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Tree in oneImagine harvesting a variety of oranges, lemons and grapefruit off one single tree (yes, it can be done). And now is a good time to make a start.

There are two different ways to achieve this multi-purpose tree which, especially if you have a small garden, is a stunner. 

One way is to start off with young saplings, and scraping off their outer bark (about half an inch above where the root system begins and for a distance of no more than one inch) to expose the cambium layer beneath. Do this on both sides of each sapling – you can use anywhere from three to seven saplings – and then, pressing the exposed cambium layer of one sapling to that of the next, bind them closely together using a length of soft cloth/sack (not wire, as this cuts) and plaster with mud, to prevent any drying out of the scrapes.

Once the saplings are joined, plant them as one tree and, over time, they will form a single trunk, producing different fruits from different branches.

The other way, is again using varieties of trees from the same family – this could be citrus or prunus (apricots and plums or apples and pears for example) – and grafting healthy, growing twigs from reasonably young trees on to one another. Young trees are more likely to accept grafts than old, fully established ones, although it can with care, still succeed – irrespective of the tree age – if you are lucky.

Twigs for grafting should be no more than six inches in length and are best cut and grafted before the leaf buds open. Using very sharp secateurs, cut the selected twig, leaving an upward facing angle on the actual tree. Make a small, central cut in the left, behind each branch, and insert the other variety graft there, tying it tightly into place with narrow bands of cloth or sack, and plaster with mud to prevent sap leakage and infection.

Finally: Sit back and wait!

– B Khan

First published in the ADBUZZZZ Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on February 16, 2014.