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Incoming BYTES
contains highly variable subject matter including commentary on the mundane, the extraordinary and even controversial issues. At Incoming BYTES
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Saturday, April 7, 2012

G is for Grafting

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 aboveThe 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?

 The A to Z Blogger Challenge:  http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com/


  1. I have used this before in other woody plants. The one secret I was given was to dip the scion in growth hormone. The theory is to expedite the waking growth time.

    It may be I only got that advice because I was doing them in winter...where I am from winter is anything below 50 degrees.

    Great G, Ray.

  2. Hi Red, yes, rooting compound or growth hormone can be used for better results in some instances- and in some species it apparently speeds up growth.
    I've actually never bothered with any of it other than a couple of times where the scions were weak -- and have enjoyed amazingly good success, maybe I should use it every time. ":)
    I believe you are correct, --especially where the plant or tree is weakened or fully dormant it's pretty essential to use growth hormone. I usually graft in the spring just before sap flow.
    Thanks for bringing that up, I should do some experimenting with/without and see if there's any significant improvement. Thanks for visiting! ~R

  3. A wonderful Post Raymond, My Granddad did lots of his own grafting and I remember watching him as a child... but cant remember what shrubs he grafted...
    I remember as a child eating Crab apples that gave me tummy ache LOL.. :-)
    I have been busy in the greenhouse today planting seeds Sweetcorn, Cabbages etc ready for when we plant out the allotment when it gets a little warmer..

    Wishing you a Happy Easter Sunday Raymond.. Blessings sent for a Peaceful Day.. ~Sue

  4. Hi Sue, it is wonderful you can remember being with your grandfather while he was grafting, doing such important things and teaching you! We had nothing but crab-apples around when I was young--that's why I took such an interest in it. Spring is here, it always offers us new hope...blessings to you too, Happy Easter!
    ":) ~R

  5. Hi Raymond

    I enjoyed your comment at Pearl's. Having a pet rock is a delightful idea. They are so easy to keep and don't even need to be taken for walks when it rains.

    Being a gardener - among other things - I know a bit about grafting, but as I am impatient and getting on a bit -as they say in the UK - I buy my trees ready grafted and rooted.

    Nice to come for a visit.

  6. Hi, Friko! Welcome to Incoming Bytes! Pet rocks don't need much except to be admired once in a while, that's always a benefit isn't it! ":)
    I enjoy grafting, I am propagating a new apple tree to several root stocks. I do have to find a better source of dwarf root stocks, even 10' high trees can be a nuisance to prune and harvest. If you are good at grafting, consider doing some anyway, because trees are wonderful to behold and there's nothing quite like seeing a graft actually growing to keep one happy and young at heart! Have you looked at bonsai as a hobby? That,too, is a long term hobby, but it is so enjoyable! Thank you so much for visiting and commenting-- and do come again! Happy Easter to you and yours! ~R


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