Monday, March 31, 2014

Grafting.... Another Sign of Spring

Another sign of spring around the farm is the arrival of fruit trees to plant and rootstock to graft to.  The fridge has been full of bags of scionwood cut in February and obtained from various nurseries and private individuals. It's become an addicting hobby for me, with time spent on long winter nights researching various apple varieties and rootstock types. This year most of my grafting will be to two main rootstocks G202 which will grow into a 10 to 12 foot tree and produce apples in 3 to 4 years for my home orchard and B118 which will grow into a 20 to 25 foot tree and produce apples in 6 to 8 years for the Back40 wildlife I also have a few Antonovka rootstock which is a hardy Russian rootstock that produces a full sized tree, but is slower to produce apples than the B118 rootstock. I'm also building an apple trellis on which to grow some dwarf apple trees.  I'll have more on this project as it advances. 

Below is a pictorial of the simple grafting technique that I use. If I can interest just one person to give grafting a try I'll be satisfied.

This is a rootstock that I had already planted into a pot to make it easier for me to take pictures of the grafting procedure.  First I cut it off several inches above ground level.
 Then with a sharp knife I split the rootstock down the center.
Next you sharpen your scionwood.
 and insert it into the cut that you made in the rootstock.
 If possible your rootstock and scionwood should be the same diameter so that the cambium wood, which is the living tissue of the plant matches up.
 But often your scionwood will be smaller than your rootstock so you need to match up one side so that the cambium layer connects and the two pieces will grow together.

Then you wrap the two pieces tightly together with some sort of tape. Many types of tape will work, black electrical tape, plumbers tape, but I use a tape called Parafilm that was originally made for the medical profession. It seals the graft airtight and doesn't need to be taken off like the other tapes I mentioned. It will degrade with time.
 The tip of the scionwood needs to be protected from drying out. Here I used a tree wound dressing but I also use paraffin wax with good results.
 Finally you attach your tag. With a little luck this will grow into a Centurion Crabapple tree on Antonovka rootstock that will provide small crabapples through the winter for the birds to enjoy.
If this short pictorial tempts anyone into trying their hand at grafting please search U-Tube for much better instructions than I've provided. It has become a very interesting and rewarding hobby for me to enjoy and maybe it will for you too.


Jeff Fetzer said...

Thanks for posting this. I would love to try grafting apple trees. I have several large and ancient apple trees behind my home and one of them produces excellent apples. Unfortunately, the tree is in a state of decline. I would love to be able to "save" it for posterity by learning how to graft. So how do I know what is scion wood, and where do I find out about obtaining the appropriate root stock? Also wanted to let you know that I enjoy reading your blog. I purchased a Ryman-type setter nearly two years ago, and you get at least part of the credit for that decision!

Greyphase said...

Hi Jeff

Good for you for wanting to save an ancient apple. What you need to do is cut a limb or two off of the old tree now. This should cause it to send up some new growth. This will be the scionwood that you can graft with next spring. If you could send me an email we can get more "indepth" about what you will need. It's not as hard as you would think.

Would like to know more about your pup too.