As a kid I remember my dad and a neighbor discussing tree grafting. I remember distinctly the fascination I had as my imagination took over. An apple tree that grows pineapples! And a pear tree that grows cherries! How crazy would that be! (Cut me some slack here. I was a kid, remember)? Alas, this is not possible, but I digress. My dad spoke of a nursery where he worked when he was a teenager and how the horticulturist that ran the nursery would often graft apple, pear, and other trees. We did not have fruit trees on our property and while the neighbor had a pear tree, he never grafted or propagated any new fruit with that tree. I never saw grafting in action. Time marched on and it has now led me to a place where I have a homestead and a few acres. We have started gardening and have learned a lot. Our next venture is to add an orchard. Because we will have a limited space for the trees we will be implementing grafting in our orchard. You see, one of the benefits of grafting is propagation of several types of a particular fruit from a single healthy tree.
Benefits of Grafting
As I mentioned, one of the benefits of grafting is that it allows you to grow multiple types of a specific fruit on a single tree. So you could have a tree that produces both Jonathan and Pink Lady apples. Or even three or four types. As you can see that would be quit advantageous to someone with the room for only one apple tree in their backyard.
Another benefit is that the hearty fruit of a tree with a weaker root system could be grafted onto a tree with a strong root system allowing for the best fruit to be grown by the best root stock.
Grafting also allows you to speed up the amount of time to fruit production. Rather than wait for many years for a specific sapling to pass the maturity stage and start producing fruit you could graft cuttings from the sapling onto an established tree and start getting fruit in only a couple of years.
Many other reasons such as disease hearty trees, dwarfing, and more are discussed on this Wikipedia page.
Methods for Grafting Fruit Trees
There are many different methods, each with its own benefits, and are discussed by my friend Lee at Lady Lee’s Home has a great article discussing grafting. She sat down with a neighbor that is an older gentleman and when the conversation turned to grafting he broke out his pocket knife and got to work showing her exactly how to do this. Rather than reinvent the wheel I will let Lee and her kind and knowledgable neighbor show you four techniques for grafting.
When to Gather Scions for Grafting
Scions are the donor graft that will be grafted onto the existing tree, called the rootstock. “‘T’ budding can be done almost any time that the bark of the stock slips (easily separates from the wood) and buds are fully developed. Most budding is done from July 15 to August 15. Buds set at this time normally remain dormant until the following spring. In cold climates, bud growth in fall is undesirable because young shoots are subject to winter injury. Spring budding (in May) is possible, but is less desirable than fall budding.” (Cass County Extension)
- Grafting Tape
- Healthy scion
- Healthy root stock
There are special tools made for grafting called, conveniently, a grafting tool, but it is not necessary as a good sharp pocket knife or fixed blade knife will work. Some people also use a special water/asphalt mixture which is applied over the graft to seal it. Wax is also sometimes used.
I plan to implement grafting in our orchard once it is established to maximize the types of fruit we will be producing. I hope you consider it too.