Growing Your Own Fruit Trees From Seed

One of the interesting things we do here at the farm is grow fruit trees from scratch, as well as teaching other people how to do it, which is lots of fun.

Pear seed ready to be planted to grow rootstock trees
Pear seed ready to be planted to grow rootstock tree

Some trees are grown from cuttings (e.g., plums) and some are grown from seed. We usually grow our own peach, plum, pear and quince rootstocks this way.

These days we look after the Growing Abundance juice press (which in turn is on long-term loan from the generous folk at The Little Red Apple in Harcourt), which means that Ant can use it to juice his apple and pear seconds at the end of the season.

Ant pressing apples for juice
Ant pressing apples for juice

It’s a great press, and being able to juice fruit from apples grown here on the farm (in those years when there’s a good enough apple harvest) yields enough delicious organic apple juice to share around, as well as plenty for Ant to turn into cider.

Lots of lovely apple juice
Lots of lovely apple juice

But it also means we can easily save the seed to grow organic apple rootstocks. We’ve grown all the apple trees we’ve planted here on the farm that way, a tradition which is now being continued by Carr’s Organic Fruit Tree Nursery.

Regardless of whether you’re growing trees from cutting or seed, they don’t grow “true to type”. They grow trees called rootstocks, which are used as a base to graft known fruit varieties onto.

Apple pulp full of seeds
Apple pulp full of seeds

Growing your own trees is a year-round process, with different small jobs to do at different times of year – just like all gardening really! We provide a full grafting calendar in our Grow Your Own Fruit Trees for Free course.

This is the right time of year to be:

  • Gathering scion wood from varieties you want to use for grafting in spring, and storing it correctly to keep it in good condition.
  • Gathering plum cuttings and storing them in damp sand over winter.
  • Gathering seed from apples and pears, extracting the seeds and storing them in damp sand.
  • If you’re planning a tree nursery, preparing the soil.
A box of sand for storing seed
A box of sand for storing seed

Does it sound complicated? It’s really not.

Grafting is an ancient method of preserving heritage fruit varieties that has been practised for hundreds of years, and continues to be passed from fruitgrower to fruitgrower today.

Newly emerged apple seedling
Newly emerged apple seedling

We think teaching people how to grow their own fruit trees from scratch is one of the most important skills we teach (through our grafting courses) because that’s where true fruit security starts.

Is it spring already?

Surely not … and yet … we think these peach buds on our Anzac peach tree might be starting to swell soon.

Early budswell on an Anzac peach tree
Early budswell on an Anzac peach tree

Anzacs are a great ‘indicator’ variety for us, because they’re one of the early varieties to show signs of movement in spring.

Almonds are another great indicator as they’re also very early. Rather than having to monitor the whole orchard, we just go and look at the Anzacs and almonds to see what’s happening.

Almond flowers at sunset
Almond flowers at sunset

If you have peach and nectarine trees in your garden or farm, it’s time to start monitoring them for budswell.

Why?

Because it’s the trigger for putting on a spray to prevent Leaf Curl, which is a fungal disease that can have devastating consequences, particularly for young trees.

Leaf curl fungal disease on a peach tree
Leaf curl fungal disease on a peach tree

A bad case of leaf curl can even affect the fruit.

A Goldmine nectarine infected with Leaf curl disease
A Goldmine nectarine infected with Leaf curl disease

The good news is, it’s (mostly) preventable. You can find details about how and when to spray in Keep Your Fruit Trees Free From Disease. This is one of our most comprehensive short online courses, and includes guidance on how to manage and prevent about a dozen of the most common diseases of fruit trees.

Warming Winter Cumquat and Almond Cake

A delicious cumquat and almond cake - perfect for winter nights
A delicious cumquat and almond cake – perfect for winter nights

As anyone who grows their own food knows, it’s incredibly satisfying creating dishes from ingredients from your own garden. So we got double pleasure making this cake using home-grown cumquats and almonds.

The first step was picking the cumquats.

The almonds were picked at the end of summer, and have been sitting in their shells waiting for attention since then, so the next job was taking off the outside husks, then using the nutcracker to crush the shell and get the almonds out. A quick whiz in the blender turns almonds into almond meal, and we’re ready to make the cake.

Home grown almonds waiting to be shelled and turned into delicious cake
Home grown almonds waiting to be shelled and turned into delicious cake

Gluten Free Almond and Cumquat Cake
(This is our adaptation of a recipe by Helen Goh that appeared in ‘The Age’.)

Fruit prep
500 g cumquats
160 g raw sugar

Cake
250 g cream cheese
250 g raw sugar
4 large free range eggs
2 tsp brandy
140 g almond meal
120 g rice flour
1 tspn baking powder

  1. Slice and de-seed the cumquats (roughly into quarters if they’re small, eighths if the fruit is larger). Toss in a bowl with the sugar and leave.
  2. Cream the cream cheese and sugar together in the blender, then add the eggs and brandy.
  3. Mix the almond meal, flour and baking powder together and add the dry mixture to the egg mixture.
  4. Use a 23 cm round cake tin, and be warned, the cumquat mixture is syrupy so if you’re using a split-rim two-piece cake tin, definitely line it with baking paper or foil. 
  5. Spread the cumquat and sugar mixture in the base of the tin, then cover gently with the cake batter.
  6. Bake at 180C for 45 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Cool for 15 minutes and then invert the cake onto a plate.

As always, serve with lashings of excellent cream, and preferably eat next to a roaring open fire.  For some of our other favourite ways of using your home-grown fruit you might want to check out our comprehensive Fabulous Fruit Preserving short course.