Guerilla Gardeners Are Grafting Fruit Onto City Trees
By Heather Callaghan, Editor
A new story about underground, Brooklyn urban gardeners shows that you don’t need to know much to go forth and bear grafted fruit.
Trees perform many overlooked services for city life – allowing birds to perch and grace us with their sweet songs, cooling hot temperatures, and dampening noise pollution. Heck, they even clean toxic pollution. But are we overlooking another resource trees can offer? One that we facilitate ourselves?
Grafting is when a branch from one tree is spliced into the branches of another tree. It almost sounds unreal but the tree adopts the new branch and they grow as one. So the grafted branch will bear fruit! Many of our apples come from these grafted gifts.
In the personal account called “I joined a guerilla mission to turn city trees into fruit trees,” Ilana Strauss asks:
These city trees tend to be decorative — they don’t bear fruit — and some people think that’s a waste. There are so many hungry people in cities; why not plant fruit-bearing trees?
“Whole cities could be lined with free apples and peaches.”
When she showed up for her first secret guerilla gardening meeting she didn’t know what to expect. It turns out, that the leader she calls the alias “Marilyn” – didn’t actually know what to do, either. The team’s first mission was to find a set of decorative cherry trees which don’t actually bear fruit. They would graft their branches into them so that they’d be, well,…peach trees, of course.
“You can do a pencil cut, or you can just do a straight diagonal,” Marilyn said, expressing her own uncertainty. She grows secret food in random spots among store fronts all over the city.
Branches wrapped in wet paper towels sat on a table. Marilyn… showed about five of us how to cut the branches.
“If anyone else wants to jump in, please do it,” Marilyn said midway through her explanation. “I don’t really know much about this.” There are people that graft a lot more regularly, but Marilyn had just recently learned.
We grabbed the branches and went out the door.
“You can try grafting a peach branch onto a cherry tree,” Marilyn suggested.
“Will that work?” I asked. She shrugged.
I approached one of the cherry trees and found a branch the width of the peach branch in my hand. One guy lent me his pocketknife, and I started cutting. The knife was dull, so I ended up whittling the branch rather than cleanly slicing it. I accidentally made it into a poky shape, which coincidentally turned out to be a grafting technique.
“Oh nice, you went with the pencil method,” Marilyn said.
“Mhmmm,” I said, like I did it on purpose.
I slid the peach branch into the cherry branch. Then I covered the branches in wax, taped them up, and wrapped a rubber band around them. Down the line, maybe someone would enjoy free peaches. Take that, agribusiness.
So, now you know the gist of grafted fruit and what in the world happened if you happen to pick a peach from a cherry tree!
Have you guys ever tried grafting? Leave your tips below!
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