I first saw and tasted jujube while walking the orchards of Edible Landscaping in Virginia. It was in the fall and the fruits were sweet, a bit dry and, definitely, intriguing. That was years ago and, finally, I get to plant some of my own. I like that jujubes have low maintenance requirements and that they would be adding diversity to our orchard. I am wondering if our climate may be a bit humid for best fruit but I’m going to give it a shot. I planned for the orchard to have three jujube trees in it. At this moment, I have ten jujube trees in the house. Hmmm.
I did some searching to learn more about jujubes before completing the design for the orchard and planting. I came across Frank Meyer’s video which was very informative. I discovered that he sold the bare root rootstock and scion wood for jujube. This allows great variety and a great price. There was a minimum order, so, I ended up with 10 rootstock and 10 varieties of scion wood. It looks like the jujube website is under construction but calling for information and ordering is a good option.
My rootstock and scion wood came perfectly packed, moist, healthy, labeled, and with instructions to plant after risk for freezing. So, I potted the rootstock as quickly as possible and brought them into the space which was an old bathroom (a renovation story for some other time…) I kept the scion wood from drying out and cool until I could graft soon thereafter.
My first grafting experience was with the Backyard Fruit Growers grafting workshop a couple years ago. You can buy apple and pear rootstock for a few dollars, choose varieties from loads of scion wood collected by the membership, and learn to graft from the experts. I was able to do 7/7 successful apple and pear grafts after that experience. Backyard Fruit Growers have their next grafting workshop on Saturday; March 28, 2015. There is a session for the public and a session for the membership. It is well-worth becoming a member if you live not too far from the Lancaster area.
Since it is a couple of years since that workshop, I decided I needed to review grafting techniques. I was fortunate to find a video specific to grafting jujubes. I sharpened my knife, got some parafilm grafting tape, a Sharpie and tape for labeling, and I went to work.
Here is a photo of potted rootstock with labeled scion wood to be grafted on to that rootstock. I tried to find good matches between the diameters of the rootstock and scion wood to make the best grafts. The varieties of scion wood that I have are: Sherwood, GA866, Don Polenski, Honey Jar, Shuimen, Sugarcane, Redlands4, ShanxLi, Li2, and Li.
I used the Whip and Tongue grafting method which is appropriate for a dormant jujube or one that is just coming out of dormancy. Here is a photo of the completed grafts waiting for warmer weather to get into the ground.
I am not very experienced as a grafter but I need 3 out of 10 to take. I feel pretty confident I can get there. With luck, all 10 will take and I will plant more jujubes about the yard and share with friends and neighbors. We’ll see! Now, we just need some warm weather!
ADDENDUM – FEBRUARY 4, 2106
I did not experience as much success as I had hoped with the jujubes. However, I did learn very useful things from the effort.
The grafts took quite some time to leaf out and I wanted to get the three into the orchard. I chose three that looked promising and planted them into the orchard. Unfortunately, those grafts failed but the seedlings remain healthy. The central stem with the green tape is the failed graft. You can see the branches from the seedling plant are growing well. Each of the three plants in the orchard are shaped this way. The two main branches will give me the base on to which I can graft new scionwood. I have two spaces on each plant and each plant will get two different varieties of jujube.
I planted the extra 7 plants outside our main garden in a holding place. 5 grafts took. I gave one of those to a friend. From these remaining plants, I discovered that if you don’t prune suckers and branches below a graft early enough, they take away all that the graft needs. The growth of the seedling jujube plant can be very vigorous. The graft can, then, fail when you prune the suckers at a late stage.
I, also, discovered that bunnies do, indeed, love to chew the bark off of young trees in the fall. It was fortunate that I saw this. I was procrastinating in protecting the trees in the orchard, wondering if it was really necessary. When I saw this, it was a real kick in the butt. I got to work in the orchard to put some kind of guard around each of the trees and they have stayed intact.
I’m hoping to give you another update about these jujubes in the summer. I’m not going to give up yet!