|These big pin apple blossoms produce tiny 1/4" sized apple|
You, too can learn Grafting
Have you dreamed about harvesting big, sweet apples from that old crab apple tree in the back yard? You know, the one with perfect, beautiful snow-white apple blossoms, but offering only sour, tiny apples birds won't even bother with?
Maybe the old farmer down the road mentioned you could graft it ten years ago but you didn't want to look like a city-slicker, so you didn't ask what he meant--and forgot all about it.
Does your neighbour have a huge apple tree you admire, especially when you are given a few crisp, ripe apples from it? Perhaps that 40-foot tree was far too big for your yard anyway. It would also be safer to harvest if it was only 10 feet high, wouldn't it?
Maybe you deviously planted a couple of ripe, brown seeds from the wondrous gift apples, grew a tree, waited ten years with your fingers crossed--but ended up with a miserable apple replica seemingly unrelated to the marvelous apples next door.
Why? Apple trees grown from seed often produce fruit that bears no resemblance to fruit from the parent tree. Apple trees grown from seed do not always grow 'true to type' and may be totally different. Grafting is required to guarantee apples with the same characteristics.
That coveted tree may be a unique heritage variety nobody except real old-timers have even heard of --so the new, modern garden center won't have one to sell you either. |Isn't that frustrating?
How about picking four different kinds of apples from the same tree? Yes, you can change the nature of your tree. Add different varieties to it, or, with time and patience , change entirely the apple variety that is produced by your tree. How?
|A successful 5-month old wedge graft|
Such wonders are all achieved with the special process called grafting. Cuttings, called scions, which are small twigs or branches of one variety are grafted on to an older existing tree, a small sprout, a sapling, or even a basic rootstock of an entirely different variety.
If grafting is done skilfully at the right time of the year, a new tree can be successfully grown.
Surprise, --you can even grow a new heritage tree by grafting.
Grafting cuttings from that heritage tree on to the right root stock can provide the same wonderful heritage apples from smaller trees -- if the scions are successfully grafted to dwarf rootstock. Dwarf rootstock has been developed specifically to limit the height of any species grafted to them and in some cases, can also result in a more hardy, disease-resistant tree.
Can anyone graft? There are difficult grafting methods, but in it's simplest form, a clean wedge is carved on the lower end of a scion which is then carefully inserted into a matching appropriate "split" made in a cut-off sapling, a suitably-located small branch in the host tree or suitably located on a healthy piece of root stock. You can also drill a hole in a tree trunk and insert a properly-prepared scion, or carefully insert a simple 'bud' to install a new branch.
In all cases, regardless of the grafting method used, the cambium, the 'green' layers under the bark in both scion and host-- must be matched perfectly and fitted together tightly to ensure success. The joining area must then be tightly sealed with waterproof tape, 'grafting wax' or other suitable sealant or material.
Timing is important, but two essential rules must not be overlooked; the cambium layers MUST be matched to fit tightly, and the joint MUST be airtight.
Grafting is usually conducted just before buds begin to expand and grow, to take advantage of the initial flow of sap and spurt of growth in the spring. The scions themselves may be harvested from other trees when dormant, in very late autumn or winter, and kept refrigerated until used.
|The same graft in bloom|
The picture here proves that grafting works. This is the same graft as shown above. The graft was successful, and the blossoms show that mature scions were successfully chosen for this graft. You can see the black tape seal where the graft was made.
Try grafting. When your first graft actually grows and survives--or better yet, thrives and blossoms, like this one did, you will be hooked on grafting for life.
You'll be a a grafter for life, and you will be picking those heritage apples you always wanted--from your own tree.
Then, -- how about those roses, pears, cherries, nectarines, and peaches? They can all be grafted....
Is that incoming I hear?
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