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2014 Spring Walnut Grafting Demonstration

Mendocino Permaculture highly recommends this free educational event at Alex Suchan’s farm in Upper Lake, for those who are serious about understanding what tree grafting is, what it does, and how to go about performing it. Alex is one of the most experienced grafters in the world. He is also quite a talker and a delightful personality. He’s still going strong at 86 years old, but he has been considering retiring one of these years to go fishing, so this opportunity should not be missed. There is no better way to learn grafting than by seeing it done by a master who answer your questions while he is performing a real graft in a real orchard.

The Lake County Cooperative Extension has neglected to advertise this event properly this year, so we permaculture folks may be the audience!

Alex invites you to bring your camera and recorder. It doesn’t get better than this, folks!

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Friday, April 25, 2014 9am Alex Suchan’s Walnut Ranch and Nursery in Upper Lake 10005 Elk Mountain Rd, Upper Lake CA 95485 *(707) 275-2461

A free event sponsored by Suchan Farm & Nursery, and Lake County Cooperative Extension Starts at 9 am at Alex’s home ranch, and goes on for hours at several locations nearby. *

Alex Suchan demonstrating the side-whip graft

Alex advises to not be late, as the early demonstration at his home ranch will be the introduction and explanation of the grafting techniques, and then the group caravans to other venues within a mile of the ranch to see Alex perform in-field grafting in his orchards. It will not be a student-hands-on class, but a very detailed demonstration by the master. Walnut trees are about the most difficult species to graft and require all the tricks in the grafter’s bag. Alex knows all the tricks. He will be specifically teaching the techniques of the whip graft, the side-whip graft, and the bark graft.

These are all very useful grafts for making your own trees or changing the variety of any fruit or nut tree in place. All the principles and techniques for walnuts apply to other trees, and Alex has grafted many other types of trees at his ranch. Alex has an amazing multi-grafted Pawpaw tree at his house for anyone to observe, and that very productive tree alone has brought Pawpaw back onto our radar for testing the latest cultivars here. That tree also gives our permaculture group all the seed we need to raise seedling Pawpaws.

Alex Suchan has been farming walnuts in Upper Lake for over 60 years, but he is not your average walnut farmer. He is considered to be a master grower and nurseryman by the University of California, and they allow him to graft and test any of their new experimental walnut cultivars that he thinks may perform well here in our north coast bioregion. Alex’s grafting and growing skills allow him to test new walnut varieties in a very short time, and he has the curiosity of a scientist. So he really is our bioregion’s only walnut scientist.

Besides walnut production, Suchan tree nursery is famous for its high-quality true Paradox walnut rootstock seedlings. Originally discovered by Luther Burbank, Paradox are natural hybrid trees with a unique F1 genetics that make extraordinarily vigorous and healthy trees, and when they are grafted in the field to the best Persian walnuts, the combination makes extraordinarily healthy, productive and fast-growing orchard trees.

Alex will also show his experiments with cover crops in his orchards, which he is trying to manage on a self-sowing regime. Also this year, he will show us what winterkill looks like and how it affects young trees. Our early December freeze took a toll on the young trees this winter which can now be seen as they leaf out.

There is not a better grafting teacher in the world at this moment in time, and I cannot overstate the value of this event if you are interested in learning the art of grafting. Alex has an open style of teaching and loves questions while he is demonstrating the grafts. In fact, he’ll talk your ear off! The longer you stay the more you’ll learn, so don’t forget to bring a sandwich and a camera. The University is presently producing a video of Alex and his field grafting techniques.

The Suchan place is very easy to find, less than a mile north of Hwy 20 at Upper Lake. The MapQuest directions are not the most direct route, however. Here are the best directions: From Highway 20, turn north on Mendenhall Ave, which is one block west of Main Street. If you are traveling east on Highway 20, you will pass the Hwy 29 junction to Lakeport on the right, and then right after you cross over the Middle Creek bridge, turn left at the first road (north), which is Mendenhall Ave (at Treasure Cove Pizza). Take Mendenhall north to where it makes a sharp right-hand bend onto Elk Mountain Rd. Don’t make that turn — just go straight ahead into the farm driveway instead of turning right. If you miss Mendenhall on Hwy 20, just turn north on Main Street and go through the town of Upper Lake and it will join Mendenhall at the north end of town, south of Alex’s place at the turn.

See you there!

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