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Grafting fruit trees comercially has become the mainstay of small scale farmers in California and beyond. Some farmers have succeeded so well with tree grafting that they now sell the cuttings as nursery stock for other growers. Some have become consultants, teaching others the art of grafting.
It's a business that is booming. In the United States alone there are more than 60,000 grafting trees on the market, and thousands more are being processed annually. In California, fruit trees accounts for about $20 million in graft sales.
To grow, grafting requires a strong rootstock, which is the stock of tree used to graft a scion, the part of a tree that bears fruit. The scion is the young branch that will be grafted to the rootstock.
The rootstock's main function is to provide nutrients to the scion and to transport it to other branches and leaves to nourish it. It also helps the graft survive. The scion's main purpose is to produce fruits. It does this by developing a strong, hardy root system and strong sap in which to make the fruit.
The grafting process begins when the two parts are brought together. Often this is done after they are cut into three parts to make sure each part remains a part.
Then the two pieces are rubbed together until they join. This is done in a dark area with only a tiny bit of light to avoid sunburn.
If the rootstock is potted first and then the scion is placed in the pot, the pot is removed and the two parts are held in position while it dries.
The rootstock has to remain in the soil at the surface, where it receives direct light and sunlight. But for the scion, the sun's rays are harmful.The soil must be at least 5 inches deep and the scion has to be completely submerged. The scion dries for a period of time as it sits in the cool water.
After the grafts are dry, they are wrapped in tissue paper and stored for at least one year in the dark. After that time, they can be planted in the ground. In the tropics, one to two months is sufficient for the scion to grow.
Scions from older trees need to be replaced because they are too soft to support vigorous growth. These will need to be replaced with other branches as well. You can have two or three branches grafted to a single rootstock. If more than three scions are put on a tree, you must do a fresh graft because it could weaken the tree.
For best results, trees are grafted between March and June, when the wood is growing. A warm, damp night or morning is the best time for grafting.
Most citrus are grafted, but it can be done with any tree.
The young shoots are removed from young trees before grafting.
These baby fruits are now ready to be moved into an orchard.
# LIME JUICE FROM STONE WINE
The sweet juice from fresh-pressed lime juice is much more enjoyable than the dry, bottled variety, but it is not for everyone. Some people cannot stand the sourness of the fresh juice. The solution is to make your own juice using lime, water, and heat.
This process is known as "stone wine," from the French word vin jaune.
First select a healthy, mature tree. Make sure it has firm roots. Don't choose the branches where there is evidence of disease or insect infestation.
A lime tree without a stone in the pit.
Cut the ends off of three or four branches, leaving 1 inch on each side.
Remove the bark and pith from the tree and lay it on its side.
Scrape the branch with a smooth stick to free the lime from the branch.
A mature lime tree ready for scraping.
Carefully loosen the root ball with a small shovel, or by pulling up one side of the base.
Remove the root and set aside.
Scrape the lime from the branch, and place the lime in a large container of cold water.
Stir well, then let the lime rest for 24 hours.
The lime in the water must be refrigerated before using.
A bucket full of lime water.
Once you have squeezed fresh lime juice from the lime, place it in the refrigerator. To ensure maximum freshness, store the juice in the refrigerator within a day.
Limes lose their freshness within three to five days if refrigerated. Limes are very perishable.
To make lime juice, squeeze the lime, using a juicer or a large reamer