of its leaf area about 3 weeks before budding.

The tricks above also help get a good take and good development of the bud 
on the stock.

I only did this once, when I had to bud a stock with buds from an area
where the normal budding (and bud maturity time) was a couple of weeks 
later than where the recipient rootstock was. It worked very well.
I think it might be useful if the recipient rootstock is under stress or 
not growing well.

Fertilizing and watering the tree(s) that are supplying the budwood might 
also be useful. I would recommend it if you are in any doubt about the 
vigour and health of the source trees. Similarly for taking root cuttings.

I suspect that your season may be long enough so that you don't need to 
worry about prolonging the period of bark slipping unless your only 
possible recipient rootstock is in poor shape.

You may be able to get advice from your state university extension 
department or from a local nurseryman.

Are you sure that your peach trees are actually 120 years old, or is it 
just that they have seeded themselves from a stand that was started 120 
years ago? The rings will tell, if you have a stump. The oldest peach tree 
I have seen here was about 35 years old and was really showing its age. 
However we are at the northern limit of commercial peach growing here
and the trees do get damaged in some winters, which gives canker an

When you say that a peach tree from France "was used as the rootstock"
do you mean that this tree from France supplied the seed that the
existing trees grew from? It's not clear to me that you are using the
word "rootstock" in the way that horticulturalists usually do, to indicate 
a small tree on which ones propagates vegetatively a bud or scion (length 
of small branch, often pencil size or not much bigger), joining two pieces 
so that the cambiums link and grow together. Budding is usually 
favoured for peaches rather than conventional grafting.

I think your project is worthwhile, but how valuable it eventually turns 
out to be depends a lot on the merits of the original cultivar from 
France, and on the selection (through generations of seedlings) that the 
line has undergone since - if any.

Doug Woodard
St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada
Niagara peninsula

On Mon, 10 Jul 2006, oliver smith callis wrote:

> Hello All,
> I am conducting a heritage fruit tree preservation project in my area, Utah
> Valley, Utah. I have just come across a stand of peach trees which are
> around 100 to 120 years old. The grandson of the man who planted the trees
> said that his great grandmother brought a peach tree here from France which
> was used as the rootstock. The trees are in bad shape as horses have been
> kept in the orchard they are in, and may not last long. It seems to me that
> this would be a good rootstock to preseve as most commercial orchardists in
> my area say that peach trees don't typically last longer than 25 years. Does
> anybody have any info on stimulating a root into producing a tree or any
> other means of propogating the rootstock? An orchardist here suggested
> "hitting them with nitrates in the spring" to get something off of the
> roots. I would prefer to use a biodynamic/organic method of propogation, any
> input would be great.
> Much appreciated,
> -- 
> Oliver Smith Callis

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